August 25, 2015 at 7:00 AM
8/25 Cup of Coffee: The first playoffs on the minor league calendar kicked off on Monday in the Dominican Summer League, as the DSL Red Sox2 squad dropped the opener of their best-of-three set. In regular season action, the GCL Red Sox fell in their contest but had another outstanding outing from Anderson Espinoza (pictured) and are cruising into the playoffs. Lowell battered its way to a win, while Pawtucket and Salem prevailed as well.
The resurgence continues for Edwin Escobar, who turned in another strong start to help lead the PawSox. Escobar allowed a run on four hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out two. After missing the start of the season due to injury and then struggling with ineffectiveness out of the bullpen, the left-hander has allowed only two runs in 20 innings across his last four starts. The stretch has cut Escobar's ERA nearly in half from 8.69 to 4.76. To close out the win, Ryan Cook struck out four in two scoreless innings, allowing one hit.
At the plate, Mike Miller delivered a solo home run in the fourth. Carlos Rivero and Deven Marrero had two hits apiece, with Rivero also adding a double.
Little went right for the Sea Dogs who dropped their series opener at Hadlock Field. Justin Haley allowed five runs in five innings, becoming the second Portland hurler to be tagged with 14 losses this season. Haley allowed five hits, walked two, and hit a batter while striking out five. Aneury Tavarez provided most of the offense, going 2 for 4 with two doubles.
Strong pitching and a 12-hit barrage helped power Salem. Mike Meyers homered to lead off the fourth inning, his first blast since he was moved up from Greenville a week ago. Meyers added an RBI single and another run scored as part of his 2-for-4 night. Cole Sturgeon had three hits, and Kevin Heller had a triple in the winning effort.
Ty Buttrey picked up the win in a very solid bounce-back from one of the worst outings of his career. After allowing nine runs in only three innings last Wednesday, Buttrey gave up only two runs on three hits in six innings. He struck out five but did struggle some with his control, walking four. Mike Adams struck out two and scattered a pair of hits across two scoreless innings of relief, and Taylor Grover picked up his third save of the year with a scoreless ninth inning.
Josh Ockimey led the Lowell offensive outburst, going 2 for 4 with a double and an eighth-inning solo homer. The 19-year-old also walked and drove in a pair. Shortstop Jeremy Rivera halted a 1-for-22 skid with a 3-for-4 night. Luis Alexander Basabe and Kyri Washington had two hits apiece for the Spinners.
Starter Jose Almonte allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. He struck out five, but continues to struggle some with his control, walking five and uncorking a wild pitch. In 53 innings, Almonte has walked 35 and hit 9 batters, but he has proven tough to hit with a meager .169 opponents batting average. Much of the damage against reliever Daniel Zandona came on a three-run ninth-inning homer. Overall, Zandona allowed four runs on five hits in his three innings out of the pen. He struck out four without walking a batter. Trevor Kelley finished the night with a scoreless ninth inning.
A walk-off victory by Tri-City kept Lowell 3 1/2 games back in the wild card race, with 14 left to play.
If it was the final regular season start for Anderson Espinoza, he closed things out in style. The Venezuelan phenom allowed two hits over four scoreless innings, striking out six without walking a batter. The performance lowers Espinoza's already-microscopic ERA to 0.68 since his promotion stateside. While the normal turn of the rotation would give him one more regular season start, it is possible that the playoff-bound Sox will instead hold off on using him until the GCL postseason begins next Monday.
Beyond Espinoza's usual dominant outing, little else went the Sox way on Monday afternoon. Brad Stone struggled out of the bullpen, taking the loss after allowing five runs on four hits and four walks. Darwin Pena, who started at first base and had two hits on the day, ended up needing to move over to the mound to record the final out. Carlos Tovar had three hits amid the losing effort, and a double off the bat of Trenton Kemp was the only extra-base hit for the Sox.
After holding on to win the San Pedro de Macoris division, the postseason got off to a tough start for the Sox affiliate as the Yankees1 offense pounded out 16 hits. Starter Gary Calvo lasted only 1 2/3 innings, getting lifted after his control abandoned him in the second inning when he walked three consecutive batters. One of those runs came into the score, opening the floodgates for the Yankees, who scored two apiece in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. Ramses Rosario and Ryan Oduber were both hit hard in relief. Ritzi Mendoza was able to limit the damage some, allowing only one unearned run in his two innings of work.
Lorenzo Cedrola provided most of the offense for the Sox, garnering three of the team's six hits. Cedrola was arguably the offensive MVP for the squad this season, as the 17-year-old outfielder posted a .321/.420/.415 slash line.
Game two of the best-of-three series will take place on Tuesday at 10:30am, as the Red Sox2 squad tries to stave off elimination.
Player of the Day: With his six strikeouts in four shutout innings, Anderson Espinoza now has exactly 40 Ks in 40 innings since being promoted from the DSL. Along with his 0.68 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and .170 opponents batting average, and the stuff to match, Espinoza showed that the buzz he was generating before his promotion was no fluke. He has flown up the SoxProspects.com rankings, currently sitting at number seven after beginning the season ranked 30th.
Photo Credit: Anderson Espinoza by John Silver