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September 2, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Casas joins Salem and keys playoff-clinching win

9/2 Cup of Coffee: Lowell will have some company among Boston affiliates in the postseason, as Triston Casas (pictured, left) made the most of his Salem debut and sent the Sox to the playoffs. The two playoff-bound squads were the only two winning teams on the penultimate day of the minor league regular season, as Nick Decker powered the Spinners in their push for home field advantage. Eastern League ERA leader Daniel McGrath got promoted to Pawtucket, where he turned in a quality start in a PawSox loss, while the depleted rosters of Portland and Greenville combined for  total of five hits in their respective losses. 


The PawSox dropped their third straight, falling in the ninth after a solid start by the recently-promoted Daniel McGrath. It was the first Triple-A start for the lefty, who had made a relief appearance for Pawtucket back in June. McGrath went seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out a pair while walking three. McGrath will win the  Eastern League ERA title after posting a 1.68 mark on the year. A pair of runs in the ninth were both charged to Colten Brewer, who took the loss. Rusney Castillo drove two runs and doubled as part of a two-hit afternoon. CJ Chatham also had a pair of hits, scoring twice. 


The aesthetic (pictured, right) was top-notch as always on Field of Dreams day at Hadlock Field, but the on-field result was less dreamlike. A depleted Portland lineup was one-hit by New Hampshire pitching, while it was a tough go in a bullpen day for the likewise undermanned pitching staff. With Daniel McGrath getting the call to Pawtucket, Matthew Gorst got first duty, allowed three runs in three innings, striking out six. The most impressive pitching performance came from Anyelo Gomez, who struck out three without issuing a walk in two scoreless frames. Brett Netzer broke up the no-hit with two outs in the seventh with an RBI single. 


The Red Sox added top prospect Triston Casas and outfielder Tyler Esplin from Greenville earlier in the day, just in time for the two to chip in to the second-half Northern Division title. Casas had a double and single in his Salem debut, scoring an important insurance run in the sixth. Esplin added a single and walk to the effort. The newcomers supported Salem stalwart Daniel Gonzalez, who allowed one run on two hits in five innings, striking out four. Logan Browning gave up one hit in three scoreless innings of relief, followed by a perfect ninth by Andrew Schwaab


Sandwiched between a pair of postseason-bound clubs has Greenville losing some of its best players to promotion without getting any standing reinforcements. The results have reflected that, with the Drive losing five in a row and seven of eight. Jordan Wren notched two of the four Drive base hits. Bryan Bello got the start, giving up four runs on four hits in five innings. Casey Sutherland, received when the GCL season ended early, threw a scoreless eighth in his South Atlantic League debeut. 


A huge effort by Nick Decker (pictured, left) boosted the Spinners to the victory and into position as the number two seed in the New-York/Penn League playoff picture. Decker was 3 for 4 with a triple, stolen base, RBI, and two runs scored. Antoni Flores and Alex Erro added two hits apiece, while Jaxx Groshans drove in two on a pair of sacrifice flies. Cameron Cannon may have been in need of an ice pack after the contest: Boston's top 2019 pick was hit with pitches three times. He's now been hit with pitches seven times in 44 professional games.

Starter Ryan Zeferjahn entered with four consecutive scoreless outings over four appearances. After facing in the minimum in a a two-strikeout first inning, the Tigers reached the third-round pick for a pair of runs in the second. Overall, Zeferjahn surrendered two runs on five hits in 2 1/3, striking out four and walking one. He was aided by Groshans catching a pair of Tigers runners stealing. Jorge Rodriguez got credit for the win, allowing two runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings, striking out four without issuing a walk.

The win pushed Lowell ahead of Pinckney Division co-leaders Batavia and West Virginia for sole possession of the second seed and home field advantage in the first round. Lowell would clinch that spot with a win in its regular season finale on Monday. They will play the winner of that Pinckney race in the first round, regardless of seeding.


Player of the Day: It is rare to recognize co-Players of the Day in this space, but the efforts of Boston's two top picks in the 2018 drafts in the playoff pushes of their respective teams warrants the attention. Triston Casas got the bump to Salem after hitting .254/.349/.472 with 25 doubles and 19 homers in his full-season debut in Greenville. He responded to the promotion with a two-hit effort that included another double and got the Sox over the hump in their playoff race. Meanwhile, Nick Decker turned in an effort that would warrant consideration even without the playoff implication. With Lowell's division title secure, the Spinners were aided in their quest for home field in the first round by Decker's three-hit, two-run afternoon. The 19-year-old outfielder tallied his fifth triple, tied for second-most in the New York Penn League, contributing to an impressive .471 slugging percentage on the year.

Photo Credit: Triston Casas, Portland Sea Dogs, Nick Decker all by Kelly O'Connor