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April 20, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Valdez makes debut; Dalbec crushes grand slam

4/20 Cup of Coffee:
While Enmanuel Valdez made his major-league debut in Boston, Red Sox minor-league affiliates went a collective 2-2 on Wednesday. James Paxton was not at his best in his rehab outing for the WooSox, but Bobby Dalbec hit a grand slam and Marcus Wilson hit a two-run home run as part of a comeback effort that fell just short. In Portland, Tyler McDonough led the Sea Dogs to a walk-off victory in extras. Grant Gambrell struck out seven and Bryan Gonzalez homered for the first time this season in Greenville's loss to Greensboro. Earlier in the afternoon, Juan Chacon (pictured) tallied three hits and two RBIs to get Salem back over .500. 


It was a discouraging night for the WooSox pitching staff in Allentown. After Taylor Broadway struck out two over four scoreless innings to open the contest, James Paxton struggled mightily in his third appearance (first out of the bullpen) for Worcester. The rehabbing left-hander got rocked for seven earned runs on five hits, two walks, and zero strikeouts in just two-thirds of an inning. Cam Booser got tagged for three more runs in the fourth while Jake Thompson gave up one in the fifth. Following a scoreless seventh inning from Oddanier Mosqueda, fellow lefty Ryan Sherriff allowed one run on back-to-back two-out doubles in the bottom of the eighth. 

Despite the fact that they trailed by 11 runs after five innings, the WooSox lineup did not give in. Ryan Fitzgerald got his side on the board with a two-run single in the top of the sixth. Two innings later, Marcus Wilson and David Hamilton, each drove in a run before Bobby Dalbec made things interesting by crushing an opposite-field grand slam. In the ninth, Wilson cut the deficit in half with a two-run home run, but Nick Sogard then grounded out to end it. Dalbec's homer was his second of the Triple-A season while Wilson, who came on as a defensive replacement in the seventh, hit his first big fly of the year. Though nobody in the WooSox lineup registered multiple hits, Sogard, Daniel Palka, Niko Goodrum, and Greg Allen all drew two or more walks. 


Brian Van Belle went five innings in his second start of the season for Portland. The Miami product surrendered two runs (one earned) on three hits, three walks, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts on 78 pitches (46 strikes). Both of those runs came in the top of the fifth, but only one was charged to Van Belle as a result of a Ceddanne Rafaela fielding error in center field. In relief of Van Belle, Jacob Webb fanned four of the seven batters he faced over two scoreless innings of work. Ryan Miller followed by putting up another zero in the eighth, but he then gave up a game-tying single to old friend Wendell Rijo in the ninth. Brendan Nail got through the rest of the ninth inning unscathed and stranded the automatic runner at third base in the 10th, putting himself in position to earn the win.

Tyler McDonough and Rafaela accounted for Portland's first two runs with back-to-back RBI singles in the bottom of the third. An inning later, Matthew Lugo led off with a double and came into score when Corey Rosier grounded into a force out at second base. After recording the final out of the ninth, Rosier was the automatic runner at second to begin the bottom of the 10th. Nick Yorke moved him up to third with a groundout and McDonough plated him on a walk-off fielder's choice to win it in extras. In total, Rafaela had two hits, McDonough had two RBIs, and Rosier scored two runs.

Grant Gambrell was solid in his second start of the season for Greenville. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed three runs on four hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts over five innings of work. Gambrell actually took a shutout bid into the fifth and recorded the first two outs of the inning before giving up back-to-back singles and a three-run home run to the penultimate batter he faced. Of the 63 pitches he threw, 44 went for strikes. Out of the Drive bullpen, Nate Tellier and Christopher Troye combined to strike out three across three scoreless frames of relief.

Both of Greenville's runs came on one swing of the bat of Bryan Gonzalez, who clubbed a two-run home run in the top of the second. In addition to hitting his first homer of the season, Gonzalez also doubled as part of a 2-for-4 day at the plate. The only other member of the Drive lineup to record multiple hits was Eddinson Paulino, who went 2 for 5 with a pair of singles and a stolen base out of the leadoff spot. Marcelo Mayer and Miguel Ugueto, who both went 1 for 4, also stole a base.


Jose Ramirez allowed just one run over four innings in his second start of the season for Salem. The 22-year-old righty scattered three hits and three walks while striking out two of the 16 batters he faced on 66 pitches (36 strikes). Out of the Red Sox bullpen, a rehabbing Ryan Fernandez fanned two as part of a 1-2-3 fifth inning to earn the winning decision. Luis De La Rosa then yielded one run across three frames of relief before Caleb Bolden worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise clean top of the ninth to pick up his first professional save. 

Offensively, Juan Chacon got the scoring started for Salem with a game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the fourth. An inning later, Miguel Bleis drove in both Yorberto Mejicano and himself on a little-league home run that was aided by a pair of Lynchburg throwing errors. Luis Ravelo and Chacon capped off the rally with two more run-scoring hits off reliever Reny Artiles. Chacon and fellow outfielder Allan Castro each had three hits, though the former tripled, collected two RBIs, and stole his fourth base of the season as well. Mejicano went 2 for 2 with a walk and run scored while Bleis went 1 for 3.


Player of the Day: Following Wednesday's three-hit effort, Juan Chacon is now batting .222/.421/.296 with more walks to strikeouts (eight to seven) in his first nine games (38 plate appearances) of the season with Salem. The 20-year-old outfielder's .421 on-base percentage currently ranks 21st among qualified Carolina League hitters. 

Photo Credit: Juan Chacon by Kelly O'Connor