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July 29, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Barnes, Hill rehab with Portland; Kavadas belts walk-off homer in Greenville


7/29 Cup of Coffee: Boston's minor-league affiliates went a collective 4-3 on Wednesday. Brian Keller and Ronaldo Hernandez played key roles in Worcester's win over Buffalo, Tyler Dearden homered for the second consecutive night in Portland's win over Hartford, and Niko Kavadas (pictured) played hero in Greenville's walk-off victory over Bowling Green. Additionally, Kier Meredith enjoyed a productive day at the plate in Salem's loss while Johnfrank Salazar extended his hitting streak down at the complex. 

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Some early action in Buffalo to kick off the afternoon. Brian Keller led the way on the mound by tossing five innings of one-run ball in his 14th start of the season for Worcester. The 28-year-old right-hander allowed just one run on three hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts on 84 pitches (49 strikes). He finishes his month of July having posted a 1.35 ERA across 22 innings of work. Out of the Worcester bullpen, Geoff Hartlieb and A.J. Politi each earned holds while Franklin German notched his third save of the season by stranding a pair of base runners in a scoreless ninth inning. 
Ronaldo Hernandez got the scoring started by cranking a two-run home run that left his bat at 112 mph in the top of the third inning. Nick Sogard provided some late-game insurance by driving in Abraham Almonte on a ninth-inning RBI groundout. Hernandez's homer was his 10th of the season and fourth in the month of July. Pedro Castellanos, Triston Casas, and Johan Mieses each had two hits in the win.

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A rehabbing Rich Hill got the start for Portland at Dunkin' Donuts Park. The veteran left-hander went three innings, allowing just one run on four hits and zero walks to go along with five strikeouts. Forty of the 56 pitches he threw went for strikes. Matt Barnes, also on a rehab assignment, struck out two in a scoreless fourth inning. Victor Santos, meanwhile, surrendered three runs over 3 2/3 innings. Jacob Wallace and Brendan Nail combined for 1 1/3 shutout frames of relief.

On the other side of things, Christian Koss went 3 for 5 with a double and two runs scored. Ceddanne Rafaela and Izzy Wilson each had two hits while Tyler Dearden homered for the second straight night and for the fifth time this season. Out of the leadoff spot, David Hamilton drew two walks and stole two more bases to increase his season total to 47. Christian Arroyo, who -- like Barnes and Hill -- is on a rehab assignment, went 1 for 3 with an RBI single while playing five innings of second base.

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Trailing by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning, Niko Kavadas came through for Greenville by crushing a walk-off two-run home run to lead the Drive to a 6-5 victory at Fluor Field. Kavadas went a perfect 4 for 4 with four RBIs and a walk. Fellow 2021 draftee Phillip Sikes went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a walk, a run, and one stolen base. Jaxx Groshans also hit an RBI triple in the come-from-behind win.

Shane Drohan made his 17th start of the season for Greenville. The 23-year-old left-hander yielded two runs on four hits, one walk, and five strikeouts over five innings. Two of the four hits he gave up were home runs. Robert Kwiatkowski recorded five outs while giving up one run. Casey Cobb retired four of the five batters he faced. Cody Scroggins was credited with the win despite surrendering two runs in the top of the ninth. 

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Angel Bastardo had a rough go of things on Thursday. Making his 17th start of the season for Salem, the right-hander surrendered six runs on seven hits, two walks, and five strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings on 81 pitches (50 strikes). In relief of Bastardo, Adenys Bautista yielded two runs in 1 1/3 innings. Blake Loubier, on the other hand, fanned a pair over two scoreless frames.

Offensively, Brainer Bonaci collected three more RBIs and now has 11 in his last three games. Kier Meredith went 2 for 3 with two runs scored, one walk, and one stolen base out of the nine-hole. Bryan Gonzalez accounted for Salem's only extra-base hit with a seventh-inning double. 

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Down in Fort Myers, the FCL squad rode a pair of five-run innings to a 12-8 victory over the FCL Orioles. Ahbram Liendo went 2 for 5 with an RBI double, a run scored, a walk, and two stolen bases. Jhostynxon Garcia also doubled as part of a two-hit day in which he drove in two runs, drew two walks, and scored one run. Johnfrank Salazar extended his hitting streak to 11 games by going 2 for 5 with two RBIs and a run. Juan Chacon and Lyonell James collected two RBIs and stole one base apiece as well.

Nathanael Cruz got the start for the FCL squad and scattered just two hits while striking out three and walking none over three scoreless innings. Attleboro native Nate Tellier earned his first hold of the season by fanning two in 1 2/3 shutout innings of relief. Jhonny Felix and Jose Ramirez got tagged for three and five runs, respectively. 

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The Red squad's only two runs of the day came when Jose Liriano scored on a fielding error and when Cristofher Paniagua was hit by a pitch while the bases were loaded in the fifth inning. Besides that, Yohander Linarez accounted for his side's lone extra-base hit on a fifth-inning double. Yosander Asencio did not record a hit but drew two walks and stole his ninth base of the season out of the three-hole.

Dennis Reguillo was charged with the loss. The 18-year-old right-hander made his seventh start of the season and surrendered three runs (two earned) on three hits, zero walks, and one hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over four innings. In relief of Reguillo, Andres Jimenez, Starlin Santos, and Simon Pacheco combined for four scoreless frames out of the bullpen.

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In the completion of a game that was originally suspended after one inning was played on July 15, the Blue squad ultimately fell to the Astros' Orange affiliate. Albertson Asigen led the way by recording three hits, scoring two runs, drawing one walk, and stealing one base. Andy Lugo went 2 for 5 with an RBI, two runs scored and a walk. Armando Sierra also collected two hits while Helison Mota hit a two-run triple in the seventh inning. Denison Sanchez was hit with the losing decision and blown save as he got rocked for four runs on two hits and two walks in the bottom of the eighth.

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This regularly scheduled game was suspended in the top of the first inning because of inclement weather. It will likely be made up when these two teams next face each other on August 9.

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Player of the Day: Since being promoted from Salem to Greenville last month, Niko Kavadas has batted .343/505/.800 with 10 home runs, 23 RBIs, and 21 runs scored over 22 games (95 plate appearances) for the Drive. The 23-year-old has slugged a total of 24 home runs this season and could be on his way to Portland before long. 

Photo Credit: Niko Kavadas by Kelly O'Connor