August 29, 2014 at 8:27 AM
8/29 Cup of Coffee: The playoff schedule kicked off on a historic note. DSL Red Sox starter Daniel Gonzalez and relievers Algenis Martinez and Carlos Caceres combined for a no-hitter in the first game of the playoff series against the DSL Royals. Elsewhere, the GCL Red Sox closed their regular season with a win and Pawtucket's victory helped solidify its playoff chances. Lowell provided plenty of excitement, with two players and manager Joe Oliver getting ejected before the first pitch, followed by the Spinners erupting for 13 runs. Portland fell in a pitchers duel, while Salem and Greenville both suffered blowout losses.
In what turned into nearly a four-hour contest, the PawSox prevailed despite being out-hit 15 to 13. Every member of the Pawtucket lineup reached base, as the squad added seven walks to go with the 13 hits. Justin Henry led the way, going 3 for 5 with a walk and three runs driven in. Blake Swihart had the only extra-base hit for Pawtucket, a sixth-inning double. He was left stranded then, but overall scored once and drove in two as part of a 2-for-4 night. Jackie Bradley, Jr. was 2 for 4 as well, driving in a pair and walking once. Garin Cecchini added his third consecutive multi-hit game. After struggling badly in June and July, the 23-year-old has turned a corner in August, hitting .349/.429/.535.
Pawtucket pitchers allowed 22 baserunners, but the damage was limited as the IronPigs went 4 for 17 with runners in scoring position, Ryan Verdugo got the spot start in place of Anthony Ranaudo, who will be called up to pitch the major league game against Tampa Bay on Friday. Verdugo lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out eight. Chris Hernandez struggled but got credit for the win. The left-hander allowed two runs on four hits in 1 1/3, issuing two walks without a strikeout. Drake Britton played Houdini, allowing four hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings but escaping without giving up a run. Heath Hembree struck out three batters in his scoreless 1 1/3.
With the win, Pawtucket remains 1.5 games ahead of Buffalo for the wild card spot with four games remaining.
Brian Johnson (pictured, above) continues to dominate Double-A competition. The runner up for the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year tossed five scoreless innings, giving up only two hits, striking out one without issuing a walk. The performance lowered his ERA on the season to 1.75. He has been even more dominant in his last six starts, allowing only three runs on 12 hits over 40 1/3 innings - good for a 0.67 ERA and 0.545 WHIP. With his innings count on the season mounting and the Eastern League playoffs approaching, Johnson gave way to the bullpen after only 69 pitches. Pete Ruiz took the loss in relief, giving up three runs on two hits in 1 2/3 innings. Dayan Diaz threw a shutout 2 1/3, allowing one hit and walking two while striking out a pair.
The Sea Dogs had 10 hits but were only 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Keury De La Cruz was 3 for 4 with a double and Portland's only RBI. Shannon Wilkerson and David Chester had two hits apiece.
The night got off to a rough start for Cody Kukuk and the Red Sox, as the left-hander allowed five runs in a 35-pitch first inning. Kukuk settled in some after that, giving up only a pair of unearned runs in the fourth, but he continued to struggle with his control. His overall line showed seven runs (five earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings, with five walks and three strikeouts. The Keys added three more runs off reliever Kyle Kraus, before Taylor Grover came on for a scoreless eighth. Jantzen Witte was 2 for 5 at the plate, while Mario Martinez and Kendrick Perkins chipped in with doubles. Manuel Margot was in uniform but out of the lineup after turning an ankle on Wednesday.
Charleston put a final stamp on its season victory in the first annual Battle of the Palmetto State. The Drive won only six of the 21 contests in 2014 against their cross-South Carolina rivals, and Thursday was much of the same. Starter Jamie Callahan did not get out of the first inning, allowing five runs on three hits and walking three while retiring only two batters. Charleston bats continued to batter relievers Sergio Gomez and Oscar Perez, finishing with a total of 17 hits on the night.
It was a bizarre scene at LeLacheur Park, as there were three ejections before the first pitch was thrown. The home plate umpire ejected catcher David Sopilka and pitcher Enfember Martinez while the two were in the bullpen. The umpires apparently were upset over the positioning of bullpen equipment. Spinners manager Joe Oliver then stormed out of the dugout in protest, and was tossed as well, leaving after a tirade that left additional equipment out of position.
Once the game started, the fireworks continued with Lowell exploding for 13 runs on 17 hits, Nick Moore led the way, going 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored, and three RBI. Bryan Hudson also scored a pair of runs as part of a 3-for-4 effort. Jordan Betts and Mauricio Dubon both scored three runs while going 2 for 4 with a walk.
That was more than enough support for starter Jake Drehoff, who scattered four hits across six scoreless innings. He did not issue a walk and struck out a career-high eight batters. Edwar Garcia followed, giving up just one unearned run in three innings, striking out four and walking one.
The Red Sox squad heads into the playoffs on a roll, closing the regular season slate with four consecutive wins. Luis Alexander Basabe had a big day, going 2 for 3 with two walks, a double, and two runs scored. Michael Chavis also remained hot with his eighth multi-hit game of August. Chavis also doubled and drove in and scored a run apiece. Rafael Oliveras also played a major role, going 3 for 5 with a pair of runs.
Kevin Steen made his third appearance of the year, allowing two runs on four hits in three innings. He struck out one and walked one. Michael Gunn gave up a pair of runs in his two innings of work. Jalen Williams earned the win, surrendering just one run on two hits in four innings, striking out three without issuing a walk.
The GCL Red Sox begin their playoff schedule today against the GCL Cardinals.
Game 1, Dominican Summer League Semi-Final Series
Daniel Gonzalez had been the most consistent arm on in the DSL Red Sox standout regular season, but he saved his finest effort for the post-season. The 6-foot-5 right-hander from Venezuela led a combined no-hitter, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the Semis. Gonzalez struck out six and walked three, and has won 10 games between the regular season and playoffs without taking a loss. Algenis Martinez followed with 2 2/3 perfect innings, striking out one. Carlos Caceres came on to strike out the final batter and seal the victory.
At the plate, the Red Sox needed only four hits A two-out double in the fifth inning by Jose Lozada scored Isaias Lucena and Juan Hernandez, breaking a scoreless tie. The Red Sox added an insurance run in the seventh, when a Gerardo Carrizalez double plated Hernandez.
The two teams meet again Friday for Game 2 at 10:30 am, with Game 3 on Saturday if necessary.
Player of the Day: It has been an outstanding season for Daniel Gonzalez. Prior to his part in Thursday's no-hitter, Gonzalez was the DSL Red Sox most reliable starter, going 9-0 with a 2.25 ERA. In two seasons of Dominican Summer League Gonzalez has a sterling 1.75 ERA in 118 1/3 innings. He was even more exceptional down the stretch, firing 20 innings scoreless across four August starts, striking out 18 and walking one.
Photo Credit: Brian Johnson by Kelly O'Connor