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August 28, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Curletta powers Portland sweep; Zeferjahn leads playoff push

8/28 Cup of Coffee: It was a big day down on the farm, with an impressive array of starters on the mound and the two teams in playoff contention both solidifying their holds in their respective races. Salem cruised to victory despite ace Thaddeus Ward getting knocked out with an injury in the first inning. Ryan Zeferjahn continues to dominate, helping Lowell lower its magic number to two games. Joey Curletta (pictured, left) had a big day at the plate in Portland's doubleheader, supporting a strong start by Daniel McGrath in the opener and a no-hit bid in a bullpenning nightcap. 


The PawSox couldn't take advantage of an opportunity to play spolier as Scranton moved back into sole possession of first place in the International League North. Ryan Weber gave up two runs on nine hits in 5 2/3, striking out six and walking one. Of Pawtucket's three hits, only a Jantzen Witte double went for extra bases. Michael Chavis continued his rehab, going 1 for 3 and playing seven innings at second base.


A late Binghamton rally came up short in the opener, as Daniel McGrath got back into the win column. McGrath once again cruised through six shutout innings, but the Rumble Ponies reached him in the seventh for three runs (two earned). The left-hander's ERA ticked up to 1.68, as he maintains a commanding lead in the race for the Eastern League crown at 0.88 ahead of Erie's Matt Manning. Joey Curletta led the way, blasting a two-run first-inning homer and adding two walks and a sacrifice fly. Jarren Duran had a pair of hits and a stolen base out of the leadoff spot, while Marcus Wilson was 2 for 4 with a double, two runs scored, and an RBI. 

A trio of Portland hurlers came within four outs of a no-hitter, settling instead for the one-hit shutout and doubleheader sweep. Matthew Gorst tossed three perfect innings in a spot start role, striking out three. Eduard Bazardo continues his impressive season, despite a fifth-inning walk that ended the perfect game bid. Bazardo got the win with his two hitless frames, striking out one and lowering his ERA to 2.97 since his promotion from Sale. The Binghamton lineup finally broke through with a lonely single off Durbin Feltman with two outs in the sixth before the 2018 third-round pick slammed the door. The trio pounded the zone, with 60 of 89 pitches going for strikes. Curletta again played the key role, driving in Portland's run with a second-inning double and working his third walk of the day. 


It was an unusual start time on Tuesday afternoon, as Winston-Salem was celebrating its northwest North Carolina 336 area code with a 3:36 first pitch. Things got off to a scary beginning when third-overall draft pick Andrew Vaughn ripped a liner off the right arm of starter Thaddeus Ward with two outs in the first. Ward was removed from the game but waa diagnosed with only an elbow contusion, per Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. Logan Browning was rushed into service to relieve Ward and did not miss a beat, firing 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, giving up just one hit and striking out one. Yoan Aybar delivered two shutout innings of his own, as he also surrendered just one hit. The resurgent Aybar was one of the topics discussed by Chris and Ian on the recently-posted SoxProspects.com Podcast

A three-run homer off the bat of Kole Cottam in the third inning proved to be the decisive blow. It was the second time in three days that Cottam went deep, and the catcher is sporting an impressive .667 slugging percentage in seven games since his promotion from Greenville. Devlin Granberg chipped in a pair of doubles, and Jagger Rusconi drove in a run as part of his two-hit evening. 

With the win and a Potomac loss, Salem now leads the Nationals by 3 1/2 games in the race for the Northern Division's second-half playoff berth with just six games remaining. 


Jordan Wren and Kervin Suarez did the damage out of the middle of the Greenville lineup to power the Drive. Wren picked up two doubles, going 2 for 3 with an intentional walk and run scored. Suarez accounted for all four of Greenville's runs, driving in three and scoring the third as part of a 2-for-4 evening. Starter Brayan Bello was impressive, surrendering just one unearned run in five innings. He scattered four hits and struck out three. 


A three-hit shutout by Ryan Zeferjahn (pictured, right) and trio of relievers has the Spinners knocking on the door of the New York-Penn League playoffs. Zeferjahn had his fourth consecutive scoreless outing, giving up two hits in three innings, striking out three without issuing a walk. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall was on hand and came away impressed, particularly with a fastball that sat 93-96 and a slider that flashed plus. It has been 11 innings without surrendering a run for the third-round draft pick out of Kansas University. Kelvin Sanchez got credit for the win in relief, going three innings and allowing just one hit. Osvaldo De La Rosa and Kris Jackson secured the win with a combined three hitless innings. 

Jaxx Groshans had a big night at the plate, going 3 for 4 with an RBI. Nick Northcut registered a double as part of a two-hit effort. Gilberto Jimenez continues to be a model of consistency out of the Lowell leadoff spot. He extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single, and he has now hit safely in 30 of his last 32 games going back to July 18th. 

Combined with the loss by the Connecticut Tigers, Lowell now holds a commanding five-game lead in the Stedler Division with only six regular-season contests remaining. 


GCL Red Sox vs GCL Orioles, cancelled (rain)
Rain would not allow Tuesday's scheduled contest, and the game will not be made up as the two teams do not meet again. It was the 15th game this season that the GCL Red Sox have seen postponed, canceled or suspended. Three games remain on the schedule, weather permitting.


Player of the Day: While the many standout individual performnces with major playoff implications in the Salem and Lowell games were tempting, it was impossible to overlook the performance by Joey Curletta in Portland's doubleheader sweep. Between the two games, Curletta registered a double, homer, and three walks. The 25-year-old first baseman has been a fixture in the middle of the Portland lineup since getting claimed off waivers from Seattle in early May.

Photo Credit: Joey Curletta, Ryan Zeferjahn by Kelly O'Connor