In Wednesday’s major league game, it was big for Jeremy Hellickson that he was able to get 5 strikeouts compared to just 2 walks as he tossed six 1-run innings for the Rays. The Rays’ three minor league starters that night posted an outstanding 18 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio. Not all their results where as good as Hellickson’s but Wednesday’s minor league games did showcase the promise of several players in the Rays system.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 4, Durham Bulls 2
One bad inning- that was all it took. For 8 innings of this game, the Durham Bulls were in control. But one bad inning coupled with missed opportunities the rest of the game left the Bulls in the loser’s column for the 10th consecutive game and 13th time in their last 14.
It was Matt Torra‘s night. Torra struck out two in a perfect 1st. Then he racked up a 3rd K in a 1-2-3 second inning. Six batters later he was perfect through 4 with 4 strikeouts. The Bulls had stranded five baserunners against Norfolk starter Dana Eveland (who has 100 major league appearances under his belt, mostly for the Athletics), but they finally pushed a couple runs across in the 4th on an RBI groundout by Kyle Hudson and an RBI single by Shawn O’Malley. After four perfect innings, Torra hoped to keep it hoping into the 5th. But the perfect game and no-hitter was quickly broken up by a Joe Mahoney single. Then Luis Exposito followed with another single and a third single by Jamie Hoffmann loaded the bases. Torra then got Scott Beerer to ground into a force play at 2nd, scoring one run. Torra forced another grounder, but Matt Mangini at third made a huge error and that opened the floodgates. One run scored on the play and then Steve Tollefson followed by doubling in the inning’s third run before an Xavier Avery sac fly gave Norfolk a 4-2 lead before Torra finally got out if the inning on a Matt Antonini flyout. But the craziest part of the entire game was that after that inning, Torra got right back to his no-hit stuff, throwing a perfect 6th and allowing just a hit batsman in the 7th. Torra went 7 innings, allowing 4 runs, 3 ER, on 4 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. 63 of his 91 pitches were strikes as he was in control. But the bad 5th inning put Torra in line for the loss.
8 of the 9 Bulls starters had at least one hit, but every hit with a single and the Bulls went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. The Bulls lost 4-2 despite 10 hits compared to Norfolk’s 5. They had one out and the tying runs on in the 9th, but they failed to come away with a run. The one starter without a hit was Reid Brignac, who went 0 for 3 with a walk. But that wasn’t the worst of his night. In the 6th, Mahoney hit a pop-up to shallow centerfield. Brignac ventured back as Kyle Hudson sprinted in from centerfield. Brignac prepared to make the catch, but suddenly second baseman Shawn O’Malley came out of nowhere and got in Brignac’s way. O’Malley made the catch, but collided with Brignac and elbowed him in the upper body. Brignac remained in the game and actually fielded a 6-3 groundout the next play, but it may have been Brignac just trying to show his toughness after all the questions that have come up about him over the past year. Hopefully he’s actually OK. (Thanks to Bulls Gameday for the information about the collision- see here and here.) Brignac’s ordeal added injury to insult in this game as the Bulls lost a game they well should have won. The Bulls got some hits and they got 6 no-hit innings out of Torra, but everything simply could not come together as they could not get hits with runners in scoring position and Torra had one bad inning.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 8, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 0
A lot of eyes were on this game, but not for the Stone Crabs but for the Marauders starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole, the number on overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He would be facing off against Stone Crabs lefty C.J. Riefenhauser, who was making his first start of the year after four dominant relief outing (19 K’s versus 2 walks in 13.2 IP). In this game, Riefenhauser was the superior pitcher. After Riefenhauser tossed two perfect innings to begin the game and Cole worked a 1-2-3 frame in the 1st, the defense collapsed behind Cole in the 2nd inning, making three errors as the Stone Crabs took a 3-0 lead. The only RBI hit was a single by Derek Dietrich. The Stone Crabs then added a couple of “legitimate runs” in the 3rd, with Riccio Torrez lacing an RBI single and Dietrich hitting a sac fly. Cole did not pitch that badly, allowing 5 runs, 2 earned, in 5 innings, allowing just 3 hits as he struck out 5 while walking 2. But Riefenhauser was simply better. Riefenhauser went 5+ innings, tossing shutout ball while allowing just 2 hits, striking out 8 while walking 2. George Jensen tossed 1-hit ball for three innings before Nate Garcia worked around a hit in the 9th to complete the 4-hitter for the Stone Crabs. Their pitching was dominant all night.
On the hitting side, the first four spots in the Stone Crabs batting order went just 0 for 17 with a walk. But the bottom of the lineup stepped up, led by Dietrich, banished to the 7th hole after being in the 3rd hole the entire year, who went 3 for 3 with a double, a sac fly, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored. Steven Tinoco went 1 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI while Riccio Torrez and Mayo Acosta each went 1 for 3 with an RBI and run scored and Mikie Mahtook went 1 for 2 with a walk, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. Everything clicked for the Stone Crabs on Wednesday night as they went over .500 for the year at 10-9.
Low-A Midwest League: Beloit Snappers (MIN) 9, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
We hear all about clutch hitting. But in the games where people get on base against you, clutch pitching is just as important. The Hot Rods had a decent game in the former category on Wednesday night, but execrable clutch pitching led to a blow out. The Hot Rods got out to a 2-0 lead thanks to single runs in the 3rd and 4th. Drew Vettleson had a key RBI single in the 3rd while the Rays scoring in the 4th came in vintage Rays fashion: a squeeze bunt by Matt Rice. Hot Rods started Roberto Gomez, meanwhile, had allowed just 2 hits through 4 innings and was coasting along. But then he finally got into trouble in the 5th and could not stop the bleeding. Gomez allowed a 1-out triple to Taylor Grimes, and then a Jairo Rodriguez RBI single got Beloit on the board. But then Adam Petterson was hit by a pitch. And then Wang-Wei Lin singles to load the bases and Adam Bryant made Gomez and the Hot Rods pay, drilling a 2-run single to take a 3-2 lead.
Bowling Green tied the game in the top of the 6th on an RBI single by Rice. But the Snappers rallied again, this time off of reliever Justin Woodall, who walked the bases-loaded before allowing an RBI groundout and a 2-run double. Stayton Thomas had to come in to record the final out of the inning. But then Thomas ran into trouble as the Hot Rods stretched him out, allowing 3 runs in the 8th inning on 3 hits and a walk, and the game’s final was 9-3. The Hot Rods scored just 3 runs on 10 hits while the Snappers scored 9 runs on 10 hits. The Hot Rods went 3 f0r 10 with runners in scoring position, solid, but they got just two extra-base hits, neither of which drove in a run. Jeff Malm (2 for 4, double, 2 runs), Taylor Motter (2 for 4), and Juniel Querecuto (2 for 3) all had multi-hit games for the Hot Rods and Matt Rice went 1 for 2 with 2 RBI and Drew Vettleson went 1 for 4 with an RBI, but while the Snappers were turning baserunners into 3-run rallies, the Hot Rods came away with one run each time. The Hot Rods fell to 13-7 with the loss, still a great record, and hopefully they’ll be able to get to being the clutch team they have been all season both on the mound and in the batter’s box to keep their hot streak going.