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It’s been a tough little bit for the Dash. They lost the first five games of their six-game series against the Rome Braves before winning the very last one, briefly hovered in the win column for the start of the Asheville Tourists series, then lost the hell out of Wednesday’s game for a weekly record of 2-4.
Top pitching performances
Chase Solesky (May 15): 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K (season: 29.2 IP, 14 BB, 19 K, 4.55 ERA, 1.65 WHIP)
Drew Dalquist (May 17): 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K (season: 29 IP, 21 BB, 20 K, 7.14 ERA, 1.86 WHIP)
Jesus Valles (relief): 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (season, two levels: 21.2 IP, 7 BB, 16 K, 4.15 ERA, 1.48 WHIP)
Fraser Ellard (relief): 2.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K (season: 15 IP, 9 BB, 10 K, 4.20 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)
Trey Jeans (relief): 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K (season: 7.2 IP, 6 BB, 12 K, 2.35 ERA, 1.957 WHIP)
Top hitting performances
Duke Ellis (CF/LF): 10-for-25, 7 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP, 6 SB, 0 CS (season: .351/.411./485, 15-1 SB-CS)
Moisés Castillo (SS): 7-for-22, 3 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 3 K (season: .302/.433/.365)
Luis Mieses (RF): 10-for-23, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 2 K (season: .291/.354/.470, 15 doubles)
Tyler Osik (DH): 6-for-17, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, SF (season: .301/.381/.430)
Honorable mention: Oscar Colás, who returned midway through the week and went 4-for-13 in three games with a triple, two home runs, two walks, and two strikeouts. On the season, he’s batting .309/.378/531 in 18 games.
There was a late comeback and lead, but the Dash lost it even later, walked off by Braves prospect Landon Stephens with one on and nobody out in the ninth on May 12. Quasi-opener Jordan Mikel allowed just three baserunners over four innings on one hit and two walks; both of those walks were with one out in the first inning, and thanks to a wild pitch, one was able to score on a deep enough fly ball by… Landon Stephens (the Braves display a disconcertingly strong grasp of foreshadowing in their player development system).
Mikel was solid after that, though, and so were Wilber Pérez, Cooper Bradford (who allowed no runs despite walking three), and Fraser Ellard. Vince Vanelle pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with the help of an unusual fielder’s choice double play to nab a runner at third, but the luck would not hold for the ninth. Entering that inning, he had not allowed a single run, earned or otherwise, in his first 12 career innings. He then gave up a single and home run for two runs and the loss. C’est baseball, as they say.
While Dash bats were largely lacking, last year’s team home run leader Luis Curbelo did go deep for the first time this season, his seventh-inning bomb tying them up at one. They briefly pulled ahead in the eighth inning on the Duke Ellis Special, which is what it’s called when Duke Ellis reaches first base via single or walk (here, a walk), immediately steals second, and then scores (here, on a single by Moisés Castillo). But they went down in order on strikes in the ninth. Dash lose 3-2.
It took two runs to be walked off on May 12 and three runs to be walked off on Friday, May 13, which truly was a freaky echo of the day before.Again, Rome struck first in the first, scoring two when Luis Moncada walked the first batter faced and served up a dong to the second. Again, those were the only runs scored off the Dash starting pitcher. Again, the Dash tied it late(ish), Mieses driving in Ellis from a single and Castillo scoring on a passed ball in the fifth. Again, they went ahead the next inning, five walks, a balk, and a Terrell Tatum steal combining for two more runs. And again, the pitcher who threw the Dash eighth came back out for the ninth and allowed a single to start the home team’s rally.
Here, that pitcher was Ty Madrigal, who did retire one batter in the ninth before the single and being replaced by Zach Cable. After a fly ball out, Cable gave up a single to put runners on the corners, then another single to tie it, then a walk to push a runner into scoring position, then, finally, a single to push that runner into even better scoring position (foot right above home plate and about to step on it for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth). Dash lose 5-4.
Rome scored three runs in the first on May 14 and continued on from there, with the Dash offering no real answer. One ninth-inning run scored on a semi-Duke-Ellis-Special; he was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on defensive indifference rather than an official steal, but he did score when Mieses then singled. Coincidentally, Ellis and Mieses were the only Dash batters with two hits, supplying two-thirds of the Dash total. Castillo and Caberea Weaver had the others, all six hits singles.
