A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX:
– Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles (one to the opposite field in left, one to center), a flyout to left, a groundout to second and a strikeout. He’s now 2-for-10 since joining the PawSox, though with some positive signs based on the willingness to hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field.
– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo rolled through six shutout innings, working around seven hits (all singles) while walking just one and punching out four. He threw 62 of 94 (66 percent) of his pitches for strikes while improving to 14-4 with a 2.46 ERA, looking like a reliable provider of solid innings in the process. Between Pawtucket and the big leagues, Ranaudo has logged at least six innings in each of his last six starts, something he’s done in 14 of 25 overall starts this year.
Scouts still suggest that the 24-year-old’s mix is solid rather than overpowering, with a 7.0 strikeouts per nine rate and somewhat stark fly ball tendencies (of the pitches put in play against him, just 38 percent have been on the ground), but Ranaudo has made considerable strides in the execution of his craft to the point that he looks at the least like a solid option for a No. 4 or No. 5 big league starter who has now proven over a two-year span that he can stay healthy. Ranaudo is up to 143 2/3 innings this year, and he’s shown no signs of diminished stuff into August.
– Garin Cecchini, playing third base, went 2-for-4 with a double to extend his hitting streak to nine games, during which he’s hitting .405/.436/.703 with two homers and five doubles, a run that suggests that he’s reclaimed something akin to his typical swing and results at the plate. The timing is particularly noteworthy given that Will Middlebrooks had to leave Tuesday’s big league game with tightness in his right hamstring. Also of note: Manager Kevin Boles said that Cecchini, who has added left field to his third base duties this season, has also been taking fly balls in right, though for now, he’s not expected to play right field in games over the rest of this year.
– Ryan Lavarnway has reached base in all eight of his plate appearances in his last two games. He went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a pair of walks on Tuesday, after going 1-for-1 with a single and three walks on Monday. In his last four games, he’s 7-for-10 with six walks, elevating his line for the year to .286/.393/.360 in Pawtucket.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-4 WIN AT HARRISBURG (NATIONALS)
– With the win, the Sea Dogs clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008.
– Keury De La Cruz continues to hit at a torrid pace over the last week or so, going 2-for-4 with a home run, his sixth of the season. Over his last six games, De La Cruz is hitting .650 (13-for-20) with five extra-base hits. Half of his six home runs on the year have come within the last week. In addition to the power surge, De La Cruz has still managed to walk (three times) more often than he’s struck out (twice) and he’s driven in four runs. The outfielder has been on fire all month long after hitting just .237/.237/.305 in 17 games in July; he’s batting .396 with a .459 OBP and nine extra-base hits over his last 15 contests.
– Catcher Carson Blair pieced together his first multi-hit game since being promoted to Double-A, going 2-for-4 with a home run (also his first since moving up a level) and a single, scoring a pair of runs. The solid day at the plate comes after a rough showing back on Saturday (the last game he played) in which Blair fanned three times. Blair has had relative success through his eight games in Portland, hitting .286/.382/.571 with five extra-base hits and five walks.
– Noe Ramirez earned his 14th save of the season with a scoreless inning and a third of work, allowing just a walk. Ramirez endured a brief hiccup in his dominant season, allowing four earned runs over the course of three consecutive appearances, but has since recorded two scoreless outings. The reliever owns a 2.12 ERA through 63 2/3 innings this season.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)
– Manuel Margot is showing little initial difficulty in making the transition to tougher competition. Margot, who at 19 years old is four years younger than the average Carolina League player, has put together multi-hit performances in three of his first four games since being promoted to Salem. The center fielder went 2-for-4 with a couple of singles on Tuesday following back-to-back three-hit games. He’s already driven in seven runs for Salem, and is 8-for-17 with two home runs since moving up a level.
– Jantzen Witte is also on an impressive run, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles on Tuesday. The first baseman has nine hits in his last three games, with five of those going for extra bases. The hot streak follows a five-game slump over which Witte went hitless in 19 at-bats. The 24-year-old has put up a .285/.335/.475 line through 51 games in High-A this season.
– Starter Joe Gunkel was roughed up in his shortest start of the season, lasting just two innings and allowing six runs on six hits and a walk. The ugly outing came on the heels of a impressive performance in which Gunkel fanned eight through 5 2/3 frames. This is the second time the righty has allowed six or more runs in his 10 starts with Salem. The start ballooned Gunkel’s ERA almost a full point, as he came into the game with a 3.75 mark and left with a 4.64.
– Right-hander Taylor Grover, a 2013 10th-round pick, was dominant in relief of Gunkel, tossing four scoreless innings and allowing just three hits while punching out seven. Since being promoted to High-A last week, Grover has thrown seven scoreless frames over two outings and permitted just four hits while punching out a total of 11 batters. The 23-year-old had posted a 4.73 ERA and averaged about a strikeout per inning through 45 2.3 innings with Greenville this season.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-7 LOSS VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES)
– Left-hander Daniel McGrath had his worst outing of the year, walking a season-high seven in 2 2/3 innings en route to a six-run yield that featured just three hits. It was his shortest outing since his first start of the year. The six runs likewise matched a season-high for the 20-year-old. The control issues represented a departure from McGrath’s prior three starts, in which he walked six and punched out 17 in 18 innings of work. It is certainly possible that McGrath, who pitched with relative infrequency while growing up in Australia and who threw just 53 1/3 innings in short-season ball in his 2013 pro debut, could be fatiguing as the season winds down. Still, while Tuesday’s control struggles represented an extreme, the ability to attack the strike zone with his solid three-pitch mix will prove a critical area for his development going forward. McGrath is averaging 5.0 walks per nine this year.
– First baseman Sam Travis went 1-for-4 with a double, giving him eight extra-base hits in 16 contests since the 2014 second-rounder moved up from Lowell to Greenville. The 20-year-old is hitting .281/.319/.438 in Single-A, strong marks as he continues his adjustment to the pro game.
– Catcher Danny Bethea had his first professional four-hit game, going 4-for-5. In 19 games across three levels, the 24-year-old is hitting .268/.333/.339.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: OFF DAY (ALL-STAR BREAK)
– Danny Mars went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, Mauricio Dubon struck out in his only plate appearance and Jordan Betts recorded a pinch-hit single in the tie between the North and South in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. Carlos Pinales threw a scoreless inning of relief.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-4 WIN AT GCL RAYS
– Rafael Devers snapped his four-game, 0-for-16 slump, going 2-for-3 with a walk to nudge his average back above .300. The 17-year-old is hitting .302/.364/.481 in 35 GCL games. Since 2010, only one player in his age 17 season — Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez in 2010 — has hit .300 or better in at least 100 GCL plate appearances.
– Infielder Victor Acosta stayed hot, with the 18-year-old second baseman going 2-for-4 with his second homer of the year. He had a .189/.282/.289 line through July, but in August, Acosta is hitting .387/.441/.581 with four extra-base hits in nine games.
– Left-hander Dedgar Jimenez, an 18-year-old from Venezuela, punched out a season-high six and walked none in five innings during which he allowed one run on five hits. The formidable left-hander (listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds) has given up three or fewer runs and walked two or fewer batters in all 10 of his appearances to date, with a 32-to-8 strikeout-to-walk rate, a 5-2 record and 2.82 ERA.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-3 LOSS VS. DSL GIANTS
– Left-hander Enmanuel De Jesus, enjoying a strong pro debut, saw his three-start, 16-inning scoreless streak come to an end. He gave up two runs on five hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out three in three innings, with his ERA ticking up to 3.15.