Buies Creek – The Mudcats pulled within a half game of first with a 6-3 road win versus the Southern Division leading Astros at Jim Perry Stadium on Thursday night. Corey Ray was 2-for-4 with a home run and Cooper Hummel was 1-for-3 with two RBIs in the victory.
Carolina (29-24) trailed 1-0 in the third and had been held without a hit over the first two frames before Ray hit a game tying home run to start the third. The home run was his third of the season and was the first hit allowed by Buies Creek (30-24) starter Jorge Alcala.
Alcala (1-2, 4.11) worked through the fifth and held the tie before hitting Troy Stokes Jr. with a pitch to start the three run Carolina sixth. Trent Clark later brought in Stokes with a sacrifice fly and the Mudcats had their first lead at 2-1 in the sixth inning.
The Mudcats went on to load the bases against Alcala in the sixth and knocked him out of the game. Reliever Ralph Garza followed and Hummel immediately greeted him with a two-out, two-run, bases loaded single to right while lifting the Mudcats to a 4-1 lead.
Buies Creek rallied back with two in their half of the sixth, but the Mudcats left the frame up 4-3 before later adding two runs on a sacrifice fly from Isan Diaz and a fielding error in the seventh to take a 6-3 lead.
Marcos Diplan started for Carolina and earned the win after allowing two runs on two hits over five and 2/3 innings pitched. He walked five, but also struck out four in the game for the Mudcats.
Diplan (3-2, 5.19) allowed a run on two hits in the first and left with two on and two outs in the sixth before handing the game over to Wuilder Rodriguez. Rodrigo Ayarza then came through for the Astros with a two-run double and pulled the Astros back into the game.
Rodriguez finished the sixth with the Mudcats leading 4-3 and remained in the game through the eighth and into the ninth. He pitched through a total of two and 2/3 innings with a run allowed on two hits. He also walked one and struck out one.
Nate Griep eventually got the call for the final two outs in the ninth after Rodriguez fell into a jam following an error by Luis Aviles. Griep (S, 11) closed out the game and stranded two inherited runners on base while earning his league leading 11th save of the year.
Ray also had a double and was 2-for-4 with the game out of the leadoff spot for the Mudcats. Stokes scored twice and was 1-for-3 and Hummel drove in two while going 1-for-3 for Carolina.
The Mudcats and Astros continue the four game set on Friday night with a 7:00 p.m. first pitch at Jim Perry Stadium at Buies Creek. The Mudcats lead the series two games to none and can move to first place with a victory against the Astros in Friday’s game. Freddy Peralta will start for the Mudcats on Friday night, while Yoanys Quiala starts for the Astros.