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September 4, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Pawtucket clinches IL North title and several top prospects shine

9/4 Cup of Coffee: The Pawtucket Red Sox clinched the IL North title with a win last night over the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees (NYY). The PawSox first playoff game will be on Wednesday with both the time and opponent currently TBD. They are the first Red Sox affiliate to clinch a playoff birth this season. The Greenville Drive are also in the playoff hunt. Their magic number is 2, and a Savannah victory combined with an Augusta loss tomorrow would put them into the playoffs.

Pawtucket used the long-ball to beat Scranton/Wilkes Barre 12-7. A 1st inning grand slam from Will Middlebrooks, his first home run as a member of the PawSox, helped chase Yankee starter Manny Banuelos from the game after just 1.2 innings pitched. Daniel Nava also had an RBI single in the 1st inning as the PawSox got out to an early 5-0 lead. The Yankees managed to chip away and eventually take a 6-5 lead in the 6th thanks to a 2 run double from Doug Bernier. After the Yankees tacked on another run in the top of the 8th, they went into the bottom the 8th leading 7-5. After a hit by pitch and a walk, Ryan Lavarnway crushed a 3 run home run to left field which gave the PawSox an 8-7 lead. Jose Iglesias added a 2 run single later which proved to be more than enough for Randy Williams who pitched a perfect 9th with 2 strikeouts.

Portland did not fare quite as well in their game, as they were clobbered by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) 11-0. Reynaldo Rodriguez was the lone bright spot for the Sea Dogs, going 2 for 4 with 2 doubles. Jeremy Hazelbaker also added a triple. On the mound, Jeremy Kehrt went the first 5.0 innings giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits. 3 of the 7 hits he allowed were home runs. Eammon Portice pitched the next 2.0 innings giving up 5 runs on 5 hits while striking out 3 and walking none.

Salem came back from 3 down in the top of the 9th to defeat the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (TEX) 5-4. A 7th inning solo home run from Bryce Brentz put Salem on the board, and they trailed 4-1 in the top of the 9th. Jorge Padron hit an RBI double to cut the lead to 4-2, and then Miles Head hit a go-ahead 3 run home run to give Salem their first lead of the game at 5-4. That score held up as Pete Ruiz finished his 3rd inning of relief in the 9th to give Salem the victory. Drake Britton got the start and pitched well going 6.0 innings allowing 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and 7 strikeouts. Britton will be an interesting name to watch for next year. If he can fix some mechanical flaws and refine his command, he can be a player who takes a huge step forward next year. The stuff is still there for Britton and he is not someone to give up on despite his poor numbers this season.

Greenville split a doubleheader with the Hickory Crawdads (TEX), winning Game 1 9-2, and losing Game 2 3-0. In Game 1, the offense was led by star prospect Xander Bogaerts, who went 2 for 3 with a home run, walk, and strikeout. He continues to exceed all expectations and he is arguably the biggest story of the year in the Red Sox farm system. Christian Vazquez also added a home run as he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout. Jackie Bradley Jr. collected his first 2 hits as a member of the Greenville Drive in addition to an outfield assist, and Matty Johnson added 2 hits as well. Kyle Stroup earned the win going 5.0 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits. He walked 1 and struck out 4. Andrew Jones threw a perfect final 2.0 innings allowing 0 hits and striking out 3.

Singles by Bogaerts and Henry Ramos were the only 2 hits the Drive collected in Game 2 as the offense could not touch 2011 draftee Will Lamb. Scott Swinson pitched 4.1 innings for the Drive allowing 8 hits and 3 runs with 1 walk and 1 strikeout.

The Lowell Spinners continued having a tough time with the Connecticut Tigers (DET) losing 4-1. Keury De La Cruz went 2 for 4 with a double and Seth Schwindenhammer went 1 for 3 with a double to lead the offense. Raul Alcantara tossed 5.2 innings allowing 6 hits, 3 runs, 0 walks, and 4 strikeouts. The Spinners finish their season tomorrow against Connecticut.