Over the course of a season, what is more important, your pitchers pitching well or them providing length? Obviously you wish that they’d do both, but you would certainly take 5 shutout innings over 7 innings allowing 5 runs any day. But a key for a team to win over the course of a long season is to pitch well most of the time and manage to provide length and save the bullpen even when you don’t, making sure one loss doesn’t carry over to the games afterwards. And sometimes when a pitcher battles to simply save the bullpen, sometimes his team rallies to earn him the win.
Triple-A International League: Columbus Clippers (CLE) 5, Durham Bulls 4
The difference between this year and last year is night and day for Mike Montgomery. This year, even when he struggles, he still shows signs for optimism. Montgomery went 6.2 innings allowing 5 runs, 4 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 5. His groundout to flyout ratio was an outstanding 11-3. Montgomery had far from his best stuff but he used strong fastball command to save the Durham bullpen and keep the Bulls in the game. The Bulls offense couldn’t quite get him enough. Mike Fontenot went 2 for 4 with a homer and 3 RBI, Tim Beckham went 1 for 3 with a homer, a walk, and 2 runs scored, Leslie Anderson went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored, and Chris Gimenez went 1 for 3 with a double.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 4, Montgomery Biscuits 2
Marquis Fleming has basically always been a relief pitcher. He entered 2013 having made just one career start and never having gone more than 3.2 innings in an appearance. Then this season, he made a spot-start and went 4 innings for a new career high. But on Monday, in his second spot-start, Fleming did something that no one could have fathomed entering the game. He didn’t pitch that well but he gave the Biscuits everything he had, going 6 innings allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, striking out 3 while walking none and forcing a 10-4 groundout to flyout ratio. What was supposed to be a bullpen game turned out to be one where they had to cover just 2 more innings beyond Fleming. The Biscuits lost the game, but it was going to be tough from the start and saving the bullpen will be key for them in coming days. Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 4 with a homer and a double and Todd Glaesmann and Robi Estrada both went 2 for 4 as well in the loss.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Lakeland Flying Tigers 3
This game began with Brandon Gomes making another rehab appearance, and once again it did not go that well as he went 1.1 innings allowing 2 runs, both earned, on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. Rehab results can certainly be taken with a grain of salt, but given that Gomes certainly doesn’t have a bullpen spot locked up even when he’s healthy (especially with Jesse Crain acquired), you really want to see him do better than that. But enough about Gomes and let’s talk about this game.
Gomes’ rough outing set the Stone Crabs back a little bit, but they followed Gomes with their scheduled starting pitcher for the day, Felipe Rivero, and he gave them an outing to remember. Rivero threw the rest of the game, going 7.1 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Don’t see relief appearances like that too often. Rivero entered the game in a 3-2 contest that eventually Lakeland tied at 3 and just gave the Stone Crabs some of his best pitching of the season to keep the game tied. Rivero does have a complete game this season, but it was a 7-inning effort in a doubleheader and it must have been quite a rush to actually get the feeling of finishing a game that he basically started to lead his team to victory. Alejandro Segovia had a very interesting game, going 3 for 5 with a homer, a triple, and double. The triple was his first of the season and just the 3rd of his 6-year pro career, so he may have missed the best chance for a cycle he’s ever going to get. Drew Vettleson went 2 for 5 with 3 RBI and Jake Hager went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored.
Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 5
One important note about providing length to keep your team in the game: the relievers behind you have to pitch extremely well for you to have a chance to come back. Unfortunately, Matthew Spann didn’t get that in this game. Spann went 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 8 hits, striking out 3 while walking none and forcing a 10-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Spann, a projectable 6’7″, 185 lefty, is still waiting for his velocity to come, but he has done a nice job improving his command to help him pitch well in the short term. He has a 2.58 ERA in 38.1 IP for the Hot Rods this season. But Jose Alberto Molina fell apart after tossing shutout ball in the 7th, allowing a run each in the 8th and 9th to turn a 5-4 lead into a 6-5 loss. Luke Maile had a 2-run single, a stolen base, and a run scored in his first at-bat, but he left with some sort of injury and the timing could not be any worse. Maile has been on fire his last 40 games, managing a .329/.411/.447 line in his last 175 plate appearances, and you have to hope he will be back soon to continue that. Andrew Toles went 1 for 2 with a walk, his 48th steal, and 2 runs scored, Marty Gantt went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI, and Tyler Goeddel and Leonardo Reginatto both went 2 for 5 with a run scored, with Goeddel stealing his 25th base.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM) 4, Hudson Valley Renegades 0
The Renegades won the New York-Penn League championship last year, but the way affiliated baseball goes is that one year you can be great and the next you can be lifeless. At least the Renegades are 23-19 on the year, but this game was tough to watch. Chris Kirsch went 4.2 inning allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking 4. At least Anthony Tzamtzis had a great game behind him, allowing just a hit in 2.1 shutout innings, striking out 4. Ty Young has had a rough pro debut but did go 2 for 4 in this one.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Johnson City Cardinals 2, Princeton Rays 1
Great pitching is nice, but you need some hitting to make it mean anything. German Marquez got the start for Princeton and pitched well, going 5 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits. He struck out 2 while walking none and forced a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Luis Cabrera also pitched well, allowing just 1 run on 2 hits in 3 innings, striking out 4 while walking none, but the one run he allowed was enough to send Princeton to defeat. Enmanuel Paulino, who drew some attention when he moved up from the GCL Rays for a few cameos with the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs, was able to parlay that into a promotion to Princeton and had a great game in this one, going 3 for 4 with the only RBI for the P-Rays.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 5, GCL Rays 3
Can everyone agree that bullpen collapses are the worst? Jose Alonzo pitched great, going 5 shutout innings allowing 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3. But it all went to waste when Roel Ramirez allowed 4 runs in just 1+ inning to turn a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 deficit. Jhefferson Hurtado was fine to finish the game, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 3 innings. The next baseball proverb we’ll talk about today is that stolen bases don’t mean very much if you don’t get any hits. The GCL Rays stole 6 bases but scored only 3 runs as they went just 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position. The Rays’ first and third round picks from this year’s draft had nice games, with Nick Ciuffo drilling a 2-run double and Thomas Milone going 2 for 4 with a triple and a stolen base (no, it wasn’t of home).