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July 30, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Rafaela does it all in Portland victory


7/30 Cup of Coffee:
If you're into offense, Ceddanne Rafaela (pictured) was the player to watch on Friday night. If you enjoy defense, your eye would be on another highlight-reel play by Ceddanne Rafaela. And if you enjoy players making an impact on the bases, Ceddanne Rafaela would have been the player for you. Portland owed its victory largely to the versatile Curacao native who continued to make his presence felt in a variety of ways. Elsewhere, Worcester and the FCL Sox both fell to one-run losses despite home runs off of top prospects Triston Casas and Miguel Bleis. Niko Kavadas continued to rampage the South Atlantic League despite a tough night for Greenville, while Salem was the victim of a late rally, suffering a comeback loss.

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Worcester staged a five-run rally in the eighth but fell short on Friday night. Abraham Almonte hit a grand slam as part of the comeback attempt, adding to his single and walk earlier in the evening. Triston Casas had staked the WooSox to an early 1-0 lead on a solo home run in the first, his seventh of the year. Chris Murphy took the loss, allowing five runs on six hits in four innings. He walked four, struck out two, and was taken deep twice by leadoff hitter Otto Lopez. Darwinzon Hernandez struck out two batters in a perfect seventh inning, throwin nine of his 12 pitches for strikes. Zack Kelly followed with a scoreless ninth, giving up one hit and striking out a pair.

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It was the Ceddanne Rafaela show at Dunkin Donuts Park as the Sea Dogs burst out to an early lead and held on for the win. Rafaela, getting the start at shortstop, had a 4-for-4 night that included a solo home run, double, walk, two RBI, and stolen base. It was Rafaela's third consecutive multi-hit effort, and the homer was his first since July 7. Despite his assigned position in the infield, Rafaela had no issue ranging well out into the outfield to rob a potential extra-base hitTyler Dearden doubled twice and scored two runs, and Wil Dalton and Stephen Scott both went deep in the win. Dylan Spacke got the start, allowing one run on three hits in three innings. Matt Barnes continued with his rehab and got credit for the win despite allowing a run in his lone innings of work. 

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Greenville notched 12 hits but only managed to put two runs across the board in a blowout loss. Joe Davis and Niko Kavadas held up the middle of the lineup capably, with Davis ripping three hits and Kavadas going 2 for 4 with an RBI. Thaddeus Ward made his sixth rehab appearance, second with Greenville, as he works his way back from Tommy John Surgery. He allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits in four innings, striking out three, and walking one. Chih-Jung Liu allowed a two-run homer shortly after entering but was not scored upon again, finishing four frames with just those two runs allowed.

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Salem couldn't hold a late lead as Fredericksburg roared back with three runs in the seventh and four in the eighth. The comeback spoiled a solid start by Juan Daniel Encarnacion. The 21-year-old righty allowed two hits on three hits in five innings, striking out five and walking four. Eddinson Paulino had a 2-for-5 night that included his 10th triple of the year. Blaze Jordan also picked up two hits, with a double, walk, stolen base, and RBI. Darel Belen entered the game just 6 for 75 on the season and 0 for his last 24, but he recorded his first multi-hit game of the year and blasted his second home run. Jose Garcia also went deep in the loss.

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The FCL Sox dropped a pitchers' duel highlighted by another standout effort by Luis Perales. Perales went three hitless innings, striking out four while only walking one. Perales went exactly three innings in each of his five July starts, allowing no hits in two of them and exactly one apiece in the other three. He last surrendered a run on June 10. Miguel Bleis provided the offense with a solo home run in the top of the ninth. Johnfrank Salazar extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a double in the fifth inning. Salazar is 18 for 39 (.462) during that run. 

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A five-run rally in the eighth helped first-place Team Blue move to 30-10 on the year. Kelvin Diaz had the key hit with a two-run double, his 10th of the season. Marvin Alcantara scored a pair of runs despite a rare hitless afternoon, drawing a walk, getting hit by a pitch, and stealing a base. Luis Cohen got the start, allowing two hits in four scoreless innings, striking out three. Wandy Abreu got credit for the win as his record advances to 5-0.

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The Red squad was held to just five this, with two coming off the bat of Jose Liriano. Eybersson Polanco continues to be a standout on the mound, going five scoreless innings, scattering three hits, striking out three, and walking one. Ovis Portes struck out three in two scoreless frames and Royman Blanco fired a scoreless eighth before the Royals reached Blanco for a run in the ninth and two scores off the automatic runner and an error in the 10th. 

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Player of the Day: Friday was a wonderful microcosm of the breakout 2022 season from Ceddanne Rafaela. At the plate, he had four hits, including his 17th home run of the season across two levels. He showed off his versaitiliy and value in the field, ranging from his shortstop position well into the outfield for the game's highlight play. He made an impact on the bases, stealing his 22nd bag of the year. Rafaela has a .317/.357/.579 slash line between Greenville and Portland and leads the organization with 50 extra-base hits.

Photo Credit: Ceddanne Rafaela by Kelly O'Connor