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SoxProspects News

September 16, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Barnes rehabs in Portland; Hernandez homers twice


9/16 Cup of Coffee:
Three teams were in action on Wednesday, with the two in playoff contention both handed losses. Portland fell to the brink despite a two-homer effort by Ronaldo Hernandez (pictured). Nick Decker had a big night in Salem's loss, as the Sox got some help in their playoff push. Brian Van Belle and three relievers combined on a three-hit shutout to put Greenville in the win column. Worcester was the other team scheduled to play, but the contest in Syracuse was rained out.

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Worcester Red Sox @ Syracuse Mets (NYM), canceled (rain)
The second game of this week's series in Central New York was called because of downpours off and on throughout the day. The game will not be made up.

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Hartford got off to a 9-0 lead and never looked back in a slugfest that featured 28 hits, 12 for extra bases. Matt Barnes made a rehab start, allowing a pair of unearned runs in the first inning, striking out a pair. Pushed out of his normal starting role, Chris Murphy was not on his game. The left-hander retired just one batter while allowing six runs on five hits, walking one. Ronaldo Hernandez has a big day at the plate, going 2 for 4 with home runs in consecutive innings, giving him 16 round-trippers on the year. Ryan Fitzgerald also went deep for Portland. Triston Casas continued his recent hot streak, going 2 for 4 with a walk. The system's top prospect is 12 for 23 with seven walks in his last seven games. 

The loss dealt a serious blow to any playoff hopes for the Sea Dogs. The wins by Somerset (NYY) and Akron (CLE) pushed means that one more win by either team in the season's final four days eliminates Portland. 

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A quartet of hurlers combined to allow just three hits in Wednesday's shutout victory. Brian Van Belle got the start, giving up one hit and striking out four. The former Miami Hurricane standout pounded the zone, throwing 26 of 30 pitches for strikes. Dylan Spacke followed with three hitless frames, walking one against four strikeouts. Jacob Wallace struck out four in two innings, and Zack Bryant finished things off with a scoreless ninth. Jaxx Groshans blasted a two-run homer in the second that proved to be more than enough offensive production for the Drive. Nick Yorke blooped a double as part of a 1-for-5 evening, while Joe Davis also had a two-bagger during his 2-for-4 effort. 

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Salem squandered several opportunities with a 3-for-14 effort with runners in scoring position. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall was in attendance and got his look at right-handed starter Chih-Jung Liu. The highly-regarded hurler signed last year out of Taiwan allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits in 4 1/3 innings. Liu walked four batters and struck out six, exiting with a no-decision. Nick Decker scored two of Salem's three runs on a night that he went 3 for 4 with two doubles. Nicholas Northcut ripped his organization-leading 31st double. Angel Maita and Tyler McDonough had matching lines out of the top two spots in the order with both going 1 for 3 with two walks on the day. 

Despite the loss, Salem moved one game closer to the playoffs on account of the loss by the Downeast Wood Ducks (TEX). The Sox have a one-game lead for the second playoff spot with four contests remaining.

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Player of the Day: For the second straight day, this space recognizes a catcher who homered in consecutive games. Ronaldo Hernandez, like Connor Wong, got off to a slow start in 2021 but has rebounded nicely in the second half. The 23-year-old bottomed out on June 10 with a .221/.267/.368 slash line. In the 65 games hence, Hernandez has hit .297/.336/.556 with 13 home runs.

Photo Credit: Ronaldo Hernandez by Kelly O'Connor