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September 3, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Scorching-hot Paulino homers twice, drives in seven in Salem rout


9/3 Cup of Coffee:
On a night where three former first-round picks had multi-hit games and another extended his lengthy on-base streak, it was an unheralded international signee out of the Dominican Republic who has broken out this season who stole the spotlight. Eddinson Paulino (pictured) homered twice, scored four runs, and had seven RBI as Salem blew out Augusta. Nathan Hickey had a two-homer evening of his own in Greenville's win, while a good night by Thaddeus Ward and the healthy return of Ceddanne Rafaela were the highlights in Portland. Only Worcester suffered a loss on Friday's slate.

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The WooSox staged several rallies but never led in Friday's 18-run, 24-hit slugfest. Enmanuel Valdez led the way at the plate, going 3 for 5 with two doubles, scoring a pair of runs and driving in another. Jarren Duran launched his first home run since rejoining Worcester at the beginning of the week. He added a single and walk, scoring three times out of the leadoff spot. Triston Casas had a single and an RBI, extending his on-base streak to 16 games. 

It was a tough start for Chris Murphy, who allowed seven runs on seven hits in 3 2/3. Murphy struck out four, walked four, and surrendered a home run. Jake Thompson was a highlight out of the bullpen, firing three scoreless innings and allowing just one hit as he struck out four against one walk. 

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A strong start by Thaddeus Ward propelled Portland to its sixth straight win. For the second straight start, Ward had a 10-strikeout performance. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits in 5 1/3, walking one. Jacob Wallace threw a hitless inning of relief but struggled with his control, walking three and allowing a run. Taylor Broadway got credit for the victory in his Portland debut. The 25-year-old righty, acquired earlier in the week as the player to be named later in the Jake Diekman deal, went two scoreless frames. He allowed one hit, striking out three without issuing a walk. Brett Kennedy allowed an unearned run in the ninth to get the save.

At the plate, Izzy Wilson was 2 for 4 with a triple, stolen base, walk, and two runs scored. Stephen Scott and Tyler Dearden also had two hits apiece, while David Hamilton went 1 for 3 with a pair of walks. The biggest news of the night was the return of Ceddanne Rafaela. The sixth-ranked player in the system had been out since last week after taking a pitch off the wrist, but he returned as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and stayed in the game in center field.

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It was a monster night for Nathan Hickey to lead the Drive in Rome. Getting the start as the designated hitter, Hickey blasted a game-tying two-run homer in the sixth inning, then gave Greenville some insurance runs with another two-run shot in the ninth. Hickey finished the contest 4 for 5 as he boosted his home run total to 15 on the year between Salem and Greenville. Joe Davis also went deep for the Drive as part of a 2-for-3 effort that included a walk and three runs scored. The 2020 and 2021 first-round picks made an impact atop the lineup. Leadoff hitter Nick Yorke was 2 for 4 with a walk, stolen base, and two runs scored. Marcelo Mayer was also 2 for 4 with a walk, driving in a run.

On the mound, Juan Daniel Encarnacion allowed four runs on four hits in five innings, striking out three without a walk. Austin Lambright went two scoreless innings for the win, while Luis Guerrero struck out a pair in 1 1/3 to get credit for the save. 

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Salem faced what looked to be a tough test in Braves first-round pick Owen Murphy, but he and a quartet of relievers were shellacked by Eddinson Paulino and the rest of the Red Sox lineup. Paulino led off the game with a home run on the way to an eight-run first inning. He later hit a three-run shot, finishing up 2 for 3 with two walks, four runs scored, and seven RBI. Mikey Romero was 3 for 5 with a double, three runs scored, and two RBI. It was the first three-hit game as a professional for Boston's top pick in the July draft. Luis Ravelo added three hits of his own, while Yorberto Mejicano homered as part of a 2-for-4 effort.

Salem starter Nathanael Cruz struggled to take advantage of the huge cushion provided by his offense, surrendering three runs in 2 1/3, all coming on solo home runs. Michael Valera followed by getting the victory in his Salem debut, striking out five and walking one in 3 2/3 hitless innings. Felix Cepeda came next with three hitless frames of his own, striking out three against two walks to get the save.

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Player of the Day: Several candidates would have been in consideration on most nights, notably Nathan Hickey's four-hit, two-homer effort, but the clear nod for Friday's slate goes to Salem center fielder Eddinson Paulino. The 20-year-old keyed Salem's 17-run outburst with a fantastic all-around offensive performance. In addition to a pair of homers, he stole a pair of bases to bring his season total to 27, walked twice, scored four runs, and drove in seven. After a difficult transition to full-season ball in April, Paulino's numbers have been strong since May and have turned sublime in the last six weeks. Over his last 32 games, he has hit .326/.419/.553, with 37 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits, 24 runs batted in, 21 walks, and 10 stolen bases. 

Photo Credit: Eddinson Paulino by Kelly O'Connor