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July 7, 2019 at 10:12 AM

Cup of Coffee: Houck, Martinez struggle in relief on down night

7/7 Cup of Coffee: Rain and losses marred by big innings against prospects pitching in relief marked the system's action on Saturday. The system's lone wins came out of the Rookie-ball levels, with the GCL Sox rallying after dropping the conclusion of yesterday's suspended game and the second DSL entry putting up 12 runs thanks to a sloppy effort from their opponents and a 5-hit effort from backup catcher Jose Navas. The biggest news may have come in the Portland loss, as right-hander Tanner Houck made his first appearance in relief, but then recorded just one out while giving up six runs. It is not entirely clear whether Houck is officially moving to the bullpen with an eye on helping the Major League club this year, or if this was just to get him work before the All-Star Break, but the situation bears watching.


The PawSox led after two innings before rain halted play in Allentown after one batter in the third. The clubs will resume play at 11:05 Sunday morning as part of a doubleheader before heading into the All-Star Break. The visitors took the lead in the first thanks to consecutive two-out doubles by Chris Owings and Bryce Brentz, then picked up a couple more, again with two outs when Cole Sturgeon homered to bring in Josh Ockimey, who had also doubled.

On the mound, Tyler Thornburg started and allowed two baserunners before settling down and retiring three straight. The outing was the last of his 30-day rehab assignment, which ends on Tuesday, meaning the Red Sox front office will need to make a decision on his future soon. Erasmo Ramirez pitched a scoreless second before the skies opened up.


The Sea Dogs dropped a slugfest on Saturday night, watching leads of 6-1 and 8-3 slip away when the host Fisher Cats put a "7" on the board in the seventh for the 10-8 final. After five strong innings from spot starter Daniel McGrath, in which he allowed just one unearned run on one hit and four walks while striking out six, Robinson Leyer struggled in the sixth in his Portland debut, allowing a couple runs. In their penultimate game before the break as well, the Sea Dogs next turned to Tanner Houck. In his first relief appearance after 48 professional starts, the system's ninth-ranked prospect recorded just a single out, striking out the first batter he faced before allowing the next six batters to reach, all of whom scored. A clean inning in the ninth from Durbin Feltman came too late, as the Sea Dogs were unable to come back after the big seventh.

Jerry Downs (pictured, above) paced Portland at the plate, going 2 for 5 with a double and a home run, driving in three runs. Two-hit nights from Jeremy Rivera, who had a pair of doubles; Jhon Nunez, who is now up to .307 on the year; and Brett Netzer helped the visitors out to their early lead. CJ Chatham continued hitting for improved power, doubling to give him 10 extra-base hits in his 20 games since coming off the IL on June 15 after hitting 10 in his first 38 games before getting hurt.


It was a rough evening for Salem reliever Joan Martinez. Called upon in the ninth to protect a 2-1 lead, the hard-throwing Dominican right-hander allowed four walks as the visiting Wood Ducks tied the game to head to extras. Given the tenth inning as well (and the corresponding runner starting on second base), Martinez failed to record an out, allowing a single, hit batter, triple, and walk before departing with the 6-2 score that would be the final showing on the scoreboard. Martinez's struggles wasted fine outings from starter Jhonathan Diaz, who allowed only an unearned run in 5 2/3 innings on a hit and two walks, striking out four, and Hunter Smith, who followed with 2 1/3 scoreless.

First baseman Pedro Castellanos led the Salem lineup with a pair of hits, including a double. The Salem runs scored thanks to a Tanner Nishioka sac fly in the second and a Ryan Fitzgerald single in the fifth.


The Drive got out to an early lead in the first inning when Devlin Granberg (pictured, right) brought Tyler Esplin home on a sacrifice fly, but that would be all the scoring for the hosts, as the RiverDogs owned the rest of the game to take the win. Cole Brannen had a pair of hits and a walk on an otherwise quiet night for the offense, with Esplin and the system's top prospect, Triston Casas, each contributing a hit and a walk.

Starter Chris Machamer had a rough go of it on the mound, allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings on seven hits and five walks. Of note, North Andover, Mass. native and Northeastern alum Max Burt had a pair of hits, including a home run, for the visiting RiverDogs.


Lowell and Staten Island were rained out on Saturday night. The game will be made up when the teams play in New York in August.


Resuming yesterday's suspended game, the Twins scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth for the win. There's not much to add from yesterday's Cup of Coffee, save for that the Red Sox starter was corrected in the box score to be Alexander Montero, not Jorge Rodriguez, after press time for yesterday's Cup.

After a quiet Friday, the Red Sox offense bounced back in Saturday's regularly scheduled game, scoring seven times on 10 hits and five walks. Dominic D'Alessandro continued his auspicious pro debut with a pair of hits, including a double, driving in four of the seven runs. He is now hitting .440/.548/.640 with two doubles, a home run, six walks and six strikeouts in eight games, and would seem to be attempting to slug his way into a quick promotion to Lowell. Adding to the offensive effort were Angel Maita, who doubled and walked twice atop the order; Nilo Rijo, who had a pair of hits, including a double; Ceddanne Rafaela, who singled twice; and rehabbing Austin Rei, who doubled and walked twice.

Dominican right-hander Felix Cepeda had his best start of the year, allowing one run on two hits and two walks while fanning seven over five innings. Eddie Jimenez and Zach Schneider combined for four scoreless in relief.


Despite a solid start from Venezuelan right-hander Wilkelman Gonzalez, who went four scoreless, striking out five, the first Red Sox DSL entry took the loss on Saturday. Infielder Brainer Bonaci went 2-for-4 to bring his season line to .355/.427/.505, although he was caught stealing for the second straight game, giving him just two steals in his last seven attempts after being successful in his first 11 tries. Infielder Wilker Vargas also had a pair of hits, giving him 10 in his last 5 games.


Nine runs in the bottom of the fourth helped the Sox to an easy win in this one. Sending 10 hitters to the plate in the frame, the home team used five walks, three singles, three Dodger errors, two wild pitches, and an RBI groundout to take control of the game. Catcher Jose Navas was perfect for the day, going 5-for-5 with a double, driving in four runs and scoring twice. Just two other Red Sox checked in with two-hit days, outfielder Elio Prado and first baseman Wilmer Perez, as the Dodgers issued nine free passes—including three to Luis Mota, who scored twice—and made five errors.

On the mound, Frailyn Sanchez and Efren Diaz divided the work. Sanchez allowed two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out four in his five innings of work, while Diaz allowed two more on two hits and a walk in four innings, whiffing seven Dodgers.


Player of the Day: Venezuelan catcher Jose Navas had the best day of his season as the second DSL affiliate cruised to a victory. Navas' big day raised his season line to .344/.432/.531 in nine games, a stark improvement after he hit just .184 in his rookie season in 2018, and nearly matched the six hits he had in his first eight games combined!

Photo Credit: Jerry Downs and Devlin Granberg by Kelly O'Connor

Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.