Tuesday was quite a day for the Rays and their affiliates. Matt Moore earned his first win of the season, getting backed up by a triple and homer by Matt Joyce. But while the Rays played a nice game versus the Seattle Mariners, a couple of their affiliates were playing games that were captivating until the very end.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Louisville Bats (CIN) 4
If only this game had occurred the same night as the Elliot Johnson walk-off game. The Bulls jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd off of ex-Reds (and others) starter Brett Tomko when Kyle Hudson doubled in Shawn O’Malley, but Louisville tied it up the following inning on a Kristopher Negron triple and Chris Valaika groundout. That would be the only run surrendered by Lance Pendleton, who went 4 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits, although he posted just a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio and 3-4 groundout to flyout ratio. The Bulls retook the lead in the 5th against Tomko on a Stephen Vogt single and Leslie Anderson RBI double. Tomko went 5 innings, allowing just 2 runs despite 7 hits and 5 walks, striking out 4. The Bulls faltered with men on base against him, stranding 8 runners, 5 in scoring position. The Bats made Durham pay in the 6th when Daniel Dorn slammed a solo homer off of Jhonny Nunez to tie the game at 2 and allowed a double before lefty John Gaub came in to escape the jam. Gaub struck out 2, forced a groundout, and surrendered just 1 hit in 1.1 shutout innings. Josh Lueke would pitch the 8th for the Bulls, but he allowed a Denis Phipps double and Mike Constanzo single to put the Bulls behind 3-2 entering the bottom of the 8th. But the Bulls had a rally in store against Louisville closer Josh Judy.
Bats reliever Jordan Smith exited with 2 outs in the 8th after allowing a Kyle Hudson single and gave way to Judy. Hudson immediately rattled Judy by stealing second base to move the tying run into scoring position. Reid Brignac subsequently walked, bringing Jesus Feliciano to the plate for a big 2-out at-bat. And Feliciano delivered, slamming a 2-run double to give the Bulls the lead. Cesar Ramos came in for the 9th for Durham and got a 4-6-3 double play to pull within one out of clinching the ball game. But Negron drilled a game-tying home run, and after the Bulls stranded a runner in the 9th, the game went to extra-innings. Ramos pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the inning, Shawn O’Malley led off with a single before Hudson bunted him to 2nd. A Brignac groundball advanced him to 3rd with Feliciano coming up to the plate in another big spot. And once again, Feliciano came through, grounding a walk-off single as the Bulls won 5-4. Ramos (2-0) got a somewhat undeserved win while Judy (1-1) took the loss. A bunch of Bulls player had big offensive days starting with Feliciano, who went 3 for 5 with a double, a walk, and 3 huge RBI. Shawn O’Malley went 3 for 4 with a walk and the winning run and Kyle Hudson went 2 for 4 with a a double, an RBI, a run scored, and 2 stolen bases. And then there was Reid Brignac. Brignac went 0 for 2 in the game, lowering his batting average at Durham to just .111. But for the first time in his professional career, Brignac drew 3 walks in a game and actually set his personal record again with his 4th base-on-balls, scoring a run as well. Hopefully those walks are indicative of a real breakthrough for Brignac and he’s finally beginning to figure something out. The Bulls record improved to just 8-18 on the season. Hopefully this win will help get them going.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 6, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 5
The Biscuits faced an uphill battle from the onset on Tuesday night. But they battled back and came away with a win. The Smokies rallied for three runs against Biscuits starter Matt Buschmann in the first inning, starting the game with a James Adduci single, a Logan Watkins 2-run blast, and a Jae-Hoon Ha double. Ha would later score on a Michael Burgress groundout to give the Smokies a 3-0 lead after 1. The Biscuits got one run back in the 2nd on a Mark Thomas RBI single, but Adduci threw out Thomas trying to score on Hak-Ju Lee‘s single to keep it a 3-1 game. Luckily for the Biscuits, Buschmann settled down after the rough first, tossing 3 shutout innings. All in all, Buschmann went 4 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. Impressively, he forced a 6-1 groundball to flyball ratio. Buschmann pitched well to end his outing and maybe he’s starting to find something.
The Smokies restored their 3-run lead on an RBI single by Michael Brenly off of Frank De Los Santos in the 6th. But the Biscuits finally got something going in the 7th, getting back-to-back triples by Brad Coon and Lee and a Tyler Bortnick groundout to pull within 4-3. And there was more to come in the 8th. Michael Sheridan singled to begin the 8th ahead of a Kyeong Kang 2-run blast after a tough 10-pitch at-bat to give the Biscuits their first lead. With 1 out, Coon singled, stole second before Lee struck out, and then stole third with Tyler Bortnick at the plate. Bortnick singled Coon in, providing Montgomery with a huge insurance run as Michael Burgess led off the 8th with a homer off of Marquis Fleming. But Adam Liberatore entered the game for a 1.2 inning save as the Biscuits held on to win 6-5, improving their record to 11-15. Hak-Ju Lee just continues to hit and went 2 for 5 with a single, a triple, an RBI, and a run scored on Tuesday night, and four other Biscuits had multi-hit games: Henry Wrigley (2 for 3, 2 walks, 3 stolen bases- his first 3 of the year), Brad Coon (2 for 3, walk, 2 stolen bases, 2 runs scored), Omar Luna (2 for 5, stolen base), and Mark Thomas (2 for 4, RBI). Kang went 1 for 5 with his 2-run homer while Bortnick went 1 for 4 with a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI. It was a nice come-from-behind win for the Biscuits as they proved the clique right again that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 4, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 1
While the two games above mirrored (in some respects) Monday night’s Rays-Mariners extra-inning thriller, this one in Bradenton paralleled Tuesday’s game. Braulio Lara and the Stone Crabs fell behind 1-0 on a fluky play in the 2nd as Alex Dickerson scored as Mel Rojas got caught in a rundown. But Charlotte tied the game in the 3rd, with Cody Rogers singling, stealing a base, and scoring on Ty Morrison‘s single, and then the Stone Crabs grabbed the lead in the 4th as Derek Dietrich finally slammed his first homer of the season after 22 in 2011 to give Charlotte a 2-1 lead. Robby Price later doubled in two runs in the 6th to extend that lead to 4-1. Lara was great, going 6 innings and allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. 6 of his 10 in-play outs were on the ground. Eliazer Suero worked around 4 hits to pitch 2 scoreless innings of relief, and Chris Rearick struck out 2 for a shutout 9th and the save as the Stone Crabs won 4-1. Price went 2 for 3 with the double and 2 RBI for Charlotte while Rogers went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored. Dietrich and Morrison made their hits count as Dietrich went 1 for 4 with his homer and Morrison went 1 for 4 with an RBI single and a stolen base. The Stone Crabs moved within one game of .500 at 12-13 with this win, and if they can get pitching like this and hopefully a little more hitting, they have the ability to use reaching .500 as a spring for something more.