When certain pitchers are on the mound, there’s only so much you can do. You just have to hope they miss they spots, because if they don’t you’re in serious trouble. As Matt Moore blew by the Houston Astros on Monday night, Taylor Guerrieri, Mike Montgomery, and Enny Romero led the charge in the minor leagues as Rays affiliates managed a 1.59 ERA in their 8 games.
Triple-A International League: Game 1: Columbus Clippers (CLE) 2, Durham Bulls 1 (7 innings)
Mike Montgomery wasn’t exactly Moore-esque, but as the lefty celebrated his 24th birthday, he showed why he was once an extremely highly-regarded pitching prospect in his own right. Montgomery took the loss but was excellent, going 7 innings allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1 and forcing an 11-2 groundout to flyout ratio. It was the finest that Montgomery has looked since joining the Rays organization as he continues to show that his future may remain quite bright. There wasn’t much in the way of run support, though, as the Bulls managed just 4 hits and didn’t score until the bottom of the 7th. Shelley Duncan went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI while Tim Beckham went 1 for 3 with a run scored.
Game 2: Durham Bulls 5, Columbus Clippers 0 (7 innings)
This game was a bullpen game for Durham, but several dominant performances paired with solid offense helped the Bulls to a split of their doubleheader. Cory Wade got the start and allowed just a hit in his 2 innings of work, striking out 1. Adam Liberatore came next and allowed only a walk as he tossed 2 innings, striking out 3 in the process. C.J. Riefenhauser made his Triple-A debut with 1.2 hitless innings of his own, striking out 3 while walking 1, before Josh Lueke finished the game with 1.1 innings of 1-hit ball, getting 3 of his 4 outs on the ground. A 7 inning 2-hitter from four relief pitchers–not too shabby. In terms of the offense, Shelley Duncan stayed consistent as he went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI once again (also scoring a run), and Cole Figueroa went 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored while Brandon Guyer went 1 for 2 with his 17th steal, an RBI, and a run scored. Nice way for the Bulls to rebound and finish the day on a high note.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 2
Enny Romero has been heralded at times as the next dominant Rays lefty after Scott Kazmir, David Price, and Matt Moore. Right now, it seems like Romero is taking after Moore more than anyone. Much like Moore at the beginning of the season, Romero continues to deliver outstanding results despite mediocre strikeout to walk ratios, but whatever he’s doing, it’s working extremely well. On Monday, Romero struck out just 3 while walking 3 as well and managed just a 4-8 groundout to flyout ratio, but he allowed just 3 hits in 7 innings to lead the Biscuits to victory. In his last 10 starts, Romero is now 7-2 with a 1.21 ERA, allowing just 41 hits but managing just a 40-22 strikeout to walk ratio in 59.2 innings pitched. Romero has a ton of room to grow in his development as a pitcher–but if nothing else, this stretch has to be building his confidence and you never how much that could pay off. After Marquis Fleming followed with a tough outing, Erik Hamren struck out 3 in the last 1.2 innings as he worked around 3 hits. On the offensive side, Riccio Torrez went 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored, Hector Guevara had a 2-run single, Kyeong Kang went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored, and Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
High-A Florida State League: Game 1: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 1 (7 innings)
Ryan Carpenter provided the pitching and Alejandro Segovia the power as the Stone Crabs started their doubleheader with a bang. Carpenter went 5 innings allowing 1 runs on 4 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2 but forcing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Carpenter rebounded nicely after lasting just a third of an inning in his last start. Frank De Los Santos followed with a 2-inning rehab appearance that went very well as he tossed perfect ball with a strikeout. De Los Santos hasn’t done anything since being added to the Rays’ 40-man roster after being sidelined by a shoulder injury, but maybe he’s finally moving towards coming back to Triple-A and eventually making his major league debut when the Rays need him. On the offensive side, 3 of the Stone Crabs’ 5 runs came on the home run, and 2 of those were off the bat of Alejandro Segovia, who went 2 for 3 with 2 home runs. He now has 5 homers in his last 8 games. Segovia has put up nice numbers on the season, managing a .274/.348/.500 line with 12 home runs in 227 plate appearances. He can really hit, but he was never good enough defensively to stick at catcher and all the pressure will be on his bat at first base. Kes Carter also slammed a solo home run, Curt Casali went 2 for 4, and Drew Vettleson had a huge game, going 3 for 4 with 3 doubles and RBI. Vettleson got off to an awful start in April, putting up just a .191/.208/.287 line, but from that point until the end of this first game, he hit to a .322/.397/.495 line in 203 plate appearances, playing some of the best baseball we’ve even seen from him.
