It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. For a baseball team, it doesn’t matter when you score your runs and when you allow them as long as you have more runs than your opponent at the end of the game. But even if that’s true, our perception of games differ enormously when our favorite team has a late collapse or a 9th inning rally. Even if the team wins by eight runs, if they allow four runs in the 9th it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of every fan and the focus ends up being as much on the bullpen’s struggles as the offense’s extraordinary effort. If they rally in the 9th, though, all earlier concerns are all but forgotten and even after a game that was terrible for eight innings, fans leave feeling great about their team. For the Rays and the Triple-A Durham Bulls on Tuesday, luckily the later was the case.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 9, Buffalo Bisons (TOR) 8
The Bulls held a 3-0 lead after an inning of play in this game, but after that, everything turned in entirely the wrong direction. The Bisons scored at least one run in each inning from the 2nd to the 7th, jumping out to an 8-4 lead after the top of the 7th. But from there, Wil Myers took over. His 2-run home run in the bottom of the 7th made it 8-6, and his 2-run homer in the 9th made it 8-8 before Tim Beckham won the game for Durham with an RBI single as the Bulls won 9-8. For Myers, the game was just the latest development in his recent hot streak. Myers now has a six-game hitting streak including multiple hits in his last four, and he’s hitting .393 (11 for 28) with 5 homers, 3 doubles, and 15 RBI over that span. The Rays waited the entire season for Myers to finally break out, and now it’s really happening. And when the Rays need Myers in the major leagues, they won’t hesitate to make the call.
Mike Montgomery got the start for the Bulls and allowed 5 runs, 4 earned, on 8 hits in 5 innings, but he actually showed several positive signs, striking out 6 while walking 1 and managing an 8-2 groundout to flyout ratio. It was the opposite of his last start, where he pitched well but only struck out 2 while walking 2. Hopefully the results will be better, but Montgomery is throwing the ball well as he digs himself out of the hole he’s gotten into with seasons of struggles. Will Inman just made things worse in relief, allowing 3 runs in 2 innings, but Cory Wade was great to finish the game for Durham, going 2 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 1. In terms of the run support, Myers was far from the only player to contribute. Vince Belnome reached base ahead of both Myers home runs and went 3 for 4 with a double, 2 walks, and 4 runs scored, raising his average to .349 and his OBP to a ridiculous .454 in the process. Leslie Anderson and Shelley Duncan both had 3 hits including a double, with Anderson driving in 2 and scoring once. It was Duncan, though, who followed up Myers’ 9th inning homer with a single before Jason Bourgeois pinch-ran for him and stole second base to set up Beckham’s game-ending heroics. Beckham went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI in the game and he’s quietly having a solid season, hitting .276. Myers is the only prospect that every Rays cares about, but great to see so many Bulls step up to help their team to a dramatic win.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 6, Mississippi Braves 4
A late bullpen collapse made this one scary, but a great start from Matt Buschmann and a couple key tack-on runs by the Biscuits offense made sure the Montgomery won nevertheless. Buschmann lowered his ERA on the season to 2.69 as he went 7 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He ran into a couple of bad starts after an outstanding start to the year, but suddenly he is right back on track. Had to be nice for Buschmann to get four early runs of support, with Kyeong Kang lacing a 3-run double in the first inning before Robby Price drilled a solo homer in the 2nd, and while Buschmann didn’t need nearly that much the Biscuits as a whole certainly did after Andrew Bellatti allowed 4 runs in the 8th. Mikie Mahtook and Cameron Seitzer had RBI hits in the 7th to put the game out of reach and prevent the 4 runs in the 8th from making a difference. Kevin Kiermaier, Shawn O’Malley, and Mahtook all had multiple hits for the Biscuits in the victory.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 2, Palm Beach Cardinals 1
What a difference a year makes for Roberto Gomez. After managing an incredible 2.48 ERA at Low-A Bowling Green last season, Gomez’s ERA stood at 6.85 entering his start on Tuesday. But while Gomez’s run from last season is over, it doesn’t mean that he still can’t be an effective pitcher, and against the Cardinals he showed just how good he can be. Gomez was perfect through 3.2 IP before hitting Stephen Piscotty and still had a no-hitter through 5, allowing only a walk in the 5th. In the 6th, though, a Juan Castillo to begin the inning finally ended it, but Gomez still wasn’t done, getting a double play to get out of the inning before working a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th. There was one issue: the Stone Crabs hadn’t scored him a single run. That finally changed in the 8th as Kes Carter and Jake Hager came through with two-out RBI singles to make it 2-0 Stone Crabs. Things got tighter in the bottom of the inning after Gomez departed following a second hit batsman and Lenny Linsky allowed an RBI double to Castillo. But Linsky was able to get out of the inning and work a perfect 9th to finish off Charlotte’s 2-1 win. Gomez was unbelievable, going 7.1 innings allowing 1 run on just 1 hit, striking out 4 while walking 1. His ERA is still just 6.19, but he now has gone 7 strong innings in his last two starts and he is finally getting himself together. Linsky allowed just 1 hit in the final 1.2 innings with 1 strikeout for the save as he finished off the 2-hitter. Certainly upsetting that Linsky allowed that double, but he continued his huge bounce-back year from a shoulder injury, lowering his ERA to 2.17 with a 24-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 29 IP. On the offensive side, Carter had 3 hits and Hager and Drew Vettleson each had 2, and luckily they were able to come through with a pair of runs in the nick of time to get Gomez and the Stone Crabs the win.