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May 31, 2021 at 6:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Cordero homers again; Gonsalves strikes out nine


5/31 Cup of Coffee:
Regular at-bats continue to pay dividends for Franchy CorderoStephen Gonsalves' impressive strikeout rate took another step forward, and Grant Williams' hot start has propelled him to the top of Portland's lineup. It was a rougher day in the lower minors as Greenville's bullpen let one slip away and Salem was swept in a doubleheader. 

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Franchy Cordero hit his second home run in as many games and Stephen Gonsalves struck out nine in this rain-shortened victory. Cordero went 2 for 3, Marcus Wilson went 1 for 3 with a double, and Tate Matheny went 1 for 2 with an RBI single. John Schreiber struck out two in a shutout inning as the opener, and Gonsalves followed with five dominant innings. He did not allow a run while walking three to go along with his nine strikeouts. 

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The Portland pitching staff stifled Hartford again on the way to their fourth win of the series. Making his first start in his fifth appearance of the season, Denyi Reyes tossed five shutout innings and allowed only four hits and one walk while striking out two. A quartet of relievers followed with scoreless innings, led by Jake Thompson who notched his third straight scoreless appearance since being called up from Greenville. Rio Gomez has not had quite the same success since he was called up from Greenville, but he pitched well on Sunday with two strikeouts while allowing just one single. 

After hitting eighth or ninth for most of the series, Grant Williams hit his way to the top of the order and responded by going 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored. His average now sits at .333. From there the usual suspects in the middle of the order did the rest of the damage, with Joey Meneses going 2 for 5 with two runs scored, Johan Mieses going 1 for 5 with a double and an RBI, and Ronaldo Hernández going 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Hernandez made his season debut at first base after exclusively playing catcher in the field. 

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Greenville blew a three-run lead in the ninth and a one-run lead in the 10th as they failed to earn the split in the series. Chris Murphy was not sharp as he walked three batters for the third time in five appearances. He gave up two runs and struck out four in four innings. Yasel Santana made his first appearance of 2021 and scattered five hits over two scoreless innings, and Brendan Cellucci followed with two scoreless innings of his own. The blown save and the loss both went to Zach Bryant as he gave up five runs (four earned) while recording just four outs. 

The Greenville offense was led by both Tyler Esplin and Cole Brannen who had three-hit games. One of Brannen's three hits was a double, and he added a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the 10th. Nick Sogard went 2 for 6 with a double and Tyreque Reed stayed hot by going 1 for 3 with a double and two walks. He finishes the month with a triple slash of .292/.432/.662.

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Salem managed only three hits in the first game of the doubleheader, two of which came from Stephen Scott. The other hit was a single from Gilberto Jimenez who was back in the lineup after missing the two previous games. Ryan Zeferjahn moved to 0-3, though he continues to move in the right direction after a rough couple of starts at the beginning of the year. He allowed two runs in four innings and has now allowed just three in his last 11 innings after giving up 10 in his first 5 1/3 innings. Cody Scroggins continued to be a bright spot out of the bullpen with a clean inning. 

Game two was a good back-and-forth, but Myrtle Beach pulled ahead with four runs in the top of the seventh to take its fifth game of the series. It was the first poor start for Bradley Blalock, who entered the game having allowed one run or fewer in each of his four starts. On Sunday he allowed three runs in three innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Salem had battled back to tie the game at 4, but Jorge Rodriguez served up five hits that led to four runs in the seventh. 

Salem's first run scored on a double from Nick Yorke, which was just his second extra-base hit of the season. Yorke went 2 for 3 in this one and his average sits at an even .200. Jaxx Groshans hit a game-tying home run in the fifth -- his second long ball of the year. Other than Yorke, Jake MacKenzie was the only other player to have multiple hits as he went 2 for 3. 

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Player of the Day: Stephen Gonsalves got his first taste of Triple-A back in 2017 and he reached the majors in 2018 with the Minnesota Twins. After an elbow injury caused him to miss most of 2019 and the cancellation of the 2020 season, Gonsalves is looking to prove that he can still help at the major league level. Sunday's fantastic outing now gives him 38 strikeouts in just 24 1/3 innings with Worcester, and batters are hitting just .169 against him. Despite this, he still has a 4.07 ERA due to 21 walks. If he can stay healthy and limit the walks, he may prove to be valuable pitching depth for the big league club. 

Photo Credit: Stephen Gonsalves by Kelly O'Connor

 
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