The Week in Winston: Dash update, July 28-Aug. 3

Ben Norman (Jim Margalus / Sox Machine)

From the ashes, the Dash have risen anew, rebounding from their horrendous 1-8 stretch immediately following the All-Star Break to go 4-2 over the last week. It’s not enough to break even, their season record at 48-50, but we will take what we can get. In the second half, they are 15-17, 5½ games back of a playoff spot.

The big roster news this week is the promotion of Norge Vera to the team from the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Vera, 22 and the top pitching prospect in the system, threw 24 innings in Single-A, allowing five runs, walking 15, and striking out 35. He did not go more than four innings in a start, most of them three or fewer, and he has not yet made his first start for the Dash.

To make room for Vera, Matthew Thompson was promoted to Birmingham. He leaves with less than stellar numbers, most of which are improvements from last year: 4.70 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.8 K/9 over 84⅓ innings. Still, for almost every clunker he pitched a gem. In six of 18 starts, he went at least five innings while giving up one or zero runs. FutureSox does not commit to a specific definition of “clunker” or “gem” at this time.

Relief pitcher Luke Shilling was also promoted away after just three appearances, all basically rehab as he comes back from last year’s Tommy John surgery. Nick Gallagher has ascended in his place after throwing 9⅓ sharp innings for the Ballers (three hits, one unearned run, two walks, 16!! strikeouts).

Top pitching performances

Matthew Thompson (July 28): 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K (season: 84.1 IP, 82 H, 52 R (44 ER), 29 BB, 73 K, 4.70 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

Tommy Sommer (July 31): 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 3 K (season, two levels: 85.1 IP, 66 H, 35 R (28 ER), 31 BB, 92 K, 2.95 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)

Chase Solesky (August 2): 6 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K (season: 91.1 IP, 104 H, 49 R (46 ER), 30 BB, 64 K, 4.53 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

Garrett Schoenle (August 3): 4 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K (season, two levels: 60 IP, 43 H, 28 R (24 ER), 27 BB, 75 K, 3.60 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)

Top hitting performances

Tyler Osik (DH/C): 8-for-14, 6 R, 2 HR, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 3 K, 2 HBP, hit for the cycle (season: .312/.391/.455)

Ben Norman (LF/RF): 12-for-26, 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K (season, two levels: .331/.381/.637, 10 HR in 33 games)

Bryan Ramos (3B): 10-for-24, 7 R, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB, 5 K, SF (season: .266/.340/.462)

Alsander Womack (2B/DH): 7-for-22, R, 2B, HR, 6 RBI, BB, 4 K, SF (season, two levels: .287/.367/.444)

Honorable mention: Harvin Mendoza did have a better week with the bat than he’s had for most of this down year, but the real standout for him was walking eight times in six games.

Weekly rundown

July 28

The swan song of Matthew Thompson in Winston-Salem (well, in Greensboro) was a good one and he only needed 55 pitches to go five innings, 42 of those going for strikes. He allowed a first-inning run on a double and a single, then nothing else other than a solo home run in the fourth.

The Dash scored first in this one, Bryan Ramos with a two-out base hit in the first inning and coming around to score on Luis Mieses’ league-leading 32nd double. Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Jason Matthews singled, Caberea Weaver walked, and Duke Ellis was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Ben Norman drew a game-tying walk, but Ramos and Mieses both struck out swinging without any more damage.

Greensboro took back the lead in the eight with a run off Cooper Bradford, but the Dash answered right back in the ninth: Ellis was hit by a pitch (again), stole second base (his 40th), took second on Norman’s single, then scored on a Ramos sacrifice fly.

Karan Patel and Skylar Árias both kept the team in it with a scoreless ninth and 10th, then the team exploded for so many runs in the 11th that it didn’t even matter when Luis Amaya allowed a two-run bomb to start the bottom of the inning. 

Matthews started it off offensively as the ghost runner at second, then Ellis drew a one-out walk and Norman went deep for the seventh time to put the Dash up 6-3. It was his fourth home run in five games.

Such an act is hard to follow, but Ramos tried his best by doubling for his third hit of the game, then Mieses singled him to third and Alsander Womack also doubled to drive him in, putting them up 7-3. The Amaya Incident in the bottom of the 11th left the final score at 7-5, a Dash victory.

July 29

The Grasshoppers hit three home runs in this game and they all came off Dash starter Drew Dalquist, who threw 83 pitches (47 strikes) and was not able to finish the fourth inning. He walked three and struck out two; he has given up three or more runs in five or fewer innings in five straight starts.

It was a hole the Dash were not able to dig themselves out of. Harvin Mendoza went deep in the fourth, his eighth dong of the season and a career high for him by two. 

They didn’t score again until the ninth, a very late rally falling short. Opening the inning, Norman singled, Tyler Osik was hit by a pitch, and Mendoza walked to load the bases with none out. Adam Hackenberg sacrificed his body for an RBI (hit by pitch), Matthews struck out swinging on a wild pitch that scored Osik, and Ellis grounded out to score another run, pulling the Dash within two. Colson Montgomery walked, extending his on-base streak to four, but Womack grounded out to end the game.

Chase Plymell was both sharp and dull in relief, striking out four in 1.2 scoreless innings but walking three and giving up two singles. Ty Madrigal gave up a two-out run in the eighth on two singles and two walks; Alejandro Mateo had to come in for the final out of the inning. Dash lose 6-4.

July 30

Cristian Mena did not have a good start, Garret Schoenle was not good in relief, and Luke Shilling was fine in his last appearance before being raptured to the Barons. That’s three straight starts Mena has struggled through, although he’s added an inning with each consecutive one, completing five on the 30th. Most of the damage came in the first, when — all with two outs — Mena gave up a walk, single, and home run in quick succession. His fourth run was a (double) steal of home in the third.

