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June 15, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Rodriguez-Cruz shines in debut; Kavadas powers Salem rout


6/15 Cup of Coffee:
With all seven affiliates in action, it was a wild Tuesday down on the farm. Worcester and the FCL Red Sox got strong pitching performances from Connor Seabold and the debuting Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz on their way to victory. Chris Murphy also turned in a quality start but was outdueled by the Reading staff. Niko Kavadas (pictured) reached base five times and blasted a homer to lead Salem's brunch-time offensive outburst, while Greenville fell despite a two-homer night from Matthew Lugo.

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Connor Seabold combined with a trio of relievers on a six-hit shutout, as the right-hander showed no lasting effects of the pectoral strain that cost him more than three weeks. In his second start since his return, Seabold scattered three hits across five shutout frames, striking out six without issuing a walk. He needed just 65 pitches to complete the five innings, and has now tossed eight scoreless frames since his return from the IL. Silvino Bracho went two scoreless frames, followed by AJ Politi and Zack Kelly tossing an inning apiece to close out the win. Jaylin Davis starred at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a triple and homer, driving in three. Jarren Duran went deep in his second straight contest with a third-inning solo shot.

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Portland was on the opposite end of the shutout, squandering a solid start by Chris Murphy. Murphy allowed two runs over six innings, both coming on solo homers. After struggling a bit with the long ball in 2021, Murphy had allowed just three in 59 2/3 innings entering Tuesday's start. Overall on the night he surrendered five hits, striking out three, and walking one. The Sea Dogs managed just five hits against a quintet of Fightin Phils. A double in the third inning by David Hamilton went for the lone extra-base hit in the contest. Pedro Castellanos extended his hitting streak to 11 games on his final at-bat when he knocked a single to left field.

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A two-homer night from Matthew Lugo was not enough to put Greenville over the top. Lugo blasted a two-run shot in the fifth inning and followed up with a solo blast in the seventh, giving him eight homers on the season. The 2019 second-round pick had just five home runs in 634 professional plate appearances heading into the season. Jaxx Groshans also went deep as part of a 2-for-5 effort, while Alex Binelas chipped in with a double and a single. 

Wyatt Olds got the start, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five, walked two, and hit a batter. Ryan Zeferjahn had a night to forget, surrendering six runs on four hits, two walks, and one hit batsman without recording an out. Jacob Webb made his Greenville debut after getting the promotion from Salem earlier in the day. Webb gave up just an unearned run in two innings, striking out three without walking a batter.   

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Salem hosted Delmarva for some Tuesday morning baseball, and Niko Kavadas found the early start time to his liking. The former Notre Dame star had a monster game, reaching base in all five appearances. He blasted a solo homer in the first inning and followed that with a double, single, and two walks, scoring three runs. Blaze Jordan also went deep as part of his three-hit effort, connecting on a three-run bomb in the third. Eddinson Paulino had Salem's third homer to go with three walks, two stolen bases and three runs scored. Marcelo Mayer was held hitless but drew three free passes, scoring twice. In all, the Salem lineup drew 13 walks in the game.

Wikelman Gonzalez was the beneficiary of Salem's offensive explosion. He allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits in five innings, striking out five, walking three, and earning his third win of the season. Graham Hoffman and Blake Loubier pitched two scoreless innings apiece to secure the Salem win.

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The FCL contest brought the awaited professional debut of Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz and only took off from there. Rodriguez-Cruz and a trio of relievers combined on a three-hitter, while the offense tallied 22 baserunners. Boston's fourth-round pick last July, Rodriguez-Cruz allowed two hits across four scoreless innings,  striking out two without issuing a walk. Luis Talavera allowed just one hit in four innings of relief, striking out four, walking zero, and getting credit for the win. 

The day after he connected for his first homer of the season, Miguel Bleis went 2 for 4 with a double and three runs driven in. Juan Chacon, the Venezuelan outfielder who received the Red Sox top bonus in the 2019-20 international class, blasted his first homer of the season. Second baseman Alex Zapete reached base five times, going 2 for 2 with a double, three walks, and three RBI. Alexis Hernandez also chipped in with a double as part of a three-hit afternoon.

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DSL Houston Blue 1, DSL Red Sox Red 0, suspended
Just three outs short of being official, rain caused this one to be suspended in the fifth inning with the Sox down by one. Starter Darlyn De La Cruz had allowed one unearned run in four innings but remains in line to take a losing decision if the Houston Blue lead holds.

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With another 17-run, 19-hit outburst, the Red Sox Blue squad has 64 runs scored through its first seven games. Marvin Alcantara continues to pace the lineup. The shortstop was 4 for 5 with three runs scored and two RBI, and he is now 16 for 30 (.533) with thirteen runs. Armando Sierra and Albertson Asigen both doubled as part of three-hit afternoons, while Jose Mendez connected for his first professional homer. Starter Inmer Lobo took advantage of the support to earn his first professional win. Lobo scattered three hits across five innings, striking out eight and talking only one. 

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Player of the Day: It was an up-and-down first two months of his first full professional season, but Niko Kavadas is breaking out with an outstanding month of June. With a huge game on Tuesday that saw him homer and reach base five times, Kavadas now has a .353/.532/.765 on the month in 11 games. During that time he has four homers, 12 RBI, and 13 walks against 12 strikeouts. Boston's 11th-round pick in the July 2021 draft, Kavadas was an All-American as well as a Golden Spike semifinalist during his senior year in South Bend. 

Photo Credit: Niko Kavadas by Kelly O'Connor