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September 6, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Padron-Artiles gem, Davis walk-off lead Lowell; Esplin powers Salem

9/6 Cup of Coffee: Both affiliates that qualified for the playoffs won on Thursday night in impressive, memorable fashion. Lowell fans got to see a performance for the ages as Yusniel-Padron Artiles recorded a professional baseball record for consecutive strikeouts, setting the stage for Joe Davis heroics (pictured) that evened the Spinners' best-of-three series at one game apiece. Not to be overshadowed was a two homer game by Tyler Esplin in support of another strong Thaddeus Ward effort that gave Salem a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-five Carolina League semifinal.


Tyler Esplin had a very strong close to his regular season with Greenville  to earn him a late promotion to playoff-bound Salem, and his powerful bat now has the Sox on the cusp of the Carolina League finals. Esplin blasted a two-run homer in the second inning following a Triston Casas double to give Salem a lead it wouldn't relinquish. The 20-year-old outfielder then added an insurance run with a solo blast in the eighth inning.

The support was more than enough for starter Thaddeus Ward, who allowed one run on just three hits across six strong innings. He struck out seven and walked four, earning the win. Logan Browning surrendered a solo homer to 2017 first-round pick Nick Pratto but was otherwise unblemished in his 1 2/3 innings. Andrew Schwaab struck out three in 1 2/3 to get credit for the save. 

Keith Curcio had two doubles on the evening, bringing him to 5 for 9 in the first two games of the series. Casas added a second hit to finish 2 for 4 on the night. Ryan Fitzgerald, Salem's steadiest performer throughout the 2019 campaign, added two hits of his own. 

With Salem off to a 2-0 lead in the Mills Cup semi-final series the series will now shift to Wilmington where the Sox will attempt to complete the sweep. 


Facing elimination, the Spinners turned to 2016 first-round pick Jay Groome to extend their season. Groome, continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery, gave up one run on two hits in three innings. He struck out three, walked one, and threw 25 of 39 pitches for strikes. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall was in attendance at LeLacheur Park and noted that Groome was sitting 92 to 94 with his fastball, mixing in a curveball that improved with repetition. 

Following Groome was an absolutely remarkable outing by Yusniel Padron-Artiles (pictured, right). The 2018 22nd-round pick set an affiliated professional baseball (major or minor league) record by striking out the first 12 batters he faced. He finally allowed his first contact and baserunner with a leadoff single in the eighth, his fifth inning of work, but he escaped that inning unscathed before returning to strike out two more batters in the ninth. His final line across six shutout innings showed him allowing just the one hit and striking out 14 batters without issuing a walk. Cundall observed that the right-hander showed better velocity than previous viewings, complemented by a changeup and curveball, all of which he commanded well. 

Despite the pitching heroics, the game came down to the Spinners' final at-bat. Roldani Baldwin had tied the game in the fourth inning with a solo homer, but Batavia pitching kept pace with Padron-Artiles by retiring 15 of the next 16 Lowell batters. That changed with one out in the bottom of the ninth when slugging first baseman Joe Davis blasted a walk-off solo home run to extend the Lowell season another day. Davis now has driven in two of Lowell's three runs in the series. Kelly O'Connor, friend of the site and featured photographer, caught some shots of the walkoff and celebration (pictured, left).

A decisive game three will be played at 7:00 at LeLacheur Park on Friday, with the winner taking on the survivor of the other semi-final between Hudson Valley (TB) and Brooklyn (NYM). 


Player of the Day: It was the kind of day when Tyler Esplin could dominate a playoff game with two homers and when Joe Davis could hit a thrilling walk-off homer that staved off his team's elimination and both not be in consideration for the daily award. Yusniel Padron-Artiles entered with his team trailing in both the game and the best-of-three series 1-0. He then re-wrote the history books, striking out the first 12 batters he faced, rendering the Batavia offense completely hapless. The Havana native was one of many stalwart performers on a loaded Lowell staff this year, going 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 64 innings, striking out 84 batters and walking only 14.

Photo Credit: Joe Davis; Yusniel Padron-Artiles; both heroes celebrating by Kelly O'Connor

Correction: An original edition of this story noted that Yusniel Padro-Artiles tied an existing milb record with 12 consecutive strikeouts. It appears that he broke the existing record.