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April 24, 2012 at 6:40 AM

Cup of Coffee: Matsuzaka begins rehab in Salem

4/24 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket swept a doubleheader to extend its winning streak to eight games, while Portland got back into the win column after four consecutive losses. Salem dropped their series opener to Wilmington, spoiling the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Justin Germano (Kelly O'Connor)
Following Sunday's rainout, Pawtucket grabbed a 2-0 win over the Durham Bulls (TB) in the first game of their twinbill. The PawSox scored their first run with a two-out rally in the first inning. A Daniel Nava single was followed by walks to Mauro Gomez and Will Middlebrooks, loading the bases for newly acquired catcher Mike Rivera. In his first Pawtucket at bat, Rivera came through, lining a single to left that scored Nava, giving the PawSox a 1-0 lead. They added another run in the second, as Che-Hsuan Lin led off with a double, followed by a Tony Thomas RBI single. That was more than enough support for Justin Germano, who was dominant for the second consecutive outing. Germano tossed 6.0 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits and striking out 5 without walking a batter. The veteran righty now has  16 consecutive scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.57 on the year. He has yet to walk a batter in 2012. Andrew Miller, continuing his rehab assignment, pitched a perfect seventh for his first save, striking out 2. Also notable was the return of Pedro Ciriaco, who had missed ten games due to an oblique strain. Ciriaco was the DH and led off.

Pawtucket's winning ways continued in the nightcap, a 7-1 win over Durham. The PawSox got the scoring underway in the fourth. Back to back doubles by Ryan Lavarnway and Gomez led off the inning. After an intentional walk to Josh Kroeger, Lin ripped a double off the left field wall that narrowly missed getting out of the park, scoring Gomez and Kroeger to give the PawSox a 3-0 lead. The offense kept rolling in the fifth, as a leadoff walk by Nava and a single by Jose Iglesias led a first and third situation with nobody out. Durham pitcher Romulo Sanchez nearly escaped the jam, striking out Lavarnway and Gomez. However, he could not escape the red-hot Middlebrooks, who hit a three-run blast to center field, his fifth home run in his last six games. Pawtucket took a 7-0 lead to close the inning when Kroeger doubled and scored on an Alex Hassan single. Meanwhile, Pawtucket received their second excellent starting performance of the day, as Aaron Cook's solid start to the 2012 season continued. Cook pitched a seven inning complete game to run his record to 3-0, allowing 1 run while scattering 8 hits, walking 2, and striking out 1. Cook will likely have one more start with Pawtucket before his May 1 opt-out. 

Portland got back into the win column with a 5-3 win over the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN). The Sea Dogs got the scoring started in the fourth inning, stringing together singles by Ryan Dent, Kolbrin Vitek, and Oscar Tejeda to take a 1-0 lead. New Britain tied the game up in the bottom of the fourth, but the Sea Dogs responded in the fifth. A leadoff single by Ronald Bermudez was followed by a walk to Dan Butler. Both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Heiker Meneses and scored on Jeremy Hazelbaker's double. The Sea Dogs extended their lead to 5-1 with a two-run rally in the sixth inning. Reynaldo Rodriguez led off with a base hit, and moved up to second on a single by Bryce Brentz. Bermudez doubled to left, scoring Rodriguez, and sending Brentz to third. A Butler walk loaded the bases, and Brentz scored on a ground out by Meneses. Starting pitcher Chris Hernandez was solid for Portland, going 5.1 innings, allowing 3 runs, only 1 earned, on six hits. He walked 1 and struck out 1. The bullpen due of Aaron Kurcz and Caleb Clay held the Sea Dog lead. Kurcz pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits, walking 1 and striking out 3. Clay pitched the final 2.0 to earn his first save of the year, allowing 1 hit, no walks, and also striking out 3. The offensive star was Bermudez, batting .385 in eight games since coming off of the disabled list. He went 2 for 4 on the night, with a double, RBI and run scored.

Salem began its homestand with a 7-2 loss to the Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC). The big story was Daisuke Matsuzaka, making his first rehab appearance following his Tommy John surgery. Matsuzaka got off to a tough start, allowing a home run to the first batter he faced, a second run in the first, and another home run to lead off the second inning. However, he settled in after that, and retired the last five batters he faced. Perhaps most importantly, 40 of his 57 pitches were for strikes. His final line was 4.0 innings pitched with 6 hits, 3 runs, no walks and 3 strikeouts. Ryan Pressly pitched 5 innings in relief, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits. Pressly also struck out 3 without walking a batter. The Salem offense struggled to get the big hit, as they left 11 men on base in the loss. Standout offensive performers included Brandon Jacobs, who went 2 for 5 with a double and 2 RBI, Michael Almanzar, 2 for 4 with a double, Shannon Wilkerson, 2 for 3 with a walk and , and Jackie Bradley, Jr., who went 2 for 4 with a walk and run scored to lift his 2012 OBP to .441. 

Greenville was off on Monday. The Drive begin a seven-game road trip tonight against Delmarva with a with an excellent pitching matchup between Matt Barnes and Orioles phenom Dylan Bundy. 

Player of the night: Justin Germano tossed his second consecutive gem for Pawtucket. He extended is scoreless innings streak to 16 with six shutout frames. On the season, Germano has 14 strikeouts, no walks, and leads the International League with a 0.65 WHIP.