May 26, 2016 at 1:09 PM
5/26 Cup of Coffee: All four affiliates had pitchers turn in quality starts on Wednesday. Greenville phenom Anderson Espinoza (pictured) highlighted the bunch, combining with a pair of relievers on a two-hit shutout. Equally impressive was Justin Haley, who matched Lucas Giolito (WAS) pitch-for-pitch before Portland fell in a walk-off.
Roenis Elias turned in his second straight outstanding start, holding Lehigh Valley to a run on two hits in 7 1/3 innings. The lefty struck out eight, giving him 21 in 15 innings over his last two outings. Kyle Martin allowed a run in 1 2/3 innings to close out the win. Sam Travis slammed a three-run third-inning home run, providing the big blow for the offense. Bryce Brentz added a pair of doubles, and Chirs Marrero also had a two-bagger as part of his 1-for-3 night.
Portland faced a tough test, matching up with Lucas Giolito (WAS) and Harrisburg. Giolito was recently named the top prospect in baseball by Keith Law of ESPN. Giolito was predictably tough, but he was matched by Sea Dogs righty Justin Haley. Haley allowed just one run on five hits in six innings, rebounding from his previous start, when he failed to get out of the first inning. Haley struck out six, walked one, and lowered his ERA to 2.68 through nine appearances. Nik Turley followed with a pair of scoreless innings of relief, but Luis Ysla saw his control falter in the ninth, allowing a base hit followed by three straight walks to send Harrisburg home victorious.
Henry Ramos went 2 for 4, his third consecutive multi-hit game. Andrew Benintendi was 1 for 3 with a walk, RBI, and stolen base.
He didn't dominate at the level of his fellow hurlers on Wednesday, but Jalen Beeks turned in a solid outing in a losing effort. The sidewinding lefty allowed three runs on nine hits in six innings. Beeks gave up a pair of home runs in the third, a two-run shot and a solo blast. Beeks struck out three and had his first appearance of the season without issuing a free pass.
The Red Sox offense had multiple chances but was 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and failed to notch an extra-base hit. Down by 1 in the third inning, the Red Sox executed a double steal that tied the game, with Mike Meyers nabbing second and Mauricio Dubon racing in with the steal of home. Rafael Devers was 1 for 3 and was removed from the game when he failed to slide on a caught stealing as part of a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play that ended the sixth inning.
Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher. Only hours after completing a 17-run shellacking of the Greenville pitching staff, the Asheville lineup met Anderson Espinoza for an 11:00 a.m. start on Wednesday and probably wished they had hit the snooze button. The 18-year-old Espinoza was nearly unhittable, retiring the first 10 batters he faced. He let only one Tourist pass first base. In all, he allowed two hits in six innings, struck out three without issuing a walk, and induced 10 ground ball outs. He needed only 67 pitches to get through six frames.
Asheville did not get a break when the Drive turned to their bullpen, as Jake Cosart and Bobby Poyner continue to flummox South Atlantic League hitters. Cosart struck out four of the seven batters he faced in two hitless innings, with a one walk as the only blemish. Cosart's 1.85 ERA looks pedestrian next to that of Poyner, whose perfect ninth lowered his mark to a microscopic 0.39. He struck out two, giving him 28 in 23 innings, and he still hasn't issued a walk during the 2016 campaign.
Josh Ockimey led the way at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a seventh-inning solo home run and a double. Jayce Ray and Tate Matheny also doubled for the Drive.
Player of the Day: There were a number of pitchers to pick from, but Anderson Espinoza gets the nod for dominating an Asheville offense that had just scored 17 runs the previous evening and averages over five runs per game. The six-inning outing was the longest of Espinoza's young career. The youngest pitcher in the South Atlantic League, Espinoza lowered his May ERA to 3.06, with 21 strikeouts against only five walks.
Photo Credit: Anderson Espinoza by Kelly O'Connor