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April 23, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Walter, German bookend Portland staff's 17 K night


4/23 Cup of Coffee:
The Portland pitching staff was a highlight on a night when the staffs of the other three affiliates struggled mightily. Brandon Walter, Frank German (pictured), and company struck out 17 batters in a 10-inning comeback win. That magic did not extend past the Maine border, as Worcester, Greenville, and Salem combined to find themselves outscored 33 to 10. 

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Worcester was 9-3 as it entered its series with the 1-10 Syracuse squad but has now lost the first four games of the matchup. Friday night's contest got off to a good start, as Triston Casas ripped a double off the right-center field wall and came around to score on a Christin Stewart base hit, giving Worcester a 1-0 lead in the first. The closest thing to a highlight the rest of the night was a lovely postgame fireworks show. Nick Sogard did have a good effort in his Triple-A debut, going 2 for 4. Yolmer Sanchez had a homer and a double, and Johan Mieses notched a pair of hits. It was a struggle for starter Kyle Hart, who allowed eight runs on four hits in 4 1/3, taking the loss. 

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The Sea Dogs pitching staff came as advertised, as Brandon Walter and a trio of ranked relievers combined to strike out 17 batters while allowing only nine baserunners. Walter struck out 10 without issuing a walk in six innings, but he was charged with both Binghamton runs on six hits. The two runs are the first Walter has allowed in 17 Double-A innings, and he now has struck out 22 batters without walking one. The Portland bullpen followed with four hitless innings, facing just one batter over the minimum. Jacob Wallace struck out two batters while needing only 11 pitches to complete a scoreless seventh. Chase Shugart issued the only free pass of the night, but he quickly erased that with a double play. He struck out one in a hitless eighth. Frank German struck out four of the seven batters he faced in two innings, with the only baserunner coming on a hit batsman. 

Despite the stellar work of the pitching staff, Walter was in line for the loss until some late heroics. Portland's lone run in the first eight frame came on a Wil Dalton fifth-inning solo homer. A ninth-inning rally plated Elih Marrero with the tying run in the ninth, and the team needed just a leadoff single by Tyler Dearden in the 10th to score the automatic runner to walk off with the victory. Dearden was on base four times, going 3 for 4 with a walk. David Hamilton was held without a hit but did walk and steal his 10th base of the year.

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It was a tough night for the Drive, but there will be no blaming the regular contributors. Matthew Lugo ripped two more doubles, giving him eight already on the year, pacing the South Atlantic League and placing him second in the minors. Ceddanne Rafaela added two hits of his own, with the only surprise being that they both stayed within the park. Nick Decker chipped in with a seventh-inning solo homer, his first of the year. It continues to be a tough adjustment to High-A for Wyatt Olds, who gave up eight runs (six earned) on six hits in 3 1/3 innings. Devon Roedahl had a strong night in relief, striking out three over three scoreless innings.

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Like Worcester and Greenville, the Salem staff had its share of pitching woes on Friday, as a quartet of hurlers combined to allow 14 hits and walk nine batters. Angel Bastardo got the start, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking two. Maceo Campbell was charged with the loss out of the bullpen. Keir Meredith continues to shine for Salem. He reached base four times on two singles, a walk, and a hit batsman. Through six games, Meredith sports a robust .545 on-base percentage. Tyler Miller delivered a two-run homer in the third that gave Salem an early 3-0 lead. Marcelo Mayer followed up Thursday's four-hit effort with a tough 0-for-5 evening. 

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Player of the Day: It is rare to see short relievers recognized in this space. The accolade for Frank German is meant to highlight his outstanding effort both in Friday night's comeback win and throughout the young season. The 24-year-old righty, gifted to Boston from the Yankees after the 2020 season for taking on the final year of Adam Ottavino's contract, had an uneven first campaign in the system as a starter but impressed mightily since a move to the bullpen. He has as many winning decisions (three) as baserunners allowed through five appearances, having given up just two hits and hitting one batter. He's struck out 13 batters (of 23 faced) without a walk, including 11 in five innings in his past three outings. 

Photo Credit: Frank German by Kelly O'Connor