Schoenle, meanwhile, had kind of a flipped week; he’s normally excellent out of the bullpen but has run into trouble when he starts. Uncharacteristically, he gave up three runs in relief here, all three right when he first entered the game. He gave up a one-out single, then an RBI double, another single, and a two-run triple before eventually retiring the side.

Shilling pitched the eighth. He gave up a leadoff single, with the runner caught stealing one batter later. He will hopefully never be seen again in Winston-Salem.

The Dash again struck first at the plate, Ellis singling and Montgomery walking to start the first inning. Ramos grounded them both over a bag and Mieses sacrificed in Ellis.

Then there was a stretch of no runs until the fifth, when Montgomery and Ramos singled, Mieses walked, and Womack singled, which scored two, assisted by the left fielder’s error. Despite some further offensive stirring in later innings, including Ellis stealing his 42nd base, that would be all, folks. Dash lose 7-3.

July 31

This was the Bryan Ramos Game. The 20-year-old third baseman went deep for the 16th and 17th times en route to the 8-4 victory. Neatly, his first was a solo shot in the first inning and his second was a three-run blast in the ninth. Last year, he hit 13 home runs in 115 games; his 17 so far this year are through 85.

He wasn’t the only power for the Dash, either. After he and Montgomery walked in the fourth, Womack lofted one into the seats for his seventh home run in 42 games with the team, putting them up 4-0 at that point. Their other run was accounted for by Caberea Weaver, who singled in the sixth inning to drive in Osik from a single of his own.

Those last three runs came late, obviously, so most of this game was fairly close. Starting pitcher Tommy Sommer was fine in his second start since his promotion from the Ballers, giving up just three hits, all of which happened to exit the ballpark. Patel was also the victim of a solo dong before Amaya, Mateo, and Árias quieted things down for the rest of the game. 

Árias now has appeared 14 times for the Dash, allowing just one earned run in 14 innings, walking eight and striking out 25. He has also been on the mound for TEN stolen bases in that time with zero caught stealing.

Dash win 8-4.

Aug. 2

The Dash took Brooklyn for the first time in team history, visiting the Cyclones and winning the first two games of the six-game series. Chase Solesky continues to do this thing where he strikes out almost nobody and walks a pretty significant number of guys, but tightropes his way out of actually giving up many runs (sometimes). 

For example, here, he put the leadoff two aboard in the second, then induced a pop-up, strikeout, and fly ball to escape. In the fourth, he walked two, then gave up a double, but only one run scored because the relay of Ellis-Montgomery-Hackenberg mowed down the second runner at the plate, meaning that Solesky only had to get one more out, which he did via strikeout. One gets the sense that he would absolutely destroy the 2022 Chicago White Sox.

He went a full six before ceding to the bullpen, who fell in line spiritually: Bradford put the first two on in the seventh and even allowed a one-out single to load them up, then won a double play ball to Houdini his way out of it. In the eighth, Luis Moncada got two quick strikeouts before giving up two singles, then a line out before any runs could score. Finally, in the ninth, Wilber Pérez gave up a double, walk, and run-scoring single, leaving two on for Plymell, who struck out the final batter.

Despite 11 hits and two walks, the Dash only went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, half of their runs coming without anyone in scoring position at all. Again, they scored first in the first, the Duke Ellis Special making its return: Ellis singled, was grounded to second by Montgomery, then stole third (43rd steal) and scored as the pitcher made what we can only assume was a panic-induced error.

Entering the sixth tied, Norman untied it and Osik deepened the lead, the pair going back-to-back to start the inning off, their eighth and seventh respective home runs.

Both of them have been on utter tears lately and weren’t done for the day; Norman doubled in the eighth and Osik singled him to third, then Womack sacrificed him in. Dash win 4-2.

Aug. 3

This was the Tyler Osik Game. The 25-year-old catcher/first baseman had a frustrating 2021 limited by injuries, but has been able to blossom this year now that he’s healthy, culminating in a cycle serendipitously hit in front of his Long-Island-native family and friends. It took him just eight pitches for the whole thing; you can read more about his experience here.

He got the double out of the way first, his 12th of the year leading off the second. The home run was in the fourth, scoring (who else?) Norman, who had singled. 

Norman, who matched Osik blow-for-blow this whole week in a couple more games played, also went deep in the fifth, driving in Ramos, who had himself driven in Weaver (both singles). 

Batting directly behind him, Osik tripled for the third time in his career and first since 2019; he scored on Mendoza’s single, putting the Dash up 6-0.

Osik was up for the final time leading off the eighth and needing just a single to complete the cycle, which he hit on the very first pitch. Keegan Fish homered two batters later for Osik to score his third run of the game.

Norman entered this game on a nine-game hitting streak over which he is 19-for-37 with five home runs (.514/.550/.973), which does not include his subsequent 2-for-5 with a home run. In his first 27 games since being called up to the Dash on June 19, he has hit eight home runs (nine now!) and is batting .310/.367/.600.

The Dash actually also pitched in this game, spinning a two-hit shutout. Schoenle, who, as mentioned, keeps running into a wall as a starter, threw four beautiful innings instead, striking out eight, walking two, and giving up just one hit, a one-out single in the second. 

The rest of the pen was similarly spectacular—Everhett Hazelwood, Gallagher, and Mateo combined for five scoreless innings, striking out five, walking three, and allowing one hit. Dash win 8-0.

Looking ahead, the Dash try to keep things moving against the Mets-affiliated Cyclones, but then they return home against a tough Bowling Green Hot Rods team, affiliated with the Rays. Soon, Norge Vera will get his first taste of High-A ball. Montgomery will try to reach an on-base streak of eight games (not a season high).

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