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July 9, 2022 at 7:15 AM

Cup of Coffee: Rafaela makes highlight-reel catch, collects two hits in Portland comeback




7/9 Cup of Coffee:
It was a tough Friday night for the major league club, and those struggles extended down to the farm. Only a wild comeback by Portland prevented an organization-wide sweep. Ceddanne Rafaela (pictured) showed off his defensive chops before helping flip a 4-0 eighth-inning deficit into a 7-4 win. Jeter Downs stayed hot in Worcester, while Bryan Gonzalez had a big night for Salem, but both squads saw comeback bids fall short. It was a rare winless night for the complex league squads. The DSL Blue team fell for only the fourth time this season, while the FCL Sox managed only one hit.

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A late rally fell short as the WooSox dropped their third straight to the Yankees Triple-A squad. Jeter Downs continued his resurgence, blasting a three-run homer in the ninth to end the Scranton shutout bid. Downs also doubled as part of a 2-for-4 effort that brought his line in seven July games to .500/.567/1.115. Ryan Fitzgerald joined his partner on the left side of the infield, picking up a double as part of his two-hit night.

With the services of Connor Seabold needed for the major league squad, Worcester ended up throwing a bullpen game. Geoff Hartlieb made his second start in 174 appearances as a professional, allowing one run on four hits in 2 2/3 innings. Garrett Whitlock began his rehab assignment, allowing two runs on six hits in two innings, striking out three without issuing a walk. Eduard Bazardo continues to push himself into the conversation for a potential major league role with his eight consecutive scoreless outing. The 26-year-old righty struck out one and walked one in 1 1/3 hitless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.18.

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It took a remarkable comeback to give Portland the organization's lone victory on Friday. Held to two hits through seven innings, the Sea Dogs scored five runs in the seventh with Kole Cottam blasting a three-run homer and Christian Koss delivering a two-run shot. Ceddanne Rafaela was 2 for 4 with a triple, run scored and an incredible home-run robbing catch in center. Izzy Wilson was not retired in four trips to the plate, notching a double, triple, and two walks. Jay Groome had a strong start, striking out seven and allowing five hits through six innings. The only run came on a solo homer by 2019 first-round pick Brett Baty. Brandon Nail the beneficiary of the offensive explosion, getting credit for the win despite allowing three runs in his inning of work. 

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Not a whole lot went right for the Drive, who have not been able to piece together consecutive wins since mid-June. Brandon Howlett was a bright spot on offense, driving in both runs on a second-inning double and twice reaching when he was hit with pitches. Tyler McDonough singled and walked out of the leadoff spot. Yusniel Padron-Artiles got the start, allowing five runs on six hits in three innings. He falls to 3-8 on the year. 

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Salem rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to things up, only to fall on a run in the 10th. Bryan Gonzalez got the Sox on the board with a three-run homer in the fourth. Karson Simas doubled as part of a two-hit night, while Blaze Jordan was 2 for 4 with a walk, RBI, and run scored. Starter Angel Bastardo allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked three. Osvaldo De La Rosa struck out two in 1 1/3 frames of hitless relief. Luis Guerrero struck out the side a perfect ninth to send the game to extra innings, but his control abandoned him in 10th as he walked all three batters he faced.

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Offense was hard to come by in this contest, as four Twins hurlers teamed up to one-hit the Sox. A B.J. Vela double in the third inning stood as the lone knock. Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz got the start, going just one scoreless inning. He surrendered one hit, struck out one, and didn't issue a walk. Yordanny Monegro got charged with the loss, allowing two runs (one earned) in three innings. The lone earned run came in on a double by a rehabbing Miguel Sano. 

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Team Blue's 13-game winning streak came to a halt despite getting off to an early 2-0 lead. Marvin Alcantara picked up a pair of doubles while Karim Ayubi added a triple. Kelvin Diaz was 2 for 5, scoring a run and stealing a pair of bases. Daniel Nunez surrendered four runs in 2 1/3 to get tagged with the loss.

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Both Cleveland affiliates got the better of their Boston counterparts as the Red team failed to pick up a game on Team Blue. Frank Asctacio and Ronny Ramirez contributed the only extra-base hits in the contest with a double each. Dennis Reguillo got the start, allowing five runs on six hits in three innings. 

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Player of the Day: The breakout of Ceddanne Rafaela has been one of the top stories of the 2022 season, and he provided a highlight on Friday. He climbed the Binghamton center field fence to rob a fifth-inning home run, and then contributed two hits as part of the late Portland comeback. Rafaela is hitting .311/.353/.593 across two levels to complement excellent defense both in center and the infield. 

Photo credit: Ceddanne Rafaela by Kelly O'Connor