Right-hander Matt Barnes threw a career-high eight innings on Thursday for the PawSox. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Thursday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Right-hander Matt Barnes tossed a career-high eight innings, scattering seven singles, walking none and striking out three. After entering the All-Star break with a 5.06 ERA in 15 outings, the 24-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts since the season resumed, lowering his ERA for the year to 4.12. His strikeout totals have remained relatively modest throughout the run, sitting at 7.0 per nine innings (up a tick from 6.9 per nine prior to the break), but his walk totals have been trimmed from 3.7 per nine innings to 2.8 per nine and hitters are managing just a .161 average against him, down from .297 before the All-Star break.
PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur, in this episode of Minor Details, explained that Barnes has been working to remain compact in his delivery, rather than “getting really long and tilting his back,” in an effort to keep his arm in a higher slot with better direction to the plate. Those efforts have been paying off in recent outings for the 2011 first-rounder, with the results to show the improvement.
– Feats of Mookie: Streaking (again). Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He has three multi-hit games in his last four contests to improve his line in 42 games in Pawtucket this year to .339 with a .423 OBP and .509 slugging mark.
– First baseman Travis Shaw was 2-for-4 with his first homer since July 28, his 10th in 69 games since his promotion to Pawtucket. He now has a career-high 21 homers along with 50 extra-base hits through 116 games in Portland and Pawtucket this year, forging a .286/.358/.497 line.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-2 LOSS, 1-0 LOSS VS. AKRON (INDIANS)
(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)
– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz continued his strong August run, going 3-for-5 with a homer and a walk in the double header. In 12 games this month, he’s hitting .333/.408/.524 with six walks in 12 games. The walk total is double the number of free passes (3) the 22-year-old had negotiated in 43 games in June and July. He’s now hitting .289/.315/.408 for the year.
– Right-hander Justin Haley, 23, tossed six shutout innings before permitting a solo homer in the seventh for the lone run he allowed. He delivered 6 1/3 innings allowing the one run on six hits and five walks (his second straight five-walk outing after he hadn’t permitted more than three in any of his first 20 starts) while punching out three. Though Haley has walked more (12) than he’s struck out (11) in his three starts since moving up to Portland, and is winless in Double-A, he has a 0.98 ERA at the higher level, with three straight outings of at least six innings and one or no runs.
– Right-hander Luis Diaz had his third straight outing of four or more runs allowed, permitting that number in 5 2/3 innings. He has now given up 13 runs in his last three starts spanning 16 innings, a run in which he’s had nine and seven days off between starts, at a time when he’s blown past previous career innings highs. He is up to 128 1/3 innings this year after not ever throwing more than 101 innings in a season.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-1 WIN, 3-1 WIN AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS)
(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)
– Right-hander Simon Mercedes tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits (all singles), walking two, punching out three and recording eight groundball outs. The six innings matched a season-high for the 22-year-old, who has been a groundball machine this year, with 52.2 percent of balls put in play against him having been on the ground (according to MLBfarm.com). The combination of that groundball rate with his 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and mix of mid-90s velocity with a changeup and curveball suggest that Mercedes has prospect status that exceeds his 3-9 record and 4.64 ERA.
– Outfielder Kendrick Perkins rebounded from a three-strikeout game in the first contest of the double header by launching his first homer in High-A in the nightcap. In 10 games with Salem, the 22-year-old is hitting .194/.242/.323 after posting a strong .296/.353/.473 line in 51 games in Greenville.
– Right-hander Heri Quevedo, in his first start of 2014 in High-A (the level where he spent nearly all of 2013), tossed five scoreless innings with seven punchouts and two walks while allowing five hits. The seven strikeouts matched his highest total in High-A, and fell one short of the career high he had four weeks ago in Lowell.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS)
– Outfielder Manuel Margot extended his hitting streak to 13 games this month by going 1-for-4. He’s hitting .446/.492/.696 in August to boost his season line to .286/.355/.449 with 10 homers and 39 steals. According to multiple industry sources, Margot will be promoted to High-A Salem for the duration of the season.
The promotion underscores what has been an impressive developmental year. Margot has shown a fairly complete skill set, with strong center field defense (including a strong arm), a good approach that has netted a 9.0 percent walk rate and a modest 11.9 percent strikeout rate, the ability to impact the baseball for average with some power (35 extra-base hits, including eight in 13 games in August), and the ability to influence the game on the bases (his 39 steals rank 17th in the minors).
His speed/power combination as a teenager is rare. He is one of seven players in all of minor league baseball who has at least 10 homers and 30 steals. No other player in that group is younger than 21. Indeed, the Red Sox have two of the three players who are 21 or younger in all of minor league baseball (Margot and Mookie Betts) to have the 10/30 double (the other is Astros prospect Teoscar Hernandez).
Margot will be the third youngest position player in the Carolina League, with his promotion underscoring the notion that he is one of the top handful of position prospects in the Red Sox system.
– Right-hander Ty Buttrey had his best start of the season, tossing six shutout innings in which he allowed two hits, walked three and punched out six. In four outings since his return from the DL, the 21-year-old has a 3.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 19 2/3 innings. Prior to his hand injury, he had an 11.91 ERA with eight strikeouts and eight walks in 11 1/3 innings.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-1 LOSS AT BROOKLYN (METS)
– Shortstop Mauricio Dubon had his third multi-hit game of the week, going 2-for-4 to boost his average to .297, eighth in the New York-Penn League. The 20-year-old has a .297/.322/.380 line that suggests the ability to make contact with a line drive stroke that, in tandem with his solid shortstop defense, makes him an intriguing position prospect.
– Center fielder Joseph Monge went 2-for-4 for his first multi-hit game since July 28. The 19-year-old is hitting .280/.345/.320 in 15 games with the Spinners since his promotion from the GCL.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: SUSPENDED (RAIN) AT GCL ORIOLES
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 13-7 WIN AT DSL REDS
– Luis Alejandro Basabe, who entered the game with one extra-base hit in 24 games, went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and walk. He now has 23 walks and 20 strikeouts on the year, giving the 17-year-old a .421 OBP despite a .244 average.
– Catcher/third baseman Roldani Baldwin went 2-for-5 with a triple and a walk, boosting his line to .281/.362/.406.