Matthew Thompson has shown flashes of mastery this year but has failed to match it with flashes of consistency. The 21-year-old righty walked only one but still labored; for example, that three-run first inning went double, walk, single, bases-loaded HBP, run-scoring ground out, run-scoring ground out, single, strikeout. In the second, two more runs scored and it could have been more if Justyn-Henry Malloy hadn’t tried to stretch his two-RBI double into a triple; the next batter was hit by a pitch and the batter after that singled before Thompson was able to escape the inning with another ground ball. He threw 77 pitches over four innings, 51 for strikes. Over the season, he has 30.1 IP, 9 BB, and 23 K with a 4.15 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.
The Braves chipped out another couple of runs from the bullpen, one unearned off of Luis Amaya due to an Ellis error and the other off of Gil Luna Jr. in the eighth. Luna Jr. gave up a single and double and threw two wild pitches before being removed in his second game back from the Injured List, to which he promptly returned and where he still remains. Pérez kindly finished the inning with none of his inherited runners scoring. Dash lose 7-1.
Oscar Colás returned from the Injured List on May 15 and the lineup couldn’t have been happier to have him back. They exited Rome on a high note, not exactly clobbering the Braves but never coming close to relinquishing the lead once they gained it in the sixth. Chase Solesky put down five innings with one of everything (runs, walks, strikeouts), scattering five hits to keep the Dash in it. Jesus Valles, solely pitching out of the bullpen so far this year but used in the past as a starter, added three scoreless, and Vanelle redeemed himself with a scoreless ninth.
The Dash looked poised to have a huge sixth when Bryan Ramos, Mieses, and Curbelo all walked to lead off the inning and Harvin Mendoza singled in the lead two; Jason Matthews lined out and Keegan Fish and Ellis quickly struck out to end that threat, though. They did add two more in the seventh, Colás loudly announcing his comeback with his third home run and Mieses following one batter later with a solo shot of his own, also his third of the season. Colás was also involved in the final run, singling to open the ninth and scoring on Mieses’ 14th double. Dash win 5-1.
May 16 was the league-wide off-day, but the gap in the schedule didn’t hamper the bats on May 17, when they downed the Tourists 9-1. Following a trend, the other team scored first, Asheville’s lone run coming in the second off Drew Dalquist after a triple opened the inning and a wild pitch followed it. Dalquist was able to pitch around four total walks and exited with by far his best outing of the year, allowing fewer than three earned runs for the first time. The bullpen sparkled behind him, with Trey Jeans, Cable, Ellard, and Isaiah Carranza allowing just two hits and a walk in four scoreless innings between them.
Ellis apparently tired of the Duke Ellis Special in the third inning, when he joined Colás and Mieses in the three-HR club, knocking in Jason Matthews from a walk as well. In the fourth, Osik walked and Mendoza tripled to score him, and in the fifth, Castillo scored a run on a Ramos ground out after walking, advancing to second on a ground ball, and to third on a wild pitch.
The Duke Ellis Special did return to style in the seventh, Ellis singling to lead off the inning, stealing second base, taking third on a ground out, then scoring when Colás tripled. Colás was subsequently nailed at the plate after another Ramos ground ball, but Mieses was able to single Ramos home for the second run of the inning. Ramos has been having a tough time of it lately (he entered Wednesday’s game batting .128/.236/.149 in May), but he still hit an eighth-inning single to score Matthews from a double and Castillo from a walk, putting the score in its final form at 9-1.
Things were going smoothly for the Dash on May 18, Mikel cruising through another start while protecting a 1-0 lead. Everything was fine until the fifth inning, when he allowed a home run to the first batter faced (bad sign), then walked the next two, got one out, then loaded the bases with a single (bad sign). He was replaced by Madrigal, who walked in a run on four pitches (three inherited runners, one scored), gave up another on a fly out to center that is not being scored as a sacrifice for some reason (3/2), and allowed one final RBI on a single before getting out of the inning (3/3).
At the plate, this game started with a Duke Ellis Special in the bottom of the first, Ellis singling, stealing second (16th stolen base), then scoring on a Ramos line drive single. Their retaliation to the four-run fifth was also a Duke Ellis Special, Ellis taking a two-out walk in the bottom of the fifth, stealing second (17th SB), then scoring on a Castillo single. Ellis entered this game batting .347/.410/.453 during a 19-game hitting streak and extended it to 20 with a first-inning single.
Meanwhile, Mieses is having another one of his hot stretches. He hit his 15th double in the sixth, was singled to third by Adam Hackenberg, and scored on a Tyler Osik sacrifice fly. Colás also punished a baseball in the ninth for his four blast in 18 games.
Karan Patel and Amaya both pitched scoreless innings, but the wheels fell off Pérez and Vannelle a little in the eighth and ninth to drown the Dash for good, 7-3.
Next up, the Dash look to take the series from the Tourists and then are back on the road to play seven games in Hickory in six days as North Carolina truly sheds spring for summer. It’ll be fun!