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June 3, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Ramirez rolls for Salem; Howlett keys Drive outburst

6/3 Cup of Coffee:
It was a mixed result down on the farm on Wednesday night, as the affiliates split a pair of blowouts and a pair of nail-biters. Brandon Howlett (pictured) was unstoppable as Greenville rolled at home, while Aldo Ramirez was sterling in his start for a victorious Salem squad. Little went right on the mound at Polar Park but Worcester did get a longer-term boost as it welcomed back catcher Connor Wong. The work of Pedro Castellanos was not enough to overcome an early deficit on the road for Portland.


Rochester came out swinging, with 16 runs and five homers in the first five innings. Ryan Weber was the first victim, giving up eight runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3. He fared better than Bobby Poyner, who allowed eight runs, including three long balls, in 2/3 of an inning. The Red Wings also touched Kaleb Ort for his first earned run allowed on the season in the ninth. Michael Gettys had a big night at the plate for Worcester, going 3 for 4 with two runs scored and a stolen base. Josh Ockimey continues to take things out of the hands of defenders, as he homered for the fifth time this year along with a walk and pair of strikeouts. Connor Wong returned to the starting lineup after being out since May 11. The 17th-ranked player in Boston's system got the start at catcher, going 0 for 3. 


The Sea Dogs fell into an early 5-0 hole and were unable to complete the comeback. AJ Politi had an uneven start, getting tagged for five runs in the first two innings but settled in to get through five full. Overall he allowed five hits, striking out seven without issuing a walk. The crushing blow came in the form of a second-inning grand slam by Mansfield, Mass. native and BB&N (Cambridge, Mass.) alum Rhett Wiseman. Pedro Castellanos went deep for the second straight night with his three-run blast in the fifth inning. Tanner Nishioka added three hits for Portland. 


Patience paid off for the Greenville lineup, working 13 walks in addition to 10 hits. Asheville pitching could not solve Brandon Howlett, who reached base in all five of his plate appearances. The third baseman doubled, tripled, walked three times, and stole a base on his way to crossing the plate four times. Kole Cottam homered and walked twice, while Tyler Esplin worked three free passes to supplement his 1-for-3 effort. Tyler Dearden continues to be a force in the Greenville lineup, going 2 for 4 with a double, walk, and driving in five runs.

On the mound, Chase Shugart turned in his finest start of the season. The former Texas Longhorn allowed two runs on four hits in five innings, striking out five without issuing a walk. Alex Scherff pitched a scoreless ninth and is unscored upon in seven out of his nine appearances coming in from the Greenville bullpen.


Long before the game was decided through extra-inning shenanigans, Aldo Ramirez was the story of the night. The 20-year-old righty allowed just one base runner in five innings of work, a one-out double in the second inning. The otherwise flawless Ramirez struck out five batters and needed only 58 pitches, throwing 38 of them for strikes. Casey Cobb was nearly as impressive following Ramirez, giving up just one hit across three scoreless innings, striking out four, and walking one. Nick Yorke was the top offensive performer, going 2 for 3 with a double, two walks, and a stolen base. Fellow top-20 prospects Gilberto Jimenez and Matthew Lugo chipped in with two hits apiece. 


Player of the Day: A strong case can be made for Aldo Ramirez's sensational work on the mound, but Brandon Howlett gets the nod for typifying Greenville's disciplined attack while outscoring Asheville on his own. After a tough finish to his first full pro season in 2019 followed by a lost 2020, Howlett has gotten off to a good start. The third baseman did not record an out, raising his season line to .282/.374/.436. He is currently ranked at 33 in Boston's system.

Photo Credit: Brandon Howlett by Kelly O'Connor