May 17, 2016 at 7:00 AM
5/17 Cup of Coffee: On a night when Andrew Benintendi's Double-A debut was supposed to be the biggest story, Joe Kelly, Aaron Wilkerson (pictured), and Trey Ball combined to throw 20 2/3 innings without allowing a run while notching 24 strikeouts.
Jose Almonte made his full season debut in Greenville, while Jordan Procyshen returned from the disabled list in Salem. Procyshen provided some offense on a night where the affiliates struggled to get on base.
Joe Kelly looks ready to join the big league rotation, as he struck out 10 and walked only one over 6 1/3 scoreless innings. After striking out only six batters over the first eight innings of his rehab assignment, Kelly was dialed in yesterday, getting 11 swing-and-misses on 92 pitches en route to his 10 strikeouts. The bullpen could not hold the lead however, as Anthony Varvaro gave up three runs in the eighth that proved to be the difference.
Pawtucket's offense was stagnant, collecting only four singles on the day. Blake Swihart went 1 for 3 with a walk, Sam Travis went 1 for 4, and Deven Marrero drove in the only run with a groundout.
Portland's offensive reinforcements did not provide any support, but Aaron Wilkerson did enough on his own to earn the victory. Wilkerson went the first 7 1/3 innings, striking out eight and walking two while limiting New Hampshire to only two hits. Chandler Shepherd recorded the final five outs to pick up his fourth save of the season, allowing only one hit while striking out three.
It was a hitless debut for Andrew Benintendi, as he went 0 for 4 with a strikeout. New Hampshire's left-handed starter held left-handed batters to a .183 average last year and a .143 average so far this year, and he got the better of Benintendi last night. Sean Coyle also made his season debut with the Sea Dogs, going 0 for 4 after being sent down from Pawtucket where he was hitting .125/.192/.222. Nate Freiman went 2 for 3 with a solo home run and a walk, and Jake Romanski went 2 for 4 with a double to lead the offense.
Trey Ball improved to 2-0 on the season, as he held the Blue Rocks to five hits and two walks over seven shutout innings. The seven innings is a career-high for Ball, and the six strikeouts are the most he has in a game this season. His control has been hit-or-miss so far this season, but he has held opponents under .200 with a WHIP of 1.00. Ben Taylor finished off the shutout with two scoreless innings, striking out two.
It did not take long for Jordan Procyshen to shake off the rust, as he went 2 for 3 with a walk, two runs scored, and a stolen base in his first game back from the disabled list. Danny Mars and Bryan Hudson both had two hits, with Hudson driving Mars in twice. Yoan Moncada went 1 for 3 with a walk, but was also picked off of first base.
The RiverDogs' pitching was too much for the Drive to handle, as they struck out 12 times and only managed three hits. For the Drive, right-hander Jose Almonte made his team debut, allowing two runs on five hits over five innings, walking two and striking out four. The 20-year-old spent the beginning of the season in extended spring training after appearing in 14 games for Lowell last year. Austin Glorius and Adam Lau combined to allow one run over the final four innings.
The Drive had very little going offensively, with Josh Ockimey's two walks and singles by Joseph Monge, Luis Alejandro Basabe, and Austin Rei accounting for most of the action. Basabe also stole two bases, and he now has eight on the season.
Player of the Night: Joe Kelly, Trey Ball, and Aaron Wilkerson all had fantastic starts, but Wilkerson recorded the most outs while allowing the fewest baserunners. With his 7 1/3 shutout innings, Wilkerson has now gone 19 1/3 innings without allowing a run, and his 1.37 ERA leads the Eastern League. Over his current scoreless streak, Wilkerson has allowed eight hits and walked six while striking out 20. and only one hit went for extra bases.
Photo Credit: Aaron Wilkerson by Kelly O'Connor