Extra Innings on a Friday Night

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The minor leagues are filled with top prospects working their way to the big leagues, guys hoping for the call, and professionals that love the game. Brandon Magee takes us on a trip through a wild Friday night for the Boston Red Sox’ minor league affiliates.

As any veteran watcher of the minor leagues knows, on any given day something strange or historic or joyous or frustrating can happen. When following multiple teams, the chances of that one special moment occurring improves. Yet even then, no one can expect a day like the Red Sox minor league system had on Friday, May 15th. What follows is an ongoing diary of what happened in four games across four states, picking up where the action started to intensify.

9:00 P.M.:

McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket, Rhode Island

At the end of seven innings, the Pawtucket Red Sox were shutting out the Columbus Clippers, 5-0. Henry Owens had completed his day, going six shutout innings with three hits and a walk allowed in only 88 pitches. Offensively, Rusney Castillo was leading the PawSox, hitting a 3-run home run in the third and following up with a solo shot in the fifth, his first two dingers of the year:

New Britain Stadium, New Britain, Connecticut

The Sea Dogs were facing the Rock Cats, attempting to break New Britain’s 13 game winning streak and to hand the Cats their first loss of May and only their second loss at home all season (the Sea Dogs were the only road team with a win in New Britain this year, having won the second game of a doubleheader on April 21st). A Portland win would stop a five game losing streak against the Rock Cats. After seven innings, the Sea Dogs were down 11-9. Sea Dogs’ starter Michael McCarthy had a brutal showing, allowing seven runs in 2 ⅔ innings. Joe Gunkel, making his AA debut, allowed three more in 3 ⅓ innings. But Portland managed to score 5 runs in the top of the 7th, highlighted by a Tim Roberson grand slam off of Tyler Ybarra. Roberson was only the third batter faced by Ybarra, who walked his first hitter and allowed a single to his second. The fourth batter he faced also walked, but not before Ybarra was lifted in the middle of the at-bat:

BB&T Ballpark, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Salem Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Winston-Salem Dash after seven innings. The Sox could not accomplish anything against Dash starter Robinson Leyer, who went six innings, allowing only an Aneury Tavarez double and a Tzu-Wei Lin walk. Zach Isler retired Salem in the seventh, with only Tavarez reaching via an error.

Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, Charleston, South Carolina

The Greenville Drive were facing their cross-state neighbors, the Charleston Riverdogs, with the Drive leading 4-0 after seven innings. Jalen Beeks had stymied Charleston in his seven innings of work, giving up four hits, a walk and a HBP on only 74 pitches. The Drive had scored three runs in the sixth on a hit and two walks, helped in part by an error by right fielder Brandon Thomas:

9:15 P.M.:

McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

Jonathan Aro, who had retired the first four batters he had faced, hit a rough spot in the eighth inning. Two singles were followed by a triple by Francisco Lindor, putting the Clippers on the board. A bunt single followed to score Lindor. Aro was able to get the final two outs of the inning, and Pawtucket went down in order in the bottom of the inning. The PawSox led 5-3 heading into the ninth:

BB&T Ballpark, Winston-Salem

The Dash defense was falling apart. After Isler retired the first two batters of the eighth, Jose Vinicio reached on a throwing error by second baseman Jake Peter. Vinicio stole second and subsequently scored when Cleuluis Rondon threw away the ball on a Tzu-Wei Lin single. Consecutive singles by Sam Travis and Kevin Heller scored Lin and ended the night for Isler. After the Dash threatened in the bottom of the eighth but failed to score, they entered the ninth with a 3-2 lead.

9:35 P.M.:

Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, Charleston

Drive pitcher Mario Alcantara induced a groundout from Ryan Lindemuth to shortstop Javier Guerra, ending the game. Alcantara had allowed a solo home run to Chris Breen in the top of the 9th, but had otherwise kept the RiverDogs hitless. Drive win, 5-1.

McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

Dalier Hinojosa started the top of the 9th by allowing a walk and a single. He followed with two consecutive strikeouts. Hinojosa got Michael Martinez down 1-2 before throwing two balls to bring the count full. The payoff pitch was lined safely to center, scoring the fourth Columbus run. The very next pitch was also lined to center for a base hit by Lindor, tying the ballgame at five. The ball was booted by Castillo but picked up by Bryce Brentz, who threw to Deven Marrero, who then threw to Travis Shaw to cut down Martinez at third and end the top of the 9th – just your typical 8-9-6-5 out. The Pawsox would go quietly in the bottom of the 9th, and the teams would head to extras.

New Britain Stadium, New Britain

Oscar Tejeda walked to start the 9th for the Sea Dogs and advanced to second on a single by Roberson. After a Luis Martinez sacrifice, Marco Hernandez grounded a two run single into center, tying the game at eleven. The Sea Dogs could not push another run across, however, and the game headed to the bottom of the 9th. Kyle Martin was able to get the first out, but then allowed a single and a walk. Martin gave way to Pat Light, who induced a comeback grounder to record the second out, but both runners moved up a base. With the winning run only 90 feet away, Light struck out Trevor Story on a pitch in the dirt, with Martinez throwing to first baseman Jantzen Witte to complete the out. Portland and New Britain would also head to extras.

