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June 29, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Mayer, Kavadas go deep; Mata joins Portland


6/29 Cup of Coffee:
Rehabbing pitchers took center stage on Tuesday. Josh Taylor draws nearer to his return to the majors. He was joined in Portland by a newly-activated Bryan Mata (pictured), as the Sea Dogs prevailed in extra innings. Nathanael Cruz also continues to work his way back with another appearance in Fort Myers, taking part in the FCL Red Sox shutout win. Kutter Crawford turned in a quality start in Worcester's victory, while Greenville and Salem fell despite homers by Niko Kavadas and Marcelo Mayer. Kelvin Diaz had a dominant day at the plate as the DSL squads both prevailed.

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The WooSox got the best of an ex-prospect in the series opener in Rochester. Kutter Crawford outpitched rehabbing Anibal Sanchez, traded by Boston nearly 17 years ago. Crawford allowed two runs on six hits in six innings of work, striking out eight and walking one. Eduard Bazardo pitched two perfect innings of relief, and Kaleb Ort tossed a scoreless ninth to get credit for the save. Pedro Castellanos paced the Worcester offense with three hits. Connor Wong and Christin Stewart were both 2 for 4 with a double, walk, and run scored. Ronaldo Hernandez drove in a pair as part of his two-hit night.

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Josh Taylor made the fourth appearance of his current rehab stint, joining Portland after three outings with the WooSox. The left-hander allowed a solo homer to the second batter he faced but threw 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes. He is expected to throw again Wednesday, his first test of back-to-back outings. He was followed by Bryan Mata, who was officially activated from the injured list following his Tommy John surgery in early 2021. Mata, who had previously made rehab appearances with Salem and Greenville, was handled cautiously. He threw 46 pitches through 3 1/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits, striking out three, and walking one. 

David Hamilton led the way at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a triple, walk, and two RBI. The effort stopped a 1-for-24 skid for the shortstop. Stephen Scott picked up his first two hits since his promotion to Double-A after an 0-for-7 start as a Sea Dog. Ceddanne Rafaela also snapped an 0-for-13 stretch with an eighth-inning single.

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Chih-Jung Liu came out on the losing end of a pitchers' duel, doomed by a pair of solo home runs. Liu allowed just three hits in five innings, striking out three without walking a batter, but he has now allowed five homers in just 12 1/3 innings in his last three starts. Greenville could not complete the comeback despite four relievers firing a scoreless inning apiece. Matthew Lugo had two of the six Drive hits, including his eighth double of the year. Niko Kavadas homered yet again, his 11th of the month and third in four games since a promotion from Salem. Kavadas has 11 consecutive games with an extra-base hit, ripping five doubles and nine homers across two levels.

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Salem was able to claw out of a 3-0 deficit, but fell in a walk-off loss. Marcelo Mayer belted his sixth home run of the season as part of the Sox fifth-inning rally. Yorberto Mejicano had a pair of hits and an RBI while Phillip Sikes and Jose Garcia had a double apiece. Juan Daniel Encarnacion needed 83 pitches to get through four innings, allowing three runs on four hits, walking four, striking out one, and hitting a batter. Osvaldo De La Rosa and Graham Hoffman both went two scoreless innings before Lynchburg reached Luis Guerrero for a run in the ninth.

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A quartet of hurlers combined for a six-hit shutout to lead the FCL squad. Nathanael Cruz made his third rehab start, surrendering just one hit across two scoreless innings, striking out and walking three apiece. Henry Nunez pitched a scoreless third inning, followed by five shutout frames by Jose Ramirez. Ramirez scattered four hits, striking out six and walking one. He got credit for the victory, his first since coming stateside after pitching in the DSL from 2018 to 2021. Bryan Lucas held the ninth inning for the save. The lineup ripped five doubles, with two coming off the bat of Juan Chacon. Chacon drove in a pair of runs during his 2-for-5 effort. Johnfrank Salazar had a double and two walks, while Daniel McElveny extended his hitting streak to six games with a two-bagger.

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While an unearned run in the first inning kept them from matching the FCL squad's shutout, four pitchers combined to scatter seven hits and strike out 14 without walking a batter. Alvaro Mejias drew the start, going the first 2 2/3 frames. Irving Medina, who entered with an unsightly 14.29 ERA, gave up just one hit in his 3 1/3, striking out four. Jhon Garcia doubled as part of a 2-hit effort while 16-year-old Natanael Eusebio hit his first professional home run. 

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A monster game for Kelvin Diaz powered Team Blue to the victory. Diaz homered twice, tripled, and doubled, falling a single short of hitting for the cycle during his 4-for-6 day. Diaz drove in five runs and scored three. Albertson Asigen had three hits, including a double, adding a walk and stolen base. Jean Carlos Reyes allowed five runs (four earned) in three innings in a starting role. Henry Morales gave up one hit in two scoreless innings to pick up the win.

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Pitcher of the Day: For a variety of reasons, it is rare that we select a player from the Dominican Summer League as Player of the Day, but Tuesday's performance from Kelvin Diaz merits the exception. Diaz got a $300,000 bonus out of the Domincan Republic in July 2019 and had an uneven pro debut in 2021. He's taken a step forward this season, as his four-hit, 13-total base effort brings his 2022 line up to .305/.400/.610.

Photo Credit: Bryan Mata by Kelly O'Connor