May 9, 2014 at 7:35 AM
5/9 Cup of Coffee: While the major league squad was off on Thursday the minor league affiliates were having a big day. Salem powered to victory on an 18-run explosion, while Henry Owens flirted with a no-hitter in Portland. Pawtucket rallied to win after Rubby De La Rosa turned his start around. The only blemish on the night came out of Greenville.
A five-run fifth carried Pawtucket to a comeback 5-3 win over the Toledo Mud Hens (DET), earning a split of the four-game set. The PawSox fell behind early, as starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa struggled through a three-run, 36-pitch second inning. De La Rosa regrouped nicely, however, pitching into the seventh and at one point retiring ten consecutive batters. His final line showed three runs (one earned) allowed on four hits in 6 2/3 innings, with six strikeouts and four walks.
The offense was able to pick up De La Rosa with a big five-run fifth inning. After walks to Garin Cecchini and Christian Vazquez to lead off the frame, Corey Brown delivered the big blow - a three-run homer to right that tied the game. Brock Holt followed with a triple and raced home with the go-ahead run on a Daniel Nava ground ball. Holt reached base three times, adding a single and a hit by pitch.
Portland's bats supplied starter Henry Owens with more than enough offense in its 8-2 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR). Owens carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, the second time this year he has gone at least six innings without allowing a base hit. A two-out double drove him from the game, but his final line was impressive: two runs on one hit and six strikeouts while matching a career-high 7 2/3 innings. The only negative for the six-foot-seven left-hander was his control, as he issued five walks.
It was a balanced offensive attack from the Sea Dogs, as each starter reached base. The only extra-base hit was a three-run double in the third inning by Travis Shaw. With a third-inning single, Mookie Betts has now reached base in 65 straight, including Salem's 2013 playoff run. Henry Ramos was 2 for 4 and now has multiple hits in five of his last six games.
The Salem bats struck early and often, stomping the Carolina Mudcats (CLE) 18-2. It was a multi-dimensional attack from Salem, as seven players had multi-hit games, five hits went for extra bases, and nine walks came from seven different hitters. Carson Blair was the offensive star. His first-inning grand slam got the romp rolling, and he also delivered a double and two walks. He scored three times and drove in six. Tim Roberson hit his first home run of the season, a two run shot in the third, and also scored three times while driving in four. Jonathan Roof and Reed Gragnani added three runs apiece as part of their two for five nights.
The main beneficiary of the offensive outburst was Salem starter Cody Kukuk, who got his first win since his promotion from Greenville. Making his second High A appearance, Kukuk allowed just one run on three hits in five innings, striking out three but walking five. Kyle Stroup walked three and allowed an unearned run in two innings of relief, and Dayan Diaz closed out the win with two shutout frames.
Despite a 14-hit effort, Greenville fell 9-2 to the Greensboro Grasshoppers (MIA). It was a second straight tough start for Ty Buttrey, as the righty allowed eight runs on six hits in only 2 2/3 innings. Through two starts, his ERA sits at 29.70. Raynel Velette had a strong outing in relief, allowing just one hit in 3 1/3 shutout innings, striking out four without walking a batter. Velette now has a 14-inning scoreless streak over five outings, and he has allowed only six hits during that stretch. John Ely allowed a run in 1 2/3 in his second appearance back from Tommy John surgery, and Jonathan Aro struck out one in 1 1/3.
Wendell Rijo led the Drive offense with a three-hit night, adding a double and a walk. Despite being one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League at 18 years old, Rijo leads the circuit with a .468 OBP. Teammate Carlos Asuaje, the league leader in slugging, was 1 for 4 with a double. Jordan Weems and Jesus Loya had two hits apiece for Greenville.
Player of the Day: Despite a strong effort from Henry Owens, Carson Blair earns recognition for his part in Carolina's blowout victory. Blair has been more productive than his .169 batting average would indicate, as 10 of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases, and he has walked 18 times giving him a solid .774 OPS on the year. The six RBI topped Blair's previous career high of five, set back on August 24, 2008 in his minor league debut.
Photo Credit: Carson Blair by Kelly O'Connor