August 1, 2014 at 8:03 AM
8/1 Cup of Coffee: It was a historic day for the Red Sox organization as the team dealt five players off the major league roster. The departing quintet includes Jon Lester, the current ace pitcher and former top prospect who had been with the organization longer than any other player. Despite the mayhem at the top, the beat went on at the minor league level. In an almost-poetic ode to Lester, Mookie Betts (pictured), the organization's current top prospect, was the hero of the day with a two-run walk-off homer that put Pawtucket into a tie for first place. Elsewhere, Lowell and the GCL Red Sox thumped their opponents. Salem walked off in extra innings, but the DSL Red Sox were on the opposing end of a walk-off. Portland also dropped its contest as a late rally fell short.
The PawSox dramatically moved into a tie with the Chiefs for first place in the International League North Division. On the mound for Pawtucket's afternoon contest was Edwin Escobar, one of the pieces who came from San Francisco in the deal for Jake Peavy. Escobar allowed just one run on five hits in six innings pitched. He struck out five and walked only one, and left the game with the score knotted at one. Dalier Hinojosa allowed one run on three hits, keeping the game tied and allowing for the heroics of the Red Sox top prospect
Mookie Betts continues to dominate in what has been one of the most impressive seasons in professional baseball. With one out in the bottom of the ninth and Justin Henry on first base, Betts sent a 1-0 pitch over the McCoy Stadium center field wall. Overall, Betts was on base three times, going 1 for 3 with two walks and two runs scored. Matt Spring also went deep for Pawtucket. It was the first home run at the Triple-A level for the 29-year old veteran of 641 minor league games. Carlos Rivero was 4 for 4 with a double, and Alex Hassan went 2 for 3 with a walk.
It was a tough loss for Portland, as a ninth-inning rally fell short. Starter Justin Haley, pitching for the first time since his promotion from Salem, took a tough-luck loss. Haley allowed a run on six hits in six innings, striking out four and walking two. Robby Scott struck out three in two scoreless innings. Dayan Diaz pitched one inning and allowed his first run in four appearances since his promotion.
The Sea Dogs had many opportunities, but the most excruciating came in the ninth inning. Down 2-0, Shannon Wilkerson ripped a two-out double, scoring Keury De La Cruz and sending potential tying run Ryan Dent to third base. However, with the tying and winning runs in scoring position, Thunder closer Mark Montgomery(NYY) was able to induce a pop-up from Derrik Gibson. Gibson did have two hits on the night, and Wilkerson was 2 for 3 with a walk. Blake Swihart's hitting streak was halted at 11 games, as the catcher went 0 for 3 with a walk.
Salem provided the organizations second walk-off win of the day. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Reed Gragnani walked and advanced to second on a Mario Martinez single. Aneury Tavarez was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Kevin Heller then came through with his third hit of the night, ripping a single to left that scored Gragnani and sent the Sox to victory. Like Heller, Martinez also had a 3-for-5 night, while Gragnani was on base three times with a single and two walks.
The walk-off was able to erase the first poor outing in over a month by lefty Cody Kukuk. The lefty, who had allowed only three earned runs in 23 innings over his five previous starts, gave up three runs in only 3 1/3 on Thursday. Control was the issue for Kukuk, as he walked six batters. Jonathan Aro followed in his Carolina League debut, and picked up where he left off at Greenville. Aro fired 4 2/3 shutout innings, giving up only two hits while walking two and striking out six. Madison Younginer tossed two perfect innings to get credit for the win.
Eleven years after taking Jon Lester with their first pick, the Red Sox took another tall high school lefty, making Trey Ball the seventh pick in the draft. It was appropriate then that Ball would be on the mound on the day when Lester was dealt. Ball took the loss for the Drive in an uneven start. After struggling some in the first two innings, Ball had a streak of eight consecutive batters retired. He seemed to tire in the fifth, walking two and giving up a double, but he escaped that inning unscathed. Overall he gave up two runs on two hits in five innings, striking out two and walking four. The Greenville offense managed only two hits: a first inning single by Tzu-Wei Lin and a fourth-inning double by Wendell Rijo. The game was called because of rain after six innings.
The Spinners used a 17-hit attack and a strong starting pitching performance to blow out Staten Island. Alixon Suarez hit his first home run of the year and only missed hitting for the cycle by a double in his 3-for-5 performance. Danny Mars also had three hits, breaking out of a mini 0-for-9 slump. Sam Travis was 3 for 5 with two RBI and two runs scored, and he is now 12 for 18 in his last four games. Jordan Betts chipped in with an RBI double and a two-run homer, already his seventh of the season.
On the mound, Heri Quevedo was dominant against his old organization. He scattered four hits across seven shutout innings, striking out six and walking only one. It was the best outing of the season by far for the righty, as the seven innings were a season high and it was the first outing that he had given up fewer than two runs.
Little went wrong as the GCL Sox cruised to victory on Thursday. Michael Kopech got the start, firing two hitless innings. The right-hander struck out two and walked one, and now has eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to start his career. Brayan Villarreal followed with another solid rehab appearance, striking out four and walking one in two frames. Carlos Garcia surrendered the only run of the night but was solid, going three innings and striking out two without issuing a walk. Taylor Nunez struck out three in two scoreless innings, and remains unscored upon in his six appearances.
Every starter reached base in a balance offensive attack. Number nine hitter Rafael Oliveras led the way, going 3 for 4 with a run scored and a pair of RBI. Rafael Devers continues to roll, driving in two runs and taking a walk in a 1-for-4 day. Luis Alexander Basabe was 2 for 5 with a double and two runs driven in, and Alex McKeon also doubled for the Sox.
A rare loss for the DSL squad came in heartbreaking fashion, as the Rockies walked off with the win in the bottom of the 11th after the Sox had taken the lead in the top of that frame. It was only the second loss for the DSL Sox in 11 games, as the team holds onto a three-game lead in the Boca Chica South. Yoan Aybar delivered three of the team's eight hits, including his 10th double and eighth triple of the season. Aybar scored the go-ahead run in the 11th, racing home on a Juan Hernandez ground out. The Rockies then rallied for a pair in the bottom of the inning, winning on a one-out single.
Jhonathan Diaz was solid on the mound, allowing just an unearned run on four hits in five innings, striking out five without issuing a walk. Jervis Torrealba was outstanding in relief, firing four perfect innings, striking out three along the way. After a scoreless 10th, Alegenis Martinez surrendered a pair of runs in the 11th to take the loss.
Player of the Day: It was an emotional day in the Red Sox organization, as the team parted ways with five members of the 2013 World Series champions. However it was also a window into the future, as the current top prospect delivered a dramatic walk-off win. It is hard to overstate how exceptional Mookie Betts has been in 2014. He is hitting .342/.427/.523 between Portland and Pawtucket, and made his major league debut. He has continued his offensive assault on minor league pitching while learning a position, moving from second base to the outfield.
Photo Credit: Mookie Betts by Kelly O'Connor