Is it good for the wellbeing of a team to finish a game by having a rally fall short? Does it build momentum for the next frustration, or does coming so close but still losing simply amplify the frustration from the defeat? Those questions can be asked about the Rays after their 9-8 loss on Wednesday, and unfortunately for the Hot Rods, they followed suit.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 2, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 1
Jake Thompson was due. After a rousing 2013 debut (6 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 7 K), Thompson got destroyed in his subsequent two starts, allowing 7 runs each. He only allowed 2 unearned runs in his fourth start, but got his pitch count up and only lasted 4 innings. After beginning the season with what had appeared to be a breakthrough performance, Thompson needed to find a way to flash that same type of ability again. It wasn’t quite pristine, but Thompson did just that for the Biscuits to lead them to victory over the Blue Wahoos. Thompson went 6 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 4 but managing an incredible 11-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Thompson’s command has been a major question for him the past couple of years, but he has begun to make progress in that regard and get back on the path to the major leagues. Hopefully this time Thompson can build on his 6 shutout innings in his coming starts.
Behind Thompson, C.J. Riefenhauser worked 2 shutout innings allowing 2 hits while striking out 1 and getting 3 more outs on the ground. Riefenhauser’s ERA on the season now stands at a minuscule 0.48 in 18.2 IP to go along with a 15-3 strikeout to walk ratio.Riefenhauser seems to have found his niche out of the bullpen and we’ll have to see whether he could become a bullpen option for the Rays over the next couple of years.
In terms of the run support, Mikie Mahtook had an RBI single in the 6th before Shawn O’Malley brought home a second run in the 7th on a groundout to give the Biscuits just enough to win. Robby Price and Mayo Acosta also went 2 for 4 for Montgomery. Thompson and Riefenhauser stole the show for the Biscuits in this one, and while the offense gave them little, their were more than willing to live up to the task.
Low-A Midwest League: Kane County Cougars (CHC) 5, Bowling Green Hot Rods 4
The Hot Rods entered the 9th inning down 4-1. Former Rays draft pick Pierce Johnson had shut them down for 6.2 innings, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1 and managing an 11-2 groundout to flyout ratio, and Bowling Green had been equally feeble against the Kane County bullpen. But in the 9th everything changed. Luke Maile singled to begin the inning off Jeffry Antigua, and two batters later, Patrick Leonard added a single of his own. Marty Gantt‘s infield baseball loaded the bases and put the tying runs on base for the Hot Rods, And Leonardo Reginatto got 1 in on his single to make it 4-2 before Joey Rickard‘s scored two more, and suddenly the game was tied at 4. That was all Bowling Green would get, but Nick Sawyer tossed a hitless 9th and the game went into extra innings. However, the Hot Rods went down in order and then Lake County made quick work of Marcus Jensen, getting a Pin-Chieh Chen double, a sac bunt, and a Dan Vogelbach walk-off single as the Cougars won 5-4. It has been an outstanding comeback in the 9th, but it had been entirely for nought as the Hot Rods lost the following inning.
Blake Snell got the start for Bowling Green in this one and failed to complete 5 innings for the 4th time time in 5 starts. Snell went 3.1 innings allowing 3 unearned runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3 and forcing a 4-0 groundout to flyout ratio. Snell’s ERA stands at 2.75, but he has just a 24-16 strikeout to walk ratio in 19.2 innings on the season and has to find a way to limit the walks a lot better than that. Following Snell was Jose Alberto Molina, not to be confused with the Rays catcher, and if Molina keeps pitching the way he did on Wednesday, the confusion will disappear before long. Molina went 3.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 6 while walking none and forcing a 4-1 groundout to flyout ratio. On the season, Molina’s ERA is just 5.06, but his strikeout to walk ratio is 16-3 in 16 innings pitched. Then there was Sawyer, who went 2 no-hit innings striking out 2 while walking 1. Sawyer hasn’t allowed an earned run since his first appearance of the season, a stretch of 7 appearances and 13 IP, but he needs work figuring out where his mid-90′s fastball and sharp slider are going as his strikeout to walk ratio has been just 19-12 over that stretch, just under a walk an inning. Hot Rods fans got to see some electric performances on Wednesday, but what does overpowering batters mean if you can’t throw strikes?
On offense for the Hot Rods, Leonardo Reginatto went 2 for 4 with a stolen base and an RBI, keeping his clutch gene going with his big RBI single in the 9th. Reginatto was huge for Short Season-A Hudson Valley in the playoffs last season and Brazil in the World Baseball Classic, and he’s not much a prospect but tantalizes you by just coming up with hit after hit when it matters most. Marty Gantt also went 2 for 4 with a run scored, Luke Maile went 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored, and Rickard went 1 for 5 with a stolen base and his critical 2-run single. Tyler Goeddel also went 1 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. There were certainly plenty of positives for Bowling Green in this one, but it had to be frustrating that they came all the way back only to lose an inning later.