Welcome to Minor League Opening Day – Part Two. Thursday night, the top four minor league affiliates for the Rays were slated to open the seasons; however, the Durham Bulls and the Charlotte Stone Crabs both had their first games rained out. Yet, some things are worth the wait, as the Bulls and Stone Crabs kicked their seasons off last night.
Durham Bulls 11, Norfolk Tides (Baltimore) 2
You could forgive Chris Archer if he was disappointed about not making the Rays as the team’s fifth starter out of training camp. Despite his excellent Spring Training, he was assigned to the Bulls, drawing the start on Opening Day. After giving up a run in the first inning, Archer and the Bulls cruised to an 11-2 victory over the Tides. Durham scored three runs in the second, keyed by an error by Travis Ishikawa that led to a run scored and a runner on third. The Bulls scored three more in the fifth, highlighted by an RBI double from Wil Myers and a run scoring triple off the bat of Mike Fontenot. Two more runs scored for Durham in the sixth, before the Bulls put up their third three run inning in the seventh, highlighted by Brandon Guyer‘s two run double. Five Bulls finished with two hits, with Hak-Ju Lee scoring two runs, hitting a triple, stealing abase, and tallying an RBI. Myers finished 1-4, scoring a run and driving in two more. However, he struck out twice, which was a possible concern when the Rays acquired him. If Archer can continue to put together strong outings, and Myers can make contact more consistently, both may find themselves in Tampa relatively soon.
Montgomery Biscuits 2, Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox) 1
The Biscuits and Barons engaged in a pitcher’s duel Friday night, as Montgomery starter Albert Suarez nearly matched Birmingham counterpart Spenser Arroyo pitch for pitch. Following four scoreless innings, the Barons got on the board first. Cody Puckett led off the inning with a single, and reached third following an error on Riccio Torrez. With runners on the corners, Marcus Semien singled to drive in the game’s first run. With runners on first and second, Suarez managed to escape without any further damage, helped by Semien being gunned down trying to steal second base. The Biscuits took advantage of the Barons’ miscues in the bottom half of the inning. With one out, Ty Morrison had a bunt single, and moved up to second on a wild pitch. Shawn O’Malley singled to put runners on first and third, and Morrison scored on another wild pitch. The Barons took the lead the following inning, as Kevin Kiermaier hit an RBI triple, but was later caught trying to steal home to end the inning. Suarez gave up six hits and a walk, leading to an unearned run, in five innings, striking out five batters. Arroyo also allowed six hits and a walk in his five innings or work, but he struck out three batters and gave up an earned run. Kiermaier and Cameron Seitzer each had two hits in the win, as Seitzer has started off well after his jump from Bowling Green. Marquis Fleming picked up the win with two perfect innings in relief, striking out two batters. Adam Liberatore picked up the save, allowing a hit in two innings while recording three strikeouts. However, the Biscuits may have to be concerned about their defense, as they committed four errors, including two in the fourth inning. Unless that gets corrected, they may find it difficult to win a lot of close games.
Palm Beach Cardinals 3, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1 (Game One – Seven innings)
In the first game of the Opening Day doubleheader, the Cardinals jumped out on starter Parker Markel in the first inning, scoring all three of their runs in the first frame. With two out and a runner on second, Cody Stanley tripled to drive in the game’s first run, and scored on a double off the bat of Jonathan Rodriguez. Rodriguez was driven in by an RBI single from Stephen Piscotty. Markel escaped the inning, but found himself in another jam in the second. With two outs, the Cardinals had runners on first and third, but Markel escaped once again. The Stone Crabs got on the board in the top of the third, as Kes Carter led off the inning with a single, and scored on Jake Hager‘s RBI double. A sacrifice bunt move hager to third, and it appeared as though Charlotte would be able to further close the gap. However, the Stone Crabs were unable to push another run across the plate, as the Cardinals won Game One by a score of 3-1. Markel took the loss, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk in five innings, while recording four strikeouts. Hager and Drew Vettleson each went 1-3 with a double. The way Markel bounced back in his first start at High A may be a good sign going forward. Hopefully, he will be able to rebound and pitch well in his next outing.
Palm Beach Cardinals 8, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2 (Game Two – Seven innings)
Following the loss in the first game of the doubleheader, the Stone Crabs were looking to even the series with a win in the nightcap. However, the Cardinals jumped out early again, waiting until the second inning. After an out, the Cardinals loaded the bases. Charlotte starter Felipe Rivero then forced in a run, as he hit James Ramsey with a pitch. Following an infield single to put Palm Beach ahead 2-0, Rivero got a popout for the second out of the inning. A bases loaded walk forced in another run, and a wild pitch led to the fourth run of the inning. After Rivero walked the next batter to reload the bases, he was removed for Eliazer Suero, who closed out the inning. The Stone Crabs got a run back in the top of the third, as Jake Hager had an RBI double, but the Cardinals put three more runs on the board in the bottom of the inning on three consecutive RBI singles. Drew Vettleson homered in the top of the sixth to cut the lead to 7-2, but the Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the frame, and swept the doubleheader. Rivero had a rough outing, giving up four runs, one earned, on four hits and two walks in 1.2 innings. Suero gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in his 3.1 innings of work, and recorded a strikeout. Alejandro Segovia was 2-3 in the loss.
South Bend Silver Hawks (Arizona) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
The game started out well for the Hot Rods, as leadoff hitter Joey Rickard laced a double, and scored on Patrick Leonard‘s two out single to put Bowling Green ahead early. The Silver Hawks tied the game in the bottom of the frame, as leadoff hitter Breland Almadova walked, then stole second and third with two outs, coming around to score on an infield single off the bat of Socrates Brito. Hot Rods starter Blake Snell had control problems throughout most of his appearance, which truly reared up in the third. After a leadoff double, Snell walked the bases loaded with one out. He struck out the next batter to get an out away from escaping, but a run came in on a failed pickoff attempt. Following another walk, Snell exited. A wild pitch by Brandon Henderson allowed another run to score, and a walk reloaded the bases. Henderson did get a strikeout to end the threat, but the Silver Hawks had built a 3-1 lead. Bowling Green closed to within a run in the seventh, as Ryan Dunn doubled with one out, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on an RBI groundout by Leonardo Reginatto. The Silver Hawks put the game away in the eighth, scoring three more times, highlighted by an RBI double from Kevin Medrano and a two run triple by Breland Almadova. Snell took the loss, allowing three runs on two hits and six walks in 2.2 innings of work. Even though he struggled with his control, Snell did manage four strikeouts. Henderson pitched well in relief, allowing a hit and a walk in four innings. Leonard continued to hit, going 2-4 with an RBI. if he continues to hit and show the power potential he displayed last year, Leonard may end up being another steal for the Rays.