Game 2: Jupiter Hammerheads 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0 (7 innings)
As seems to be the case so often in doubleheaders, the Hammerheads turned the table entirely on the Stone Crabs in the second game. Marlins top prospect Justin Nicolino was excellent for Jupiter, striking out 7 in 5.1 shutout innings, while Felipe Rivero wasn’t nearly up to par, allowing 5 runs, 4 earned, on 7 hits in 4 innings, striking out 2 and walking 1. Jacob Partridge and Shay Crawford delivered scoreless relief work to end the game, but by then it was too late. There wasn’t much to come by for Charlotte’s bats, but Kes Carter did wrap up his strong doubleheader by going 2 for 3 and Ryan Brett and Jake DePew both went 1 for 3.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 6, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 1
Taylor Guerrieri is just something special. His stuff is outstanding–no one disputes that–and he pairs it with a polish unheard of for such a young player. In another organization, he might be primed to do when Jose Fernandez did for the Marlins this season and jump to the majors one year after playing at Low-A. The reason: starts like this. Guerrieri went 6 shutout innings and wasn’t overpowering but certainly did the job, allowing 6 hits and no walks while striking out 3. His groundout to flyout ratio was 8-1. How did he do it? Guerrieri described it to MiLB.com’s Sam Dykstra.
“The fastball command felt good. The changeup was working well, which is great for me. I think I threw it 20 times today. Then, the defense played great too. The curveball just wasn’t there for me, but the changeup was getting in there for strikes. I was feeling pretty comfortable with it.”
Guerrieri’s curveball is his best strikeout pitch, but it wasn’t working so he relied on his changeup and locating his fastball down in the zone for groundalls to keep the Whitecaps off the board nonetheless. What other pitcher at the Low-A level could he possibly do that and be so successful? And by the way, he just started throwing the changeup last year! The Rays love being patient with pitchers, but Guerrieri has to be at High-A by the end of this season and if he keeps pitching like this, making his big league debut by September of 2014 or early on in 2015 isn’t crazy talk. Guerrieri extended his scoreless streak to 22 innings with his 6 shutout frames in this outing and overall on the year he is 6-2 with a 2.08 ERA, a 50-11 strikeout to walk ratio, and a 3.09 groundout to airout ratio in 13 starts and 65 innings pitched. He doesn’t strike out as many batters as your typical top prospect but it doesn’t even matter. He hasn’t walked more than 2 batters in a start all season and has allowed 3 earned runs or more just twice.
Guerrieri wasn’t the entire story in this game. Matt Ramsey allowed 1 run on 3 hits in the following 2 innings, but he struck out 4 while walking 1 to improve his strikeout to walk ratio to 36-10 in 26 innings pitched. Monday wasn’t his best night, but his ERA is 2.42. The Rays couldn’t have asked Ramsey for anything more in his pro debut after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Marcus Jensen struck out 2 in a perfect 9th. He has a 32-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 48.2 innings pitched to go along with a 2.40 ERA. The Hot Rods did have an offense in this one as well and an impressive one as that as six players delivered multi-hit games. Luke Maile went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and a run scored while Tyler Goeddel, Tommy Coyle, Marty Gantt, Patrick Leonard, and Brandon Martin all came through with 2 hits. Huge win for the Hot Rods, with plenty of players impressing and Guerrieri stealing the spotlight.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 1, Hudson Valley Renegades (13 innings)
After the Renegades won 1-0 in 11 innings on Sunday, they were on the wrong end of a 13-inning 1-0 game on Monday. Let’s just say that it certainly was not the pitchers’ fault. Austin Pruitt, the Rays’ 9th round pick in this year’s draft, is a polished college arm at Short Season-A dominating as he should. In this game, Pruitt went 5 innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. Pruitt hasn’t allowed a run in his first 14 professional innings. Rick Teasley ran into trouble in relief of him, allowing 4 hits and a walk in 1.2 innings, but he didn’t allow a run with help from Harmen Sidhu, who went 2.1 innings allowing just a hit, striking out 3 in doing so. Kevin Brandt followed with 3 perfect innings with 4 strikeouts before Cory Jordan finally faltered, allowing a go-ahead double to Sam Kimmel. The Renegades’ lineup was totally inept in this one. They managed just 7 hits in 13 innings and went just 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position. Darryl George and Jonathan Quinonez are the only players who could possibly say that they had a good game, with George going 2 for 3 with 2 walks and Quinonez going 2 for 5 with his New York-Penn League-leading 8th double.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 2, Johnson City Cardinals 1
A couple of clutch hits made the P-Rays’ great pitching hold up as they beat the Cardinals 2-1. Jorge Rodriguez had a great start, going 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1 and forcing a 10-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Clayton Crum followed with 2 shutout relief innings, allowing 2 hits but striking out 2, and Hunter Wood finished the game with 2 strikeouts in his perfect 9th. Crum got the win and Wood got the save thanks to the efforts of Bralin Jackson and Travis Flores. Jackson tied the game at 1 with a 2-out RBI triple, and Flores gave the Rays the lead in the 8th with a solo home run. Flores, Jackson, and Douglas Duran all had multiple hits in the game to account for the entire Princeton offense.