Red Sox minor league roundup: Drake Britton breaking through; Brandon Jacobs heating up; Henry Owens strikes out everyone

June 17, 2013 - 7:01 am
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Drake Britton was dominant for Double-A Portland yet again on Sunday afternoon, tossing seven innings while allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits while walking three and striking out one. Britton threw 97 pitches with 58 going for strikes. He saw his 22 2/3 inning scoreless streak reach its terminus (the streak stands as the second-longest in Sea Dogs history) but Britton has allowed only two earned runs in his last five starts, good for a 0.56 ERA since May 25. The lefty has gone seven or more innings in his last three starts, and while he'€™s 6-5 on the season, he'€™s won all three of his starts in June. Britton -- who features a mid-90s fastball, a slider that he's commanding with increasing consistency and a changeup that he's incorporating effectively at times -- also hasn'€™t allowed a home run since May 3, going eight starts without giving up a longball. Overall on the year, Britton owns a 3.08 ERA with 28 walks and 68 strikeouts in 13 starts. Given the fact that he's in his second year on the 40-man roster and that he had a solid first stretch in Portland after a mid-year promotion in 2012, Britton very well could be next in line for a promotion from Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket. His impressive run is somewhat reminiscent of Felix Doubront'€™s 2010 season, in which a dominant run in his second year in Portland led to a promotion not only to Triple-A, but soon to the major leagues as well. Britton hasn'€™t been dominant all season, but the recent stretch of great starts signals that he could be ready for the next level. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Outfielder Alex Hassan continued his hit-the-ground-running return from the disabled list after missing two months to open the year. Hassan went 1-for-2 with a two-run double. He's 4-for-8 with two doubles and a homer in three games with Pawtucket, and he's collected at least one extra-base hit while driving in at least one run in each of those contests. Overall, in 11 games with the PawSox and Single-A Greenville, the 25-year-old is hitting .484/.610/.710 in 11 games. -- Knuckleballer Steven Wright delivered his best performance of the year, logging a season-high eight innings while giving up one run on five hits (all singles), striking out seven and walking none. He threw a whopping 71 percent (69 of 97) of pitches for strikes. This marked the first time since 2008 -- when Wright was still a conventional pitcher -- that he'd thrown at least five innings without giving up a walk. While this performance represented a new pinnacle for Wright in his command, it continued a three-start stretch in which the knuckleballer has manager to keep his signature pitch in the zone with increased frequency. Over his last three outings, Wright has issued just three walks in 20 innings (1.4 per nine innings) after permitting 4.6 per nine innings in his first 10 Triple-A appearances of the year. -- Outfielder Mitch Maier went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, and in 20 games this year, he's now hitting .306/.438/.472 with more walks (17) than strikeouts (16). -- Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-for-3 with a walk, and in his last three games, he's now 0-for-11 with two walks. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-4 WIN VS. AKRON (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Pete Hissey went 3-for-5 with two RBI and led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a solo home run, his first home run of the year and only his second in his time in Double-A (103 games). Hissey has been solid all year for Portland, and even better since returning from a  brief stint on the disabled list, going 8-for-25 with three doubles and a home run in his last seven games. The outfielder is hitting .292/.358/.425 through 35 games this season. -- Michael Almanzar is on a hot streak, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk while driving in two on Sunday. Through his last four games, Almanzar is 7-for-12 with three extra-base hits. He'€™s also drawn walks in three straight games. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS, 4-1 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES) (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Brandon Jacobs punctuated his strong finish to the first half by going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in the first game and 1-for-2 with a walk and his seventh home run of the season in the second contest. While the 22-year-old has a .223/.308/.400 stat line through the first half, he showed considerable improvement down the stretch, hitting .293/.397/.483 over his last 18 contests (dating to May 29) entering the All-Star break. The homer was Jacobs' first of the year against a southpaw; after dominating against lefties last year, he wrapped up the first half with a .132/.298/.263 mark against them this year. -- Left-hander Henry Owens finished his All-Star first half by punching out seven batters in 4 1/3 innings while giving up two runs on five hits and three walks. Four of his remaining six outs came via groundball. The 20-year-old -- who is the sixth-youngest pitcher in the Carolina League -- ranks second in the Carolina League (min. 50 innings) in strikeout rate with 11.0 per nine innings. He also ranks in the league's top five in WHIP (1.15, fifth) and opponents' batting average (.200, second). -- Outfielder Keury De La Cruz went 2-for-4 in Game 1 to close the first half with a 15-game hitting streak during which he's hitting .458/.468/.661. He's making consistent hard contact despite his aggressive approach, as he has just one walk but a modest seven strikeouts during his run. -- Outfielder Henry Ramos, 21, went 3-for-7 with a walk and a steal while playing both halves of the doubleheader, and in 18 June contests, he's hitting .382/.470/.636 with 10 walks and nine strikeouts along with four homers and four steals. -- Right-hander William Cuevas logged his third straight six-inning outing, and his second straight in which he gave up just one run. The 22-year-old allowed one run on five hits while striking out two and walking two. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-0 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Cody Kukuk allowed just one hit but lasted only 3 2/3 innings after a recurrence of extreme control issues, giving up two runs on six walks while striking out three. The 20-year-old wrapped up his first half with a promising .171 opponents' batting average and more than a strikeout an inning (9.3 per nine) while yielding just one homer, but with a jarring 8.4 walks per nine. His control issues have been slightly less exposed against lefties (17 percent walk rate, .132/.298/.211 line) than righties (22 percent walk rate, .183/.363/.242 line). -- Shortstop Jose Vinicio went 0-for-3 with a pair of punchouts. The 19-year-old switch-hitter is displaying extreme splits for the second straight year, hitting .201/.261/.275 as a left-handed hitter against righties and .130/.167/.196 as a righty against lefties. Of course, his struggles -- particularly an overly aggressive approach -- have been far broader than with just one side of the plate this year. Still, he enjoyed a healthy measure of success as an 18-year-old in Greenville last year, but once again showed extreme splits. As a left-handed hitter against righties, he hit .305/.347/.396, with a line of .203/.247/.304 as a righty against lefties. To this point, the team hasn't considered asking Vinicio -- who took up switch-hitting shortly before signing with the Sox as a 16-year-old in 2009 -- to become a full-time left-handed hitter, but it could become a topic if his struggles occur over a broader sample. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: DAY OFF