Sometimes you never know which game can be the turning point. One good game could be the start of a run, and one bad game could be the beginning of a collapse. With one game being such a small sample, all you can do and take each performance in stride and see where it leads in the coming weeks and months.
Triple-A International League: Lehigh Valley Ironpigs (PHI) 6, Durham Bulls 4
It was probably inevitable and it definitely could have been far worse, but it was definitely a little scary to see Alex Torres lose control for the first time in way too long in a 6th inning collapse. With the Bulls trailing 2-0 entering the 6th, Torres had a rough inning, hitting a batter, walking a batter, and allowing two line drive hits, and add two errors to the equation and the Ironpigs had extended their lead to 6-0. That’s the type of outing that could happen to anyone–but in Torres’ case, his control breakthrough was so miraculous that we have to be especially overzealous. On the day, Torres went 5.2 innings allowing 6 runs, 4 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 8 while walking 3. For another player, that might be called an “encouraging outing” and it only raised Torres’ ERA to 2.38. He should be fine–certainly not panic time yet. Jeff Beliveau and Kirby Yates gave the Bulls hitless relief the rest of the way, striking out 8 in the last 3.1 innings (although Beliveau walked 3) to give the Bulls 16 strikeouts on the day. Pretty impressive. On the offensive side, Jason Bourgeois made up somewhat for his error to burn Torres by going 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and Cole Figueroa went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Speaking of players who have collapsed, Brandon Guyer has really had a rough go for a while now, going 0 for 4 to drop his average to .248 on the year. He’s just 20 for his last 90 (.222). Wil Myers got the day off for Durham.
Double-A Southern League: Birmingham Barons (CHW) 7, Montgomery Biscuits 3
Middle inning collapses are certainly a theme Rays fans have had enough of, but unfortunately that was the case in this inning as well. Jacob Thompson had been pitching well before allowing a walk and 2 singles in the 7th, and then Braulio Lara actually lost the strike zone, walking two and allowing a wild pitch before a Trayce Thompson 2-run single capped the 5-run rally. Thompson’s rough year continues as he went 6.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. His ERA stands at just 6.49 as he has had his moments, having a pair of outings where he has allowed just 2 hits in 6 innings, but remains exceedingly inconsistent on the whole. In terms of the offense, Mark Thomas had the breakout game we’ve been waiting for him to have, going 3 for 4 with 2 doubles and an RBI. He’s hitting just .141 on the season and a big part of that has been that he has struck out 21 times while walking just 4 times in 85 plate appearances–but all 4 of those walks have come in his last 10 games so hopefully he’s seeing the ball better and starting to turn himself around. Kevin Kiermaier went 3 for 5 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored for the Biscuits while Greg Sexton went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored. While we’re on the topic of players who have come apart, have to mention Cameron Seitzer, who is just 4 for his last 43 (.111) to drop him to just a .244/.355/.344 line on the season. Seitzer’s plate discipline is great as he has managed a 34-22 strikeout to walk ratio, but he just isn’t hitting the ball with any authority, and he has to change that.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Lake County Captains (CLE) 0
Rough day for the Bulls and Biscuits, but at least the Hot Rods will end this minor league recap on quite a positive note. It all starts with Taylor Guerrieri, who put together his finest outing as a pro. Guerrieri went 5 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 10 while walking just 2. The 10 strikeouts shattered his previous career high of 7. Amazing outing for Guerrieri, but amazingly he wasn’t really satisfied with himself after the game.
“I struggled in the beginning, with two walks in the first two innings. After that I tried to stay mentally strong and it worked out for me. I’m fine with my outing. The defense played well for me. The offense really hit well for me. It’s hard to lose when you put eight runs on the board.”
Guerrieri sure has lofty standards, and the Rays are going to do everything in their power to make sure he reaches that level someday. In terms of the run support Guerrieri alluded to, Tyler Goeddel broke out of a slump with a big game, going 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, a walk, and 3 RBI. The homer was his first of the year. It has been tough for Goeddel as he has been switching off between third base and shortstop and dealt with some injury problems, but hopefully he’s getting locked in again. Then there was Andrew Toles, whose 2013 season has been something to behold. Toles went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored, swiping 3 more bases in the process. He has now stolen 18 already this year, getting caught just once. Wow. Pair that with a .333/.367/.523 line and you have yourself a top prospect, although his plate discipline (21-5 K-BB) is an area where he really has to improve. Marty Gantt also went 2 for 4 with a run scored, but the most encouraging player of all was Patrick Leonard, who went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. He’s hitting just .155 on the year, but maybe this is the game where the lesser-known piece in the Wil Myers trade starts playing up to his capability. By the way, the Hot Rods tossed a 2-hitter in this game, with the three relievers behind Guerrieri not really impressing, striking out just 1, but only allowing 1 hit. Doesn’t get much better than scoring 8 runs to go along with a 2-hitter, and even more important were the performances of players like Guerrieri, Goeddel, and Leonard.