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May 28, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Gonzalez, Perales both in control in dominant starts


5/28 Cup of Coffee:
It was a big night down on the farm, as two of the organization's top pitching prospects had strong returns to form. Luis Perales and Wikelman Gonzalez (pictured), ranked 8th and 14th in the system, combined to strike out 22 batters without a walk, surrendering just one earned run between the two of them in 10 1/3 innings. Greenville emerged victorious in Gonzalez's effort, while Salem squandered the gem from Perales. Contrasted against the top prospects in Class A, a combination of promotions and injuries led to bullpen games both for Worcester and for both ends of Portland's doubleheader. Daniel Palka and Bobby Dalbec provided enough punch to support the WooSox staff, while a Tyler McDonough walk-off helped Portland emerge with a split. 

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Faced with a bullpen game, the Worcester offense took care of business, staking starter Jake Faria to a 9-0 lead. Daniel Palka drove in six runs as part of a three-hit night, including a three-run third-inning homer. Bobby Dalbec stayed hot, blasting a solo home run as part of a 2-for-3 effort that included a pair of walks. Wilyer Abreu went deep as well, while David Hamilton ripped a double and stole his 25th base of the season. Spot starter Faria was cruising through four innings before getting reached for four runs in the fifth. In all, he allowed the four runs on four hits in 4 2/3, striking out five and walking three. Cam Booser got credit for the win, while Chase Shugart and Kaleb Ort fired a scoreless inning apiece to preserve the victory.

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Perhaps it was not the most widely viewed last-second victory in the New England sports scene on Saturday, but Portland won the doubleheader opener in a thriller. In a contest knotted 3-3 through the scheduled seven innings, Tyler McDonough delivered with a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the ninth, plating Christian Koss for the winning run. Koss and Stephen Scott both doubled, while Nick Yorke was 1 for 3 with a walk. On the mound, Brandon Nail got the first call, going three hitless innings but surrendering a run and walking four batters. Ryan Fernandez went 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief to force the seven-inning contest into extra frames. Jacob Webb had allowed the automatic runner to score in the top of the inning despite not allowing a hit and got credit for the win following the comeback.

There would be no walkoff magic in the nightcap, as New Hampshire blew things open early with an eight-run second inning against Rio Gomez. Tyler Dearden was the only player with multiple hits, going 2 for 3, and a Philip Sikes double was the only extra-base knock. 

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Wikelman Gonzalez was dominant, turning in his best start of the season thus far. The 21-year-old righty allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings, scattering four hits and striking out a career-best 12 batters. Perhaps most importantly, Gonzalez was in control of the strike zone, not issuing a walk and throwing 61 of 89 pitches for strikes. He entered the contest with 28 walks in 26 2/3 innings. Maceo Campbell got credit for the win with his 1 2/3 scoreless frames, followed by a pair of scoreless innings by Robert Kwiatkowski. Greenville snapped a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning on a Brainer Bonaci RBI single followed by a Blaze Jordan sacrifice fly. 

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Like Gonzalez, Luis Perales has struggled some with his control in the season's first two months. And like his Greenville counterpart, none of those control issues were on display in a dominant Saturday start. Perales allowed one run on four hits in five innings, striking out 10 without issuing a walk. He threw 55 of 79 pitches for strikes on his way to the first double-digit strikeout effort of his professional career. The lone blemish of the evening against Perales was a solo home run by 2021 first-round pick Brady House. The 20-year-old is still in search of his first professional win, as the Salem bullpen surrendered eight runs in four innings. 

Roman Anthony continued to surge at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. It is the fourth consecutive game in which Anthony has doubled, giving him nine on the season. Cutter Coffey added a double of his own, while Ahbram Liendo walked twice and stole a pair of bases. 

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Player of the Day: It's been an uneven first two months of the season for 14th-ranked Wikelman Gonzalez. He has struggled with consistency, with 17 of his 22 earned runs allowed coming in three of his starts, as well as with his control, with at least three walks in six of his previous eight outings. Saturday's effort gave a glimpse of his potential, as he struck out 12 without allowing a walk, lowering his ERA on the year by more than a full run. Gonzalez originally signed back in 2018 out of Venezuela to a $250,000 bonus. 

Photo Credit: Wikelman Gonzalez by Kelly O'Connor