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April 20, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Liu strikes out nine before Scott blasts walk-off winner


4/20 Cup of Coffee:
Both affiliate wins on Tuesday were of the walk-off variety. Stephen Scott was the hero for Greenville following an outstanding performance on the mound by Chih-Jung Liu (pictured). Portland took a different path to victory, as starter Jay Groome struggled for the first time in a Double-A start before the Sea Dogs clawed back, eventually prevailing on a decisive error. Salem had a forgettable night in a blowout loss, and inclement weather pushed back Worcester's contest.

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Worcester Red Sox @ Syracuse Mets (NYM), postponed
The WooSox series opener against the Mets was postponed because it snows in Syracuse on April 19. They'll try to play two on Wednesday. 

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It was an inauspicious start in Portland, as starter Jay Groome failed to survive the first inning. Groome, who allowed just one baserunner in his first start of the season, was not sharp in his follow-up, walking three batters, hitting another, and allowing three runs on two hits while recording just one out. The line could've been worse had it not been for Dylan Spacke, who entered with the bases loaded and promptly induced a strikeout and groundout. Spacke went 3 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven of the 13 batters he faced, walking one and allowing just one hit. Despite being stretched into center field duty, Devlin Granberg was the offensive star for Portland, going 3 for 5 with a double, triple, RBI, and two runs scored. Frank German struck out the side in a perfect ninth inning to set up the walk-off victory. After the Granberg double and an intentional walk to Tyler Dearden, a costly error on a Kole Cottam ground ball to second base gave the Sea Dogs the win. 

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Chih-Jung Liu was dominant in his second start of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander surrendered only two hits in five shutout innings, striking out nine against one walk. He threw 55 of 75 pitches for strikes and struck out six consecutive batters at one point. Ryan Zeferjahn struggled out of the bullpen, throwing one inning and allowing a grand slam that put the Drive into a one-run hole. Jordan DiValerio righted the ship, earning the win with three scoreless innings, striking out three. By holding the Dash at bay, he was able to set up Stephen Scott, who led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run.

Scott had previously doubled as part of his 2-for-4 evening. Alex Binelas, Tyler McDonough, and Nick Northcut also went deep for Greenville. Matthew Lugo saw his season-opening nine-game hitting streak come to a close as he went 0 for 4. SoxProspects.com and South Atlantic League Player of the Week Ceddanne Rafaela singled to extend his hit streak to seven games. 

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Little went right for Salem in Tuesday's series opener. Juan Daniel Encarnacion got the start, cruising through three scoreless frames but running into problems in a four-run fourth inning. Overall, he allowed four runs on five hits in his four innings of work, striking out seven and walking three. Keir Meredith was a bright spot at the plate. The left fielder did not record an out, going 2 for 2, getting hit by a pitch, and stealing a base. Eddinson Paulino delivered the Sox's lone extra-base hit, driving in Meredith was a third-inning triple. Marcelo Mayer also singled in the loss.

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Player of the Day: It was a night with two dramatic walk-off wins, but a dominant effort by Greenville starter Chih-Jung Liu made him a clear choice. The nine strikeouts fell one short of Liu's career high, set last August with Salem. Signed as an international free agent out of Taiwan in 2019, Liu has allowed three or fewer runs in 13 of 15 career starts, and he now has 69 strikeouts in 60 1/3 professional innings.

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