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May 26, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Sikes leaved the yard twice, drives in 4 runs as Salem wins fourth straight


5/26 Cup of Coffee: It was a 2-2 day for Boston's affiliates on Tuesday. Ryan Fitzgerald hit his 10th home run of the season while Connor Wong collected three hits in a Worcester loss, Wil Dalton and Pedro Castellanos both went deep in Portland, Greenville was limited to just one run on four hits, and Phillip Sikes (pictured, left) homered twice to extend Salem's winning streak. 

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After tossing four no-hit innings in his first start of the season, things did not go as well for Kutter Crawford on Wednesday. The right-hander surrendered three runs on four hits, two walks, and three strikeouts across three innings. Silvino Bracho did not fare much better, as he gave up three runs of his own. From the middle of the sixth inning on, though, Michael Feliz and Durbin Feltman each tossed a scoreless frame while Kaleb Ort allowed one unearned run to cross the plate in the eighth.

The Worcester lineup got off to a quick start courtesy of a first-inning RBI single from Rob Refsnyder. After Jarren Duran scored on a Ryan Fitzgerald double play in the second, Roberto Ramos drove in one run in the fourth and another in the eighth. Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Fitzgerald crushed a two-run home run to bring Worcester to within one run, but it was not enough. That was the 10th homer of the season for Fitzgerald, who wound up going 2 for 5. Ronaldo Hernandez also had two hits while Ramos and Connor Wong had six hits between them.

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Portland fell behind early but ultimately prevailed to earn a fourth straight win. Victor Santos put together his second quality start of the month, allowing three earned runs on seven hits, zero walks, and one strikeout over six quality innings. Sixty-three of the 79 pitches the right-hander threw went for strikes as he lowered his ERA to 4.71. Darin Gillies, Jacob Wallace, and Oddanier Mosqueda combined to yield just one unearned win to close out the victory. 

Wil Dalton got Portland on the board by crushing his third home run of the season in the fourth inning. David Hamilton followed in the fifth by driving in Tyler Dearden and Brandon Howlett on a two-run triple. As part of a 2-for-4 night at the plate, Pedro Castellanos stayed hot by clubbing a two-run home run in the sixth. Portland then filled the bases before Dearden and Dalton were both plunked to cap off the scoring.

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A scoreless contest through 5 1/2 innings took a turn for the worse for Greenville in the bottom of the sixth. After Brendan Cellucci took the ball and struck out two over two scoreless frames, Chih-Jung Liu continued the shutout bid before serving up a solo homer in the sixth and a two-run blast in the seventh. All told, Liu surrendered three runs on six hits, one walk, and four punchouts across four-plus innings. The 23-year-old from Taiwan has pitched to a 7.82 ERA in four outings this month. Ryan Zeferjahn took over for Liu and yielded two more runs while striking out four.

Offensively, Greenville's lone run came courtesy of a Jaxx Groshans RBI groundout in the ninth inning. Nick Yorke, Ceddanne Rafaela, Matthew Lugo, and Nick Decker had one hit each. Decker and Gilberto Jimenez both drew a pair of walks. As a team, Greenville went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

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A four-run second inning lifted Salem to its third straight win on Wednesday night. Kier Meredith kicked off the scoring with a three-run single before Eddinson Paulino drove him in on a line-drive double. From there, the night belonged to Phillip Sikes. The TCU product went yard in the fourth and sixth innings and then ripped a two-run double to left field in the eighth. The bottom third of Salem's lineup (Tyler Miller, Sikes, Meredith) combined to go 6 for 12 with six RBIs, five runs, and three walks. 

On the other side of the ball, Juan Daniel Encarnacion impressed in his eighth start of the season for Salem. The 21-year-old righty gave up one run while scattering six hits, one hit batsman, and eight strikeouts over six strong frames. In relief of Encarnacion, Jacob Webb fanned four over two scoreless frames while Blake Loubier allowed one run on two hits in his two innings of work.

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Player of the Day: Phillip Sikes has found his groove at the plate in the month of May. After posting a .548 OPS in April, the 23-year-old outfielder is now slashing .265/.351/.592 with five doubles, one triple, three home runs, nine RBIs, nine runs scored, two stolen bases, five walks, and 15 strikeouts across 14 games (57 plate appearances) this month. 

Photo Credit: Phillip Sikes by Kelly O'Connor