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July 27, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Gonzalez, Mayer shine for Salem in rain-suspended game


7/27 Cup of Coffee:
It was a split day on the farm, as the three complex-level teams went 4-0 on the day. Salem had a 5-0 lead on the shoulders of a sterling Wikelman Gonzalez (pictured) start and the continued hot hitting of Marcelo Mayer, but rain in the bottom of the fifth caused the game to be suspended only three outs before becoming official. Eduard Bazardo continued his excellent season, drawing the first straw in Worcester's victorious bullpen game. Greenville fell despite Nick Yorke and Niko Kavadas home runs, while Bryan Mata labored in Portland's loss. 
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The WooSox prevailed despite a lineup that managed just five hits. A quartet of hurlers were led by Eduard Bazardo, who was tasked with the rare start. Bazardo scattered three hits across three scoreless frames, striking out two, walking one, and lowering his ERA to 2.43. Jake Thompson went two hitless frames, striking out three, before the Bisons finally got on the board with one run against Caleb Simpson in his two innings of work. Zack Kelly got credit for the win with his two scoreless frames. The effort snaps a streak of four straight appearances in which Kelly had surrendered a run. 

Both Worcester runs came on outs: Triston Casas hit a sixth-inning sacrifice fly to score Devlin Granberg, followed by Cristin Stewart racing home in the ninth on a Ryan Fitzgerald ground ball that might have been an inning-ending double play were it not for a throwing error. Stewart was the only member of the Worcester lineup to reach base twice, going 1 for 3 with a walk. 

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Contrary to some indications earlier in the day that he would be moving up to Worcester, Bryan Mata made the start at Dunkin Donuts Park. It was the right-hander's toughest outing since rejoining the Sea Dogs in late June, as he gave up two runs on two hits in 2 2/3 innings. Mata struggled with his control, walking the first three batters of the third inning and four batters overall. He struck out one and threw 36 of 64 pitches for strikes. Matt Barnes made a rehab outing, striking out two and allowing one hit in a scoreless inning. David Hamilton was the standout at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a double, walk, RBI, and his 44th stolen base of the season. South Atlantic League home run leader Nick Northcut made his Portland debut, batting seventh and starting at third base. He went 1 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts. 

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The Drive had some strong individual performances but fell for the fifth time in six games. Niko Kavadas continues to rake, blasting a second-inning solo home run as part of a 2-for-4 night. It is the ninth round-tripper for Kavadas since his promotion to Greenville five weeks ago, and his 19th across two levels since the start of June. Nick Yorke hit a two-run game-tying shot in the sixth, his first since June 22 and second since May 12. Tyler McDonough had a big day at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a double, RBI, run scored, and a stolen base. Tyler Uberstine turned in a strong start, giving up just one run on two hits across five innings, striking out four without issuing a walk.

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For the second straight day, the rain rudely interrupted a prospect in the midst of a gem. Wikelman Gonzalez did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, striking out seven against three walks. It was a much-needed return to form for the 20-year-old right-hander, who had followed an impressive April with a 6.90 ERA since the start of May. Gonzalez was getting plenty of support at the plate. Brainer Bonaci hit his first home run of the season in the first inning, and Marcelo Mayer was 2 for 2 with a double, walk and two runs driven in. They'll finish this one on Wednesday at 5:05, followed by the regularly-scheduled contest.

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A big day by the top of the order propelled the FCL squad to the win. Leadoff hitter Luis Ravelo was 1 for 3 with a triple, two walks, RBI, and run scored. Ahbram Liendo followed with a double as part of a 2-for-4 effort, scoring a pair of runs, drawing a walk, and stealing a base. Jhostynxon Garcia blasted a two-run homer in the first, while Miguel Bleis was 1 for 4 with a walk, run, and RBI. Starter Yordanny Monegro went three innings, allowing one run on three hits, striking out one, and walking one. Luis Talavera went four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to earn the win. 

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Top international free agent Fraymi De Leon led the way in the opener of Team Blue's twinbill. The 17-year-old shortstop was 2 for 3 with a walk, run scored, three RBI, and three steals. De Leon is 7 for 18 during a modest five-game hitting streak. Armando Sierra homered in the sixth inning, his fourth of the season. Starting pitcher Cristian Nunez allowed one unearned run in three innings, followed by two scoreless frames from Ali Ascanio.

The first-place Blue squad kept rolling in the nightcap to move to 29-9 on the year. Stiwar Adames has gotten credited with seven of those wins. The right-handed reliever allowed one run on four hits in three innings, striking out two without issuing a walk. Kelvin Diaz led off the contest with a home run. Jose Mendez had a triple, walk, RBI, and run scored on the day.

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After matching zeroes through the top of the fifth inning, the Red squad offense broke out with eight runs over the next four frames. Natanael Yuten had a big game out of the leadoff spot, going 2 for 5 with a double and three RBI. Claudio Simon was 2 for 4 with his 27th stolen base of the season. Starter Alvaro Mejias lowered his ERA to 1.46 with four shutout innings of work. Mejias scattered three hits, struck out four, and walked one. Carlos Reyes got the win with a scoreless inning of relief.

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Player of the Day: Just three outs away from being an official contest, Wikelman Gonzalez nonetheless gets the nod for his sterling work in Tuesday's start. Gonzalez opened with four hitless frames, not allowing a baserunner his first time through the order and striking out four of the first five batters he faced. He was showing signs of wear as he opened the fifth with a walk, double, and hit batsman, leaving the bases loaded when the rains hit, but it was overall a strong pitching performance by the system's top-ranked pitcher below Double-A. 

Photo Credit: Wikelman Gonzalez by Kelly O'Connor