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September 14, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Rafaela pushes Portland closer to playoff berth


9/14 Cup of Coffee:
All three teams in the organization were playing against the Yankees, and all three games were wild, frustrating, back-and-forth encounters decided by one run. The bad news is that only one of the outcomes went in a Red Sox team's favor, but the good news is that it is the one with playoff hopes on the line. Unlike Worcester or the major league club, Portland's hot finish has it on top of the second-half standings in the Eastern League's Northeast Division. Ceddanne Rafaela (pictured) and company had an 18-hit attack to pull off the 11-inning win, Portland's sixth straight victory and 14th in its last 15.

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Worcester jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, but Scranton chipped away to complete the comeback. Bryan Mata got the start, allowing just one hit in four innings while striking out seven, but control was an issue. The right-hander walked five batters and hit two more, getting charged for two Scranton runs. Brian Keller was solid out of the bullpen, giving up just an unearned run on one hit in his three innings of work, striking out four without walking a batter. The Railriders reached Darwinzon Hernandez for a pair of runs on three hits in the eighth, saddling the lefty with the loss. At the plate, Ronaldo Hernandez blasted his 13th home run of the season, a fifth-inning solo shot. Enmanuel Valdez doubled as part of a two-hit evening, while Jarren Duran was 2 for 4 with a walk.

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Portland had 18 hits to Somerset's eight while only three of the nine runs the pitching staff allowed were earned, but it needed 11 innings to come away with the important victory. Unsurprisingly, Ceddanne Rafaela played a key role, responsible for half of the Sea Dogs runs scoring. The center fielder drove in three runs and scored two more as part of a 3-for-5 evening. David Hamilton was a catalyst out of the leadoff spot, going 2 for 4 with a walk, double, and two runs scored. Hamilton also stole three bases, giving him 69 on the year. The corner infielders also had a big night, as Niko Kavadas was 4 for 6 and Alex Binelas doubled twice in a 3-for-5 effort. Tyler Dearden and Stephen Scott chipped in with solo home runs.

On the mound, Shane Drohan struck out eight and walked two in four innings, but an ill-timed error with nobody on and two out in the third inning was followed by a walk, RBI single, and three-run homer. Overall, Drohan surrendered five runs, only one of which was charged as earned. Ryan Zeferjahn and Taylor Broadway both entered unscored upon in their Sea Dogs careers, and both surrendered solo home runs. Brandon Nail and Michael Gettys pitched the 10th and 11th to pick up the win and the save despite both allowing the automatic baserunner to score.

With the win, Portland moves four games in front of Somerset for the second-half lead in the Northeast Division. With the magic number at three, it will need to win two of the season's final five games to reach the playoffs.

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Player of the Day: Ceddanne Rafaela has not been a stranger to this spot in 2022, and he is helping lead Portland's push to give him a few more opportunities. In addition to his stellar defense and versatility, Rafaela leads the organization in hits with 140 and extra-base hits with 62. With Portland's season on the line, Rafaela has gone 9 for 22 with 11 RBI in his last five games.

Photo Credit: Ceddanne Rafaela by Kelly O'Connor