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July 3, 2012 at 7:36 AM

Cup of Coffee: Wilson earns first pro save as PawSox pitchers dominate

7/3 Cup of Coffee: In the night's only two victories, Pawtucket got stellar pitching while the GCL Red Sox were powered by a rehabbing Jacoby Ellsbury. It was a tough night elsewhere, as Portland was swept in a doubleheader, Greenville had a walkoff loss after they'd made their own comeback in the top of the ninth, and Salem was unable to ride Travis Shaw's trio of doubles to a win.

Alex Wilson (Kelly O'Connor)
Pitching was the story as Pawtucket eked out a 2-1 win over the Rochester Red Wings (MIN). Zach Stewart, acquired last week in the Kevin Youkilis deal, had his second consecutive strong outing. In 6.0 innings, he allowed a run on five hits, striking out one and not walking a batter. Daniel Bard was sharp as well, inducing three ground balls to the right side in a one-two-three seventh inning to pick up the win. Alex Wilson followed Bard, and picked up his first save as a professional, tossing 2.0 hitless innings with a walk and two strikeouts. The milestone is notable for Wilson, a second-round pick in the 2009 draft who was converted to the bullpen in April. The strong pitching was necessary on a night where the bats were kept silent - Pawtucket took advantage of two throwing errors on pickoff attempts to score both of its runs. Ryan Lavarnway saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end, as he went 0 for 4 on the evening, but he made a key play with his arm, throwing out Wilkin Ramirez in the fourth inning on the only stolen base attempt of the night.

Portland never led in game one of their doubleheader, as they were blown out in a 12-4 defeat by the Trenton Thunder (NYY). Starter Chris Martin could not get on track, lasting only 2.2 innings and allowing six runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out two, as he fell to 3-5 on the year. Caleb Clay was also hit hard out of the pen, giving up another six runs (five earned) on six hits, including two home runs. He walked one and struck out one. A three-run homer in the fourth by Drew Hedman, his second on the season, was the biggest blow for Portland, but was not enough for the Sea Dogs to withstand Trenton's offensive barrage.

The Thunder struck again in game two with a 5-3 victory to complete the sweep. Jeremy Kehrt turned in a solid outing for the Sea Dogs, keeping them in game and keeping the score tied 3-3 through six. However, the righthander appeared to tire in the seventh inning, giving up three consecutive hits and throwing a wild pitch as the Thunder scored a pair. Overall, Kehrt gave up five runs on seven hits in his 6.1 innings of work, striking out two without walking a batter. The offense could not capitalize on several opportunities, going 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Drew Hedman again had the only extra base hit, doubling and coming around to score in the fourth. Jackie Bradley went 2 for 7 with a walk over the two games, extending his on-base streak to eight games. 

Salem fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. This was despite another excellent game from first baseman Travis Shaw, who went 3 for 4 with three doubles and an RBI. He now has 26 doubles on the season, tying him with Bradley for the most in the Carolina League, while his .568 SLG leads the circuit. Michael Almanzar added a double of his own, his 21st of the year, as the former bonus baby tries to work his way back up to prospect status. Starting pitcher Keith Couch was sharp through the first six innings, giving up only two hits, but ran out of gas in the seventh, allowing three hits and hitting a batter as Myrtle Beach put three runs on the board. Andrew Jones threw 1.2 scoreless innings in relief, giving up only one hit while striking out three. 

Greenville came up on the losing side in a 6-5 thriller to the Charleston RiverDogs (NYY). Trailing 4-2 heading into the ninth, The Drive mounted a comeback. With one out, Keury De La Cruz doubled to right, and Garin Cecchini followed with his fourth home run of the season, knotting the game at four. David Renfroe followed with a double, and he was removed for pinch-runner Henry Ramos. After Ramos moved up to third on a wild pitch, Drew Turocy ripped a double to left to bring him home, putting Greenville on top for the first time all day. The lead would be short-lived, however. After retiring the first two batters on fly balls, Michael McCarthy could not close out the RiverDogs. A walk, single and throwing error gave Charleston second and third. After intentionally walking Tyler Austin, the league leader in slugging percentage, to load the bases, a two run double by Reymond Nunez gave them the walk-off win. Despite the outcome, Greenville had some standout offensive performances. De La Cruz went 3 for 5 with two runs scored to raise his average to .331 on the year. Cecchini, Renfroe and Turocy all had two-hit games for the Drive.

Despite some solid work on the mound, Lowell could not get anything going on offense and fell 2-0 to the Tri-City ValleyCats. Sixth-round draft pick Justin Haley made his professional debut, getting the start for the Spinners. He went 2.0 innings, allowing a run on one hit, walking two and striking out two. Unfortunately for Haley, on a night where the offense was held scoreless, that run was enough to be credited with the loss. William Cuevas had a strong outing in relief, going 5.1 innings, allowing only one run on three hits, while striking out six and walking three. The right-hander started his season with 13.0 consecutive scoreless innings, and finally gave up his first run of the year in the fifth. Braden Kapteyn finished the night with 1.2 hitless innings. Williams Jerez had one of the few notable offensive performances for the Spinners. The athletic center fielder taken in the second round of the 2011 draft went 1 for 2 with a walk and his first stolen base of the season.

The GCL Red Sox came through with a 6-2 win over the GCL Orioles, powered by a rehabbing Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury looked like the player who finished second in the 2011 American League MVP voting, going 1 for 2 with a two-run home run and a walk. He wasn't the only rehabbing player in action that day though, as Chris Carpenter, acquired as part of the compensation package for Theo Epstein, made his 2012 debut. He tossed one scoreless inning, giving up one hit, as he works his way back from right elbow surgery. Pete Ruiz followed Carpenter with a rehab appearance of his own. The right-handed reliever was having an excellent season for Salem, but went on the DL in late May with a hip injury. He allowed one unearned run on two hits in his 1.0 inning of work, striking out one. Sergio Gomez picked up the win, going 5.0 solid innings, allowing a run on three hits, striking out three and walking one. Gerardo Olivares closed out the victory with 2.0 shutout innings, giving up only one hit and striking out three. 

The DSL Red Sox dropped a 9-2 decision to the DSL Rangers. It was a tough night all-around, as the Rangers outhit the Sox 13-4 and never trailed in the victory. Dioscar Romero was unable to pitch around a catcher's interference error with two outs in the third inning, as the floodgates opened, leading to four Rangers runs. All four runs Romero allowed in his 2.2 innings went as unearned. He gave up three hits while striking out four and walking two. Alixon Suarez made up some for the error with an RBI double, his team-leading ninth two-bagger of the season, but the Red Sox rally fell short.

Player of the Day: While minor league relievers often toil anonymously, Alex Wilson deserves credit for his successful conversion to the bullpen on a night where he earned his first professional save by pitching two hitless innings, preserving Pawtucket's 2-1 victory. In 34.2 innings since moving to the pen, Wilson has a 2.86 ERA, 32 strikeouts, and, perhaps most importantly, has not allowed a home run. This may lead to the 2009 second-rounder getting a shot in the major league bullpen when rosters expand in September.