BB&T Ballpark, Winston-Salem

Wendell Rijo doubled to start the top half of the 9th and was immediately driven home by Mario Martinez to tie that game at three. Salem loaded the bases on singles by Cole Sturgeon and Jose Vinicio (sandwiching a Carlos Coste strikeout), but Tzu-Wei Lin grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing to end the inning. German Tavarez struck out the side in order in the bottom of the 9th, and Salem would head to extra innings just like their counterparts in Pawtucket and New Britain.

9:55 P.M.:

McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

Clippers outfielder Tyler Holt started the top of the 10th with a double, and then the game entered the realm of the bizarre. Jesus Aguilar attempted to bunt Holt over to third, but was called out on batter interference. Aguilar and Clippers manager Chris Tremie both argued the call, and both ended up being ejected… by different umpires. Jerry Sands, the next batter, popped up but was ALSO called out on batter interference. And because the inning could not possibly end in a conventional manner, James Ramsey struck out on a pitch in the dirt, with Humberto Quintero having to throw to Luke Montz to complete the out. The PawSox went quietly in the bottom of the inning, and the game continued into the 11th.

10:05 P.M.:

New Britain Stadium, New Britain

Kraig Sitton entered the game to pitch for the Rock Cats and induced Carlos Asuaje to line out for the first out of the 10th. He then allowed consecutive singles to Witte and Tejeda to bring up Tim Roberson. The same Roberson who had scored the tying run the previous inning after reaching base on a single. The same Roberson who had brought the Sea Dogs back into the game with a grand slam in the seventh. And the same Roberson who had doubled in the third. Roberson fell behind 0-2, but then crushed a pitch to centerfield. Not only would Witte and Tejeda score, but Roberson would also end up on third with a triple to complete the cycle, the first for Portland in eight seasons. A groundout and a strikeout ended the inning, but Portland had the lead for the first time since the opening frame.

Pat Light quickly killed the suspense in the bottom of the tenth, striking out Tyler Massey, inducing a ground out by Tom Murphy and then striking out David Dahl on another pitch in the dirt, the game ending as Martinez once again completed the out by throwing to Witte to get Dahl at first. The Sea Dogs, down 10-4 entering the 7th, completed their epic comeback, winning 13-11 in 10 innings.

10:15pm:

BB&T Ballpark, Winston-Salem

After a relatively quiet tenth inning for both the Red Sox and the Dash, Salem second baseman Wendell Rijo started off the top of the 11th with a line drive double to center. Franklin Guzman walked before Cole Sturgeon grounded into a fielder’s choice, placing runners on first and third. With the winning run in sight, Sox manager Carlos Febles decided to go to the bench, bringing in Jake Romanski to pinch hit for Carlos Coste, who had been 0-for-4 in the game. Romanski rewarded the manager by driving in Rijo with a double to center. After a Vinicio strikeout, Lin grounded another ball towards Rondon at short, and Rondon muffed it. Lin was credited with a single as both Sturgeon and Romanski crossed the plate. Sam Travis ended the inning on a strikeout, but Salem entered the bottom of the 11th with their first lead of the game. 

Austin Maddox came in for German Tavarez to begin the bottom of the inning, and quickly induced two groundouts before striking out Tyler Williams to end the game. The Red Sox scored six unanswered runs and won 6-3 in 11 innings.

10:25P.M.:

McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket

Dayan Diaz entered the contest for the PawSox in the top of the 11th, replacing Hinojosa, and struck out the side around a Ryan Rohlinger double. Shaw, Montz and Marrero all grounded out in the bottom of the inning. The top of the 12th inning was similar in theme to the 11th, with Diaz inducing three infield pop-ups. But the bottom of the inning saw some PawSox life.

Of course, on an evening like this one, life started a bit strangely. Humberto Quintero led off the inning by striking out on a wild pitch in the dirt, but he raced safely to first as the ball got past the catcher. Quintin Berry struck out, but Jemile Weeks doubled to right, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Rusney Castillo walked on four pitches, setting the stage for Allen Craig. Craig had an epic 11 pitch at-bat (fouling off seven of them), ultimately striking out on a ball in the dirt. Bryce Brentz flew out on the next pitch, and the teams headed to the 13th.

Diaz recorded the first out of the 13th before yielding a James Ramsey double and an Audy Ciriaco single, plating the sixth Clippers run and giving Columbus their first lead of the game. Diaz rang up a strikeout and a pop-up to end the inning, and the PawSox headed to the bottom of the 13th down a run.

Travis Shaw grounded out to start the bottom of the inning, but back-to-back singles by Montz and Marrero gave the PawSox a runner in scoring position with one out. Unfortunately, the comeback fell short, as Quintero flied out and Berry popped out. The Clippers celebrated a dramatic comeback win, 6-5 in 13 innings.

Four games, three comebacks, three extra-inning games, a two-home-run game, a grand slam, a double ejection, two consecutive batter interference outs, and a cycle. All four games won by the road team. Not much was missing in this extra-long night of baseball for these Red Sox affiliates.

On top of keeping us up to date on the minor league teams, Brandon Magee reminds us just how far our shared love of a team can go, analyzes a slugger’s increased power, and introduces us to the Red Sox new pitching coach.

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