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May 25, 2013 at 8:27 AM

Cup of Coffee: Affiliates sweep, Natoli and Almanzar ignite Portland

5/25 Cup of Coffee: The affiliates had a memorable evening, as they all proved victorious on Friday. Pawtucket and Salem used solid pitching to obtain their victories, while Portland and Greenville bashed their way to wins. 


Pawtucket was able to get just enough offense to slip by the Louisville Bats (CIN), 4-3. Allen Webster received the start for the PawSox, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on four hits, while striking out four. Chris Martin continued his dominance on the mound, hurling 2 1/3 innings of relief, allowing just two hits and striking out four.

Down 1-0 in the third, Pawtucket grabbed a 2-1 lead after Brandon Snyder knocked in two with an RBI single. In the fourth, Jeremy Hazelbaker stole both second and third before coming home on a Brock Holt RBI single. Holt would then steal second and take third on a throwing error, eventually coming around to score on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI single.

Louisville pulled within two in the bottom of the fourth and brought home another run in the ninth. Anthony Carter notched his seventh save for Pawtucket, as he stranded the game-tying run at third in the final frame.

Webster and PawSox manager Gary Disarcina were both ejected from the game in the bottom of the sixth after Webster hit Louisville's Mike Hessman with a pitch. Tempers had been flaring throughout the game, stemming from Bats pitcher Armando Galarraga hitting Holt with a pitch in the top of the sixth. After hitting Holt, Galarraga verbally jarred with the shortstop, which led to both benches emptying. After the end of the inning, the sparring continued and the benches cleared once again. 


What looked to be an early potential blowout turned into a tight contest in Binghamton, with Portland taking home a 10-9 victory over the Mets (NYM). Anthony Ranaudo was solid in his 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks.

Portland's offense backed Ranaudo early, plating four runs in the first on a rare inside-the-park grand slam from Michael Almanzar. The Sea Dogs added another run in the second on a Tony Thomas RBI single to take a 5-0 lead after two. The game would remain that way until Binghamton broke through for two in the bottom of the fifth, cutting Portland's lead to 5-2.

The Sea Dogs offense went toe-to-toe with the Mets the rest of the game, as Portland's relievers struggled to hold leads. In the sixth, the Sea Dogs expanded their lead to 7-3 after Xander Bogaerts knocked home two on an RBI single. Nick Natoli's RBI single in the seventh gave Portland a short-lived 8-3 advantage. The Mets plated four runs in the bottom of the inning to bring the game to within a run. After Binghamton tied the game in the eighth, Almanzar's lead-off triple in the ninth allowed him to eventually score on a wild pitch, giving the Sea Dogs the lead. Natoli's RBI double gave Portland an insurance run, as the Sea Dogs held a 10-8 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.

Despite Binghamton notching a pair of doubles and bringing home a run, Portland held on for the 10-9 victory. Natoli was 5 for 5 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored to lead the Sea Dogs offense. 


A three-run third inning proved to be enough for Salem to outlast the Frederick Keys (BAL), 3-2. Michael McCarthy improved to 3-2 thanks to his five solid innings. McCarthy allowed just one run on four hits and two walks, while striking out a pair. Nefi Ogando hurled two innings of scoreless relief to notch his second save.

Down 1-0 in the third, the Red Sox plated three runs on a Keury De La Cruz RBI double and a David Renfroe RBI ground out. The Keys added a run in the bottom of the seventh, but could not overcome the slim deficit. Salem was just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Sean Coyle was 3 for 5 with a double from the top of the order to lead the Red Sox offense.  


Greenville's offense was in top form on Friday, as the Drive decked the Charleston RiverDogs (NYY), 12-2. Justin Haley picked up his first professional victory, hurling five innings and allowing one run on five hits and two walks, while punching out eight. Jeffrey Wendelken notched his second save, tossing four innings of relief, and allowing a run on three hits, while striking out seven.

Mookie Betts led off the game with his eighth home run of the year, giving the Drive a quick 1-0 lead. Aneury Tavarez laced an RBI double in the third to give Greenville a 2-0 advantage. Leading 2-1 in the fourth, the Drive opened up the game with four runs. Bryan Johns brought home the first two runs on an RBI triple. Jose Vinicio plated another run with an RBI single, and Betts came home on a wild pitch for the final run of the inning.

Leading 7-2 in the eighth, the Drive scored four more runs on a Cody Koback RBI single and a David Chester three-run home run. Vinicio doubled home another run in the ninth to cap the 12-2 victory. Vinicio was 3 for 5 with three runs scored, two doubles and two RBI to lead the Greenville offense. 


Players of the Day: Nick Natoli and Michael Almanzar. Natoli, who was making his 2013 Portland debut, went 5 for 5 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI. The 25-year-old infielder had struggled so far this season, hitting just .180/.325/.250 with seven RBI in 29 games for Salem.

Almanzar pulled off the rare feat of hitting an inside-the-park grand slam in addition to hitting a triple later on in the game against Binghamton. The 22-year-old third baseman is hitting .280/.344/.518 with nine home runs and 34 RBI in 43 games for Portland this season. The triple was Almanzar's first since 2010 when he was a member of the Greenville Drive.

Photo Credit: Michael Almanzar & Nick Natoli by Kelly O'Connor.

John Gray is a Staff Writer for SoxProspects.com.