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July 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Groome shines in WooSox debut; Mata, Casas impress


7/16 Cup of Coffee:
Pitching was the big story on Friday, as none of the five stateside starting pitchers surrendered an earned run. Across 22 innings, starting pitchers gave up 14 hits, walking nine, and striking out 25 while surrendering two unearned scores. Jay Groome (pictured) went six innings in his introduction to International League play. Bryan Mata and Juan Daniel Encarnacion went five scoreless apiece as the Portland and Salem bullpens completed both shutouts. Nathanael Cruz was supported in his strong outing by the also-rehabbing Triston Casas in the FCL. Greenville got yet another Niko Kavadas homer but suffered the organization's lone defeat.

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It was a strong Triple-A debut for Jay Groome. The 2016 first-round pick fired six shutout innings, allowing five hits, striking out five, and walking three. He faced a season-high 25 batters and threw 61 of his 95 pitches for strikes. The Tides reached Chase Shugart for a pair of runs (one earned) in two innings of relief, followed by a hitless ninth inning from Frank German. Christin Stewart provided plenty of support at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a walk, double, run scored, and three RBI. Devlin Granberg added a pair of hits, while Grant Williams reached base three times with two singles and a hit batsman. 

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Bryan Mata turned in another stellar outing for Portland, leading the way on an eight-hit shutout. Mata pitched the first five frames, scattering five hits, walking one, and striking out seven. In four appearances since rejoining the Sea Dogs, Mata has given up only one earned run in 16 1/3 innings, sporting a crisp 0.55 WHIP. The effort earned Mata his first winning decision since August 31, 2019. Michael Gettys followed with his first appearance at Double-A since yesterday's promotion. It was not technically a debut at that level for Gettys, a former outfielder who played in 125 games with the San Antonio Missions in 2018. Technicalities aside, Gettys went two shutout innings, allowing one hit and walking one batter. Oddanier Mosqueda and Brandon Nail went a scoreless inning apiece to complete the shutout. 

At the plate, David Hamilton was a catalyst out of the second spot in the order. Hamilton went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and three stolen bases. He reclaimed his spot atop the Eastern League leaderboard in swipes with 36 on the year. Christian Koss went deep for Portland, blasting a two-run shot as part of a four-run fourth inning.

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Despite yet another Niko Kavadas home run, Greenville took the system's only loss on Friday. Providing daily service that would put Amtrak to shame, Kavadas delivered a long ball for the third straight game, his eighth in 17 games since his promotion and his 17th in 35 contests since the start of June. Gilberto Jimenez doubled as part of a two-hit effort, while Jaxx Groshans added a triple and a pair of walks. Chih-Jung Liu got the start, allowing two unearned runs on one hit in three innings. Liu walked and struck out three apiece. Alexander Montero tossed a scoreless seventh inning in his Drive debut.

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The system saw more outstanding pitching in the Carolina League, as Juan Daniel Encarnacion (pictured) and Luis De La Rosa combined for a five-hit shutout. Encarnacion turned in one of his strongest starts of the season, surrendering just two hits across five shutout frames. He matched a season high with eight strikeouts and walked only two. De La Rosa did not miss a beat in relief. He gave up three hits over four innings, striking out four and issuing one walk. 

At the plate, Marcelo Mayer added a hit, walk, and run scored, bringing his July line to .387/.537/.710 thus far. Jonathan Diaz was 2 for 3 with a walk and stolen base, while Brainer Bonaci stole a pair of bags to supplement his single and walk.

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Triston Casas had a big day as he ramps back up from his ankle sprain. Getting the start as the designated hitter after returning to the infield on Thursday night, Friday marked Casas' first back-to-back games in the lineup. His 3-for-5 effort included a fourth-inning solo homer, double, two RBI, and two runs scored. He is 5 for 10 with four extra base hits during his rehab stint. Miguel Bleis slotted immediately after Casas in the lineup and went 2 for 5 with three stolen bases. Allen Castro delivered the difficult half of the cycle, contributing a triple and a home run during his 2-for-4 afternoon.

Nathanael Cruz was excellent in his rehab start, giving up one hit across three scoreless innings, striking out two without issuing a walk. Jose Ramirez followed, allowing two runs on five hits in four innings to get credit for the win.

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The rain opened up after the two teams completed the first inning. Information on when the game would be complete was not yet available. 

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Natanael Yuten continued to be a force out of the leadoff spot, going 3 for 5 with a run scored. The effort extends his hitting streak to nine games, going 15 for 34 in that stretch. Yohander Linarez tripled and drove in three runs as part of his 2-for-4 day. Darlyn De La Cruz got the start, allowing one run on three hits in three innings. Jogly Garcia was excellent in a piggyback role to get the win. Garcia allowed one run on two hits in four innings, striking out three without issuing a walk. 

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Player of the Day: Though two top-20 prospects in Jay Groome and Bryan Mata also had shutout efforts, it was the performance of Juan Daniel Encarnacion that gets the nod. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed just four baserunners in five innings of work, striking out eight, and throwing 49 of 71 pitches (69.0%) for strikes. His 85 strikeouts lead Salem and put him sixth in the system overall. He currently is ranked as the 50th prospect in the system by SoxProspects.com.

Photo Credit: Jay Groome, Juan Daniel Encarnacion by Kelly O'Connor