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June 14, 2021 at 6:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Ramirez shuts down Fredericksburg; Downs homers twice


6/14 Cup of Coffee:
Sunday's slate was highlighted by tremendous offensive performances in the upper minors and some great pitching in the lower minors. Aldo Ramirez (pictured) and Chase Shugart led Salem and Greenville to victories, while the WooSox launched five home runs with two coming from Jeter Downs and one coming from Jarren Duran. Nick Yorke continued to hit his way out of his early-season slump, and Brandon Howlett remained one of the hottest hitters in the system with another home run. 

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Worcester had 10 runs by the third inning as they came out swinging in the series finale with Syracuse. Jeter Downs hit his fourth and fifth home runs as part of a 2-for-6 night. Downs was just 3 for 23 since returning to the WooSox lineup, but he rebounded to notch his third career multi-homer game. Jarren Duran had also been a bit cold in the same stretch as he was 4 for 24, but he went 2 for 4 with his 10th home run and two walks on Sunday. Also going deep were Johan Mieses and Michael Gettys, and Franchy Cordero went 2 for 6 with a double and two strikeouts. The performance actually lowered his OPS to 1.195 with Worcester. 

It was a bullpen game with Austin Brice serving as the opener and firing two scoreless innings. Matt Hall improved to 2-0 with two scoreless innings. 

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Not much went right on getaway day for Portland as the Sea Dogs lost their fourth straight game. The team did have 10 hits, with four of them being singles off the bat of Joey Meneses. No other player had more than one hit, though Ronaldo Hern├índez made his count as he hit his fifth home run of the year. The 23-year-old has shown impressive power this year, but he has drawn only two walks and has an on-base percentage of just .282. 

The struggles continued for AJ Politi as he fell to 1-5. He allowed two runs on four hits over four innings, walking three and striking out two. The Fisher Cats got to Rio Gomez for four runs, but Jose Adames was able to keep them off the board on his lone inning of work. The hard-throwing right-hander did walk a batter for the first time in nine games, but he also added a strikeout. 

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A great start from Chase Shugart and a go-ahead seventh-inning home run from Brandon Howlett led the Drive to victory. Shugart fired six innings of one-run ball, walking two and striking out two. After a solid first two starts, Shugart had hit a rough patch over his past four outings, so Sunday's turnaround was a great sign for the 24-year-old. Oddanier Mosqueda earned his first save with two scoreless innings, striking out three. 

Howlett had two of the team's four hits, with the big hit being his fourth home run of the year. A single from Cameron Cannon and a double from Kole Cottam was the only other damage. Right fielder Cole Brannen had an outfield assist at home in the fifth inning which kept the game tied. 

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While it was once again against the second-worst offense in Low-A, Aldo Ramirez was dominant in a win over Fredericksburg. Ramirez struck out seven over five shutout innings, allowing only three hits while walking one. Brandon Walter followed the impressive effort with three scoreless innings, and Cody Scroggins finished off the shutout. 

All five of Salem's runs were driven in by the top four batters in the order. Nick Yorke did a great job setting the table out of the leadoff spot, going 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored. After hitting just .195/.264/.220 in May, Yorke is now hitting .382/.462/.559 in June. Jaxx Groshans drove in two runs as part of a 2-for-3 day, and Stephen Scott went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. 

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Player of the Day: Jeter Downs was in the conversation with his two home runs, but Aldo Ramirez's five shutout innings just beat him out. Ramirez is going pitch-for-pitch with Brayan Bello this season to see who is the system's top healthy pitching prospect. The 20-year-old Ramirez is now sporting a 2.03 ERA on the season with 32 strikeouts and eight walks over 31 innings. The only caveat is that three of his starts have come against the last place Fredericksburg Nationals, and he has allowed just one run over 13 innings in those appearances. Even stripping those out, he has a 3.00 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 18 innings. 

Photo Credit: Aldo Ramirez by Kelly O'Connor