May 29, 2016 at 7:00 AM
Cup of Coffee 5/29: It was a night of excellent pitching on the farm for the Red Sox. Pawtucket, Portland, and Salem emerged as winners behind strong performances by starting pitchers. Aaron Wilkerson, Mitch Atkins, and Matt Kent. Andrew Benintendi (pictured) turned in a 2-for-4 game for the Sea Dogs while Rafael Devers was 3 for 4 for Salem. Greenville’s Chad De La Guerra and Jeremy Rivera recorded three-hit games in a loss for the Drive.
Aaron Wilkerson made his second start of the season with the PawSox on Saturday evening and was exceptional. The 27-year-old lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing just a run on three hits and two walks while striking out nine. Kyle Martin pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief, allowing no baserunners and striking out two batters to lower his ERA to 3.33 in 24 1/3 innings of work this season. Pat Light (2/3 innings, one hit) and Wesley Wright (1/3 innings) combined for a scoreless ninth as the PawSox were victorious.
The bats were relatively quiet but were productive enough to support a strong day from the pitching staff. Pawtucket scored two in the first inning on a home run by Justin Maxwell. Deven Marrero pushed across the next run in the seventh inning, scoring Sandy Leon with a single.
Andrew Benintendi recorded his second multi-hit game in Double-A on Saturday afternoon. He went 2 for 4 and scored on a two-run blast by designated hitter Nate Freiman. That home run would prove to be all that the Sea Dogs needed behind a phenomenal start from Mitch Atkins, who tossed six shutout innings, striking out eight and walking none. Luis Ysla followed Atkins, allowing a run on three hits and three walks in two innings, and Nik Turley earned his first save with a scoreless ninth.
The Salem lineup didn’t get going until the later innings but they were able to scratch out a hard-fought win against Lynchburg on Saturday night. The Red Sox picked up their first two runs in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Nick Longhi and a sacrifice fly by Danny Mars. Salem then took the lead with a three-run eighth inning, starting the scoring barrage with an RBI double by Mars which scored Mauricio Dubon. Salem pushed across a couple more runs when Rafael Devers scored on a wild pitch and then Mars touched the plate following a single by Ben Moore.
Matt Kent started on the mound and went seven strong innings, allowing two runs on seven hits while whiffing five and walking none. Ben Taylor was dominant in relief, tossing two shutout innings and striking out three batters.
The Drive suffered a heartbreaking walk-off loss at the hands of the Rome Braves on Saturday night. Greenville had a powerful offensive performance, scoring eight runs, but it proved to be too little. The Drive got on the board quickly, scoring three runs in the first inning. The bottom of Greenville’s lineup was right in the middle of the action as number eight hitter Chad De La Guerra was 3 for 4 with three runs, a walk, and a double and number nine hitter Jeremy Rivera was 3 for 4 with two runs. Tate Matheny was 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs. Luis Alejandro Basabe was 1 for 3 and drove in two runs from the leadoff spot.
However, the Drive’s potent offensive performance was offset by a tough night for Greenville’s pitchers. Roniel Raudes started and allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits in four innings, raising his ERA to 3.21 this season. Jake Cosart allowed two runs (one earned) in two innings of relief, though he did strike out four. Kuehl McEachern was tagged with the loss, lasting 2 2/3 innings before allowing the winning run on a walk-off error by Basabe.
Player of the Night: Mitch Atkins spun a gem in Portland’s win on Saturday afternoon, tossing six shutout innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. Atkins has pitched well for the Sea Dogs this season, featuring a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings pitched with a 39/11 K/BB. The 30-year-old Atkins came to the Red Sox organization by way of a minor league contract this winter and throws a low-90’s fastball.
Photo Credit: Andrew Benintendi by Kelly O'Connor