Red Sox minor league roundup: Mookie Betts staring down history; Rich Hill staying with Sox; Bryce Brentz mashes; Anthony Ranaudo dominates
|05.16.14 at 10:38 am ET|
Mookie Betts continued his steady assault on opposing pitchers, going 3-for-5 with a homer, a double, a walk and a steal on Thursday. He’s now reached base in all 35 games for Double-A Portland this year, and in 70 straight dating to last year when counting his final 30 games in High-A Salem along with his five postseason contests.
The run has been nothing short of staggering. During those 70 contests — the equivalent of roughly half a minor league season — Betts is hitting .409 with a .481 OBP, .628 slugging mark, 11 homers, 38 walks, 24 strikeouts and 30 steals. Thursday marked the seventh time this year and the 10th time during the streak that he’s reached base four or more times in a game.
It’s a run that has shown a complete player, one with remarkable hand/eye coordination who can hit for average, drive the ball with authority, exercise plate discipline and impact the game on the bases, all from the middle-of-the-field position of second base (with a belief existing in the Red Sox organization that Betts is also capable of handling either shortstop or an outfield position — either left or center — down the road).
His streak has now reached historic proportions. The minor league record for the most consecutive games reaching base is 71, a mark shared by a pair of former Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs. Kevin Youkilis accomplished the trick in 2003 for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, matching the standard set by Kevin Millar (then of the Marlins) in Double-A and Triple-A between 1997 and 1999 (a run interrupted at times by stints in the big leagues).
Yet Betts’ streak appears far more impressive, not only for the way that he’s impacting the ball but also for the age at which he’s doing it. Youkilis was 24 when he went on his run, a singles and doubles hitter with few signs of home run power and baserunning smarts but no speed to speak of. Millar’s streak took place between the ages of 25 and 27, and while the man could mash (he hit 32 homers in 1997 in Portland), he didn’t show anything approximating the complete skill set possessed by Betts.
In short, it has been a dazzling run that has vaulted Betts — who pushed his average back over .400 on Thursday, with a line of .401/.467/.619 in Double-A this year — from a curiosity to national prospect prominence, a performance that has been not just steady but steadily spectacular and now, potentially, historic.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 WIN AT INDIANAPOLIS (PIRATES)
– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo had his most impressive Triple-A outing, throwing seven shutout innings in which he allowed five hits (four singles and a double) and matched a season-low with one walk and punched out five. The start represented the longest outing of his Triple-A career in terms of innings (7) and represented a career-high in pitches (109, 72 of which were strikes for a 66 percent rate).
Ranaudo wasn’t getting a ton of swings and misses (MiLB.com’s GameDay tracker credited him with six), but he commanded his fastball to both sides of the plate and down, and his curveball was locked in, with 23 of 30 going for strikes on a day when Ranaudo worked largely to weak contact. He sat at 92-93 mph with his fastball.
– Bryce Brentz matched a career high (and set a new best in his Triple-A career) with three extra-base hits, going 3-for-4 with a massive homer to straightaway center and two doubles. It was the fourth time in his career that he’d collected three extra-base hits in a game, and the first time since he did so twice in Double-A Portland in 2012.All three extra-base hits came against Indianapolis starter Adam Wilk, a left-hander.
Brentz has posted huge numbers this year against lefties, hitting .304/.373/.696 with five of his six homers and eight extra-base hits in 51 plate appearances against southpaws. By contrast, he’s struggled against righties, hitting .191/.318/.292 with one homer and six extra-base hits in 107 plate appearances.
Since breaking out of an 0-for-26 slump, Brentz has been on a bit of a hot streak, going 7-for-19 (.368) with a pair of homers, a walk and three strikeouts in his last five games. He’s now hitting .230 with a .335 OBP and .430 slugging mark.
The afternoon came to a premature end, however, as Brentz appeared to suffer an injury when grounding out to third in the seventh inning. He left the game in the bottom of the inning.
– Daniel Nava went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He’s gotten exactly one hit in each of the seven games. The double snapped a 10-game stretch in which he didn’t have an extra-base hit. The 31-year-old is hitting .274 with a .370 OBP and .403 slugging mark in 18 games, though his strikeout rate (27.0 percent) remains notably high, a significant bump over his 17.4 percent rate in the big leagues last year.
– Left-hander Rich Hill retired all four batters he faced, mixing a strikeout into the mix, and the 34-year-old has now allowed one run in his last nine innings while punching out 10, walking two and allowing four hits. That recent run has lowered his ERA to 2.66; he’s punched out 23 and walked 10 while giving up no homers in 20 1/3 innings this year while holding lefties to a .192 average. (Righties, it’s worth noting, are hitting just .178 against him.)
Hill had a limited out in his contract on May 15 in case of a big league opportunity, but the veteran is staying in the Red Sox organization.
– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 2-for-4 to improve his average to .306 with a .400 OBP, but the most noteworthy aspect of his day may have been a defensive play he made. Cecchini ranged to his right, speared a ball and made a jump throw from foul territory to clip the runner.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 13-5 WIN AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)
– Travis Shaw went 3-for-6 with a double and a strikeout, improving his May line to .370/.452/.611 with two homers and nine extra-base hits in 14 games. For the year, the 24-year-old is hitting .301/.399/.493 with 21 walks and 15 strikeouts.
– Outfielder Henry Ramos went 3-for-5 with a double and triple. He now has six games of at least three hits this year. The 22-year-old hasn’t been walking bu the hasn’t been swinging and missing, either; in his last 10 games, he’s hitting .487/.535/.769 with four walks and two strikeouts. That’s something of a departure from the rest of his season, in which he has nine walks and 28 strikeouts, but still, the switch-hitter — a 2010 fifth-rounder — is hitting .343/.384/.482.
– Left-hander Brian Johnson gave up no contact of note, allowing just three singles, but he walked five while allowing three runs (two earned) in five innings of work. Johnson did strike out three. Prior to Thursday, Johnson had walked just one batter in his first 11 1/3 innings of work following his promotion to Portland. In three Double-A starts, the 23-year-old is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA, 14 strikeouts and six walks in 16 1/3 innings.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT CAROLINA (INDIANS)
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: CANCELLED (WET GROUNDS) AT SAVANNAH (METS)
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