SoxProspects News

April 12, 2019 at 6:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Mata, Ramirez shine in home openers


4/12 Cup of Coffee: The 2019 schedules got underway at McCoy Stadium and Haley Toyota Field, with Pawtucket and Salem splitting their home openers. All three affiliates in action saw stellar starting pitching, with Bryan Mata (pictured), Erasmo Ramirez, and Thaddeus Ward combining for just one earned run allowed in 16 1/3 innings, striking out 20 and walking only one. Josh Ockimey homered for the PawSox, while Jarren Duran, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Kervin Suarez continue to pile up the doubles for Salem and Greenville. 

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The PawSox celebrated their home opener with a bang, as Josh Ockimey and Bryce Brentz blasted back-to-back homers in the second inning. It was the first round-tripper for Brentz since re-joining the Red Sox system. The 2010 first-round pick hit 129 homers during his first stint in the organization from 2010 to 2017. Ockimey added a pair of walks to his solo shot. The two runs were plenty of support for Erasmo Ramirez. The veteran righty fired six shutout innings, allowing just three hits. He struck out five without issuing a walk, and faced only two batters over the minimum. Jenrry Mejia recorded his third save, striking out three in 1 1/3 perfect innings.

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Salem also celebrated its home opener on Thursday, but optimism quickly gave way to frustration as the Sox went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position. The inability to deliver the clutch hit wasted an excellent effort by starter Bryan Mata. The youngest player in the Carolina League gave up two unearned runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, matching a career high with eight strikeouts. More notably, Mata showed good control, walking just one batter and throwing 57 of 82 pitches for strikes. Jake Thompson took the loss in relief, allowing one run on two hits in 2 2/3 frames. 

At the plate, Marino Campana doubled as part of a three-hit effort. Ryan Fitzgerald continues his excellent play, going 2 for 5 with a double. Over his past four games, Fitzgerald is 10 for 18 with five extra-base hits. Jarren Duran added another double, as he extended his hitting streak to 17 games dating back to last season.

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The Drive suffered a heartbreaking walk-off loss in the 10th inning, giving up three runs after scoring twice in the top of the frame. Despite the loss, Greenville saw some excellent individual efforts, highlighted by a strong start by Thaddeus Ward. The fifth-round pick in last June's draft, Ward allowed a run on three hits in five innings. He struck out seven without walking a batter and needed just 60 pitches, 43 of which were strikes. Yoan Aybar struck out one and gave up one hit in a scoreless sixth inning. The Braves couldn't retire Grant Williams, who was 3 for 3 with a walk out of the ninth spot in the order. Triston Casas was 1 for 3 with a walk, and Kervin Suarez doubled for the fourth time in his last five games. 

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Player of the Day: All three starting pitchers made strong cases. For Bryan Mata, it wasn't just performance that earned him recognition, it was how that performance aligns with his development. Incredibly, Mata is the youngest player in a league that he is repeating, getting a second go-around at Salem after struggling mightily with his control in 2018. After walking 58 batters (and hitting another 12) in 72 innings last year, Mata has walked just one of the 46 batters he's faced. He has struck out 11 and surrendered just one earned run in his first two starts.

Photo Credit: Bryan Mata by Kelly O'Connor

 
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