June 21, 2013 at 7:47 AM
6/21 Cup of Coffee: It was a night of highly-touted pitchers on the mound down on the farm, and they were led by the trio of Pawtucket arms who combined on a five-hit shutout. Portland cruised to victory, while the DSL Red Sox remained hot with a thrilling walk-off win. Lowell was handed its first loss of the year when it was on the wrong side of a comeback, and it was a rough night for Greenville.
Pawtucket took a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Clippers (CLE) largely on the strength of an excellent outing by Brandon Workman. The 24-year-old right-hander continued to impress, pitching seven shutout innings, while allowing just four hits, walking two and striking out five. It is the second time this season that Workman has pitched at least seven scoreless frames, also doing so in April while with Double-A Portland. Clayton Mortensen followed, making his first rehab appearance, striking out one and walking one in a hitless eighth inning. Jeremy Kehrt allowed one hit and struck out one in a scoreless ninth to earn credit for his first save since 2011.
The offense compiled only five hits, but that was more than enough with the performance of Workman. Alex Hassan delivered an RBI double, and has hit safely in each of his five games since returning from the disabled list. Justin Henry added a pair of hits. Both Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. had tough nights, with each going 0 for 3 with a walk.
Portland had a strong all-around showing in its 5-2 win against the Reading Fightin Phils (PHI). Keith Couch, who returned to the starting rotation two weeks ago, made his strongest start yet. The righty allowed just two runs on five hits in six innings to earn the win, striking out four and walking four. He was aided by relievers Will Latimer and Michael McCarthy who combined for three scoreless innings, with McCarthy picking up the save.
While the lineup awaits the arrival of recently-promoted Garin Cecchini, the current bats held up their end. Christian Vazquez hit a two-run homer in the sixth that gave the Sea Dogs their three-run lead. Vazquez went 2 for 3 with a walk and three RBI. Tony Thomas also went deep, with a third-inning solo blast, that put Portland out in front. Heiker Meneses and Matty Johnson added a pair of hits apiece.
Little went right for Greenville, who lost 14-1 to the Hagerstown Suns (WAS). Greenville actually got out to a first-inning lead on a solo blast by David Chester, his 11th of the season. It was downhill from there, however, as Hagerstown scored a pair of touchdowns off Greenville pitching. Starter Luis Ortiz struggled, allowing eight runs (only two earned) on seven hits in four innings, taking the loss.
Lowell took its first loss of the season in traumatic fashion as it fell 8-5 in 11 innings to the Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU). The Spinners got out to an early 5-0 lead which they held heading into the eighth inning. However, Tri-City came back with three in the eighth, two more in the ninth to tie, and three in the 11th to pick up the victory. The comeback spoiled an excellent stateside debut by Simon Mercedes. The 6-foot-4 right-hander out of the Dominican Republic received an $800,000 signing bonus, and debuted on the last day of the Dominican Summer League's 2012 schedule. Earning a placement in Lowell this year, Mercedes tossed five shutout innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out and walking two apiece.
Chris Carpenter pitched two scoreless frames as he continued his rehab assignment, but the rest of the bullpen struggled. Jack McGeary, a Boston native and Roxbury Latin alumnus who was unable to live up to high expectations in the Nationals system due to injury, had a rough introduction to the Red Sox system. The lefty allowed three runs on three hits while walking two, getting through only 2/3 of an inning. Tri-City evened up the contest with a pair of runs off Dylan Chavez, and won in the eleventh with a trio off Matt Spalding, who took the loss.
Kevin Heller led the offense, going 4 for 5 with a double, run scored, and two RBI. Forrest Allday was 2 for 3 before leaving the game in the sixth with an apparent injury. Reed Gragnani, the Red Sox 21st-round pick, made his professional debut, going 1 for 4 with a double.
The DSL Red Sox continue to find ways to win, defeating the DSL Astros 4-3 on a walk-off home run to move to an outstanding 14-3 record on the year. Tied 3-3 headed into the bottom of the ninth, first baseman Pablo Urena led off the inning with a shot over the left field fence. It was Urena's first career home run in 133 professional at-bats dating back to the start of the 2012 season.
The team continues to receive solid pitching, and it was again the case on Thursday. Jose Almonte, making his first appearance since June 8, allowed one run on just one hit in three innings. Through three starts, the 17-year-old righty carries an impressive 1.38 ERA. Piggy-backing Almonte, Javier Rodriguez allowed two runs on three hits in four innings, striking out three and walking just one. Algenis Martinez moved to 2-0 on the season with two perfect innings, striking out two.
Player of the Day: Right-hander Brandon Workman was promoted to Pawtucket at the beginning of the month, and has improved in each of his three starts. Thursday was his fourth professional start allowing zero runs in seven or more innings. While there was concern early in Workman's career that his high-impact delivery might play best in a relief role, the right-hander has largely assuaged those concerns by being efficient. Last night was another example, needing only 98 pitches to get through seven inning.
Photo credit: Brandon Workman by Kelly O'Connor