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August 12, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Liu strikes out 10; Casas returns to lineup

8/12 Cup of Coffee:
It was a big day down on the farm, as top prospect Triston Casas made his return from the Tokyo Olympics to a Portland team that could have moved into first place with a sweep of its doubleheader. Instead, the Sea Dogs split their twin bill with Somerset with four games to go in the series. Jay Groome struck out eight in an uneven start for Greenville, while Worcester fell at Polar Park. Nick Yorke keeps rolling for Salem, homering in support of an excellent Chih-Jung Liu (pictured) start.


It was a muggy mid-week matinee at Polar Park, perfect for Yairo Muñoz to extend his franchise-record hitting streak to 32 games. Munoz blasted a solo home run in the sixth inning and also added a single, finishing 2 for 4 on the afternoon. Jack Lopez also went deep in his return from Olympic play. Joey Meneses drove in a pair as part of his 2-for-4 effort. Raynel Espinal rolled through the first three innings but ran into trouble in the third, surrendering three runs. Durbin Feltman was a highlight in relief, striking out four of the six batters he faced in two perfect innings. Jose Adames had not allowed an earned run in his first 10 Worcester appearances but was hit hard Wednesday, surrendering five runs on four hits, including a three-run homer, in 2/3 of an inning. 


The Sea Dogs entered their series with Somerset just 1.5 games behind the Patriots for first place. They received some reinforcements before Wednesday's crucial doubleheader, as Triston Casas returned to Portland from his successful Olympic excursion and Cameron Cannon made his debut after a promotion from High-A Greenville. Casas struggled in the opener, going 0 for 4, but Cannon announced his Double-A arrival by going 2 for 4 with a double. Grant Williams connected for his first home run of the season to get Portland on the board in the third inning, and Tyreque Reed went deep with a solo shot to tie the game in the fourth. Pedro Castellanos reached base three times, going 1 for 2 with a pair of walks. Starter Chris Murphy allowed two runs on three hits in four innings. He struck out six and walked three, but home runs continue to be a menace for the lefty, as he allowed a solo blast in the first. Enmanuel De Jesus got the win, scattering two hits across three innings of scoreless relief.

Somerset earned a split of the doubleheader as Hayden Wesneski held the Portland lineup to just four hits. Ronaldo Hernandez had the only extra-base knock, his 13th double of the year. Casas was 1 for 3 in the nightcap. Frank German took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings.


The long ball doomed Jay Groome and the Drive in Wednesday's loss to first-place Bowling Green. Groome pounded the strike zone effectively, striking out eight and walking just one in 5 1/3 innings, throwing 57 of 85 pitches for strikes. However, the 2016 first-round pick allowed three home runs, accounting for all four runs he surrendered on the night. At, the plate, Stephen Scott remained hot, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. The left fielder doubled twice and drove in two runs to raise his slash line since his promotion to .375/.419/.875. Dean Miller blasted a two-run homer in the third inning as part of a 2-for-3 evening.


A sharp, well-pitched affair turned into mayhem in the 10th inning. Salem had six walks, interrupted only by a sacrifice bunt, as part of a seven-run frame that gave the Sox the victory. After an Antoni Flores walk and the sacrifice put runners on second and third, Fredericksburg made the arguably sensible choice to intentionally walk scorching-hot Nick Yorke, loading the bases. Yorke's trip around the bases was about as easy as it gets. Walks to Gilberto Jimenez, Matthew Lugo, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Nick Decker plated three before another player could even make contact. 

Yorke's intentional walk and run scored capped another big night for the 2020 first-round pick. He extended his hitting streak to 20 games with an impressive opposite-field home run on a high fastball in the sixth inning and drawing another walk. In seven August games, Yorke is now hitting .500/.618/1.038. Lugo had a pair of hits in addition to his walk, and Alex Erro doubled as part of his two-hit evening. Hours before the extra-innings wildness came an outstanding start by Chih-Jung Liu. The right-hander went through four no-hit innings before a solo homer ended the shutout bid. Overall, Liu struck out 10 and walked two in five innings, allowing just the one hit


Player of the Day: Chih-Jung Liu gets the nod here for his one-hit, 10 strikeout effort. Liu had a disastrous outing on July 24, giving up eight runs in 2/3 of an innings, raising his ERA to an unsightly 9.88. In three starts since he has gone 14 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, striking out 19, and walking just four. Liu has given up just nine runs in 27 innings outside of that eight-run massacre. 

Photo Credit: Chih-Jung Liu by Kelly O'Connor