Chris Gittens Leads Charleston RiverDogs Thrashing of Braves
The Charleston RiverDogs have been struggling a bit lately, looking for a spark to get the team back in the win column more often. The RiverDogs Chris Gittens provided just that spark, hitting his sixth homerun of the season and driving in four in the team’s 12-4 victory over the Rome Braves.
The RiverDogs looked to leave no doubt about this one from the very start. In the top of the first inning, Jeff Hendrix drew a walk and Kyle Holder followed by lining a single into right field. That put two on with no one out and Gittens followed by lining a three-run homer over the right field wall.
Down by the three, the Rome Braves got one of those runs back in the bottom of the first. Ray-Patrick Didder led off the bottom of the first with his third homer of the year. The shot over the left field fence that made the score 3-1.
In the top of the third, Charleston extended their lead back to three. Hendrix started the inning with his second walk of the game. With Gittens at the plate, Hendrix stole second, his 10th stolen base of the year, and he scored when Gittens drove in his fourth run of the game with a line drive into center that hit off of the right fielder and rolled away for a double. That made it 4-1
Rome starter Kolby Allard has struggled through the first three innings, and it would only get worse for him in the fourth. He retired the first two hitters of the inning, but Gosuke Katoh kept the frame alive with a single to left, and Cesar Diaz then blew the game open with his first homer of the year. That moved the score to 6-1 and it seemed like it was all but over.
However, Rome would plate solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings to cut the deficit back to three. A triple by Carlos Castro led off the bottom of the fifth and he scored on a ground out to make it 6-2. In the sixth, the Braves plated a run when Alejandro Salazar and Didder started the inning with back-to-back singles and Luke Dykstra singled to score Salazar.
In the top of the seventh the RiverDogs responded to move their lead back to five. Chad Sobotka took over on the hill for Rome and retired the first two hitters, but it was the two out rally that reared its ugly head to the Braves again. Nathan Mikolas, Eduardo Navas, and Gittens drew back-to-back-to-back walks to load the bases, and Connor Spencer then drew a walk to score Mikolas. Grayson Jones relieved and threw a wild pitch that scored Navas and it was 8-3.
Rome grabbed a run in the bottom of the eighth, but in the top of the ninth Charleston destroyed any hopes that Rome had of getting back into the game. Navas singled to start the inning, and Gittens followed with a walk. Spencer then lined a shot up the middle that scored Navas.
Dalton Geekie relieved with runners at first and third and no one out. Austin Afenir greeted him with a single that scored Gittens and Aguilar followed with a towering drive that cleared the left field fence for his sixth homer of the year. That made the score 13-4 and that is how the game would end.
The Charleston RiverDogs took advantage of their opportunities, scoring 13-runs on 10-hits and going 5-11 with runners in scoring position. Gittens finished 2-3 with 2-runs and 4-RBI. He also walked twice. Aguilar was 2-5 with a run and 3-RBI. Navas went 1-1 with 2-runs and a walk after coming in late in the game.
Luis Cedeno (2-2) earned the win for Charleston with six solid innings of relief. He allowed 6-hits and 3-runs, while striking out 2. Cody Carroll pitched the final 3-innings to earn his first save of the season.
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday night. Charleston (33-22) will send Yefrey Ramirez (2-1, 3.50) to the hill against Touki Toussaint (1-5, 6.28). Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier