On Wednesday, the Rays sent David Price to the mound hoping that he would halt their 6-game losing streak. Instead, Price allowed 3 runs in the 5th inning, putting them behind 4-1. As opposed to Price leading them to victory, the Rays were going to have pick him up and try to steal a game in which their ace struggled. What did they do? Wil Myers slammed a 2-run home run to bring them within 4-3 in the 6th. And in the 9th, Matt Joyce tied the game on a groundball single up the middle, but it was 5th outfielder Jason Bourgeois, who had entered as a pinch-runner in the 8th, who won the game on a walk-off single. What was the point of this whole ramble before this minor league recap? Your stars won’t always live up to expectations and if you’re a good team, you have to find a way to compensate. And to make that happen, so often you need an unlikely hero to step up. Reinaldo Lopez is exceedingly far from David Price, but with help from their big bats and Marty Gantt, they stole a win when one of their best pitchers struggled.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 6, Durham Bulls 2
This entire season, Mike Montgomery has been slowly but surely progressing from his struggles of the last two seasons. This game, though, was a step back. Montgomery went 4 innings allowing 6 runs on 9 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2. The Durham bullpen did have a strong performance to keep the score presentable, with Frank De Los Santos tossing 2 shutout innings, C.J. Riefenhauser struck out 2 in his perfect inning, and Cory Wade tossed a perfect 9th. On the offensive side, the Bulls were held to just 3 hits in the game, with Shelley Duncan going 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored and Kevin Kiermaier and Craig Albernaz both had RBI singles.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 9, Montgomery Biscuits 5
When Joe Van Meter finished his Biscuits debut by allowing 2 runs in the 5th, he must have felt terrible. The 24 year old right-hander, signed by the Rays after getting released by the Texas Rangers, wound up going 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. He was fine, but departing down 3-2 had to spoil his confidence. You have to wonder what went through his mind when Austin Hubbard entered the game and got shelled for 6 runs to turn this game into a blowout. Let’s give Hubbard his space and take about the 5 runs Montgomery scored. Kyeong Kang had a big game, going 2 for 3 with a homer, a walk, and 2 runs scored, Shawn O’Malley went 1 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, and Mikie Mahtook had an RBI triple and scored a run.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 5
Going back to his college days at the University of Hawaii, Lenny Linsky has always been a reliever. But Wednesday marked the second straight time the Stone Crabs had sent him to the mound as a starting pitcher. Linsky went 4 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. He has now allowed just 1 run on 6 hits across 8 innings in his two starts, striking out 6 while walking 1. The Rays drafted Linsky in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft knowing that he had a chance to be a late inning arm, but he has always been a sinker-slider pitcher. Maybe going out to the mound with the mindset of giving him team length as opposed to simply trying to blow the ball by hitters will be a lesson he will take to heart. Andrew Bellatti did the other half of the start for the Stone Crabs, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in his 3 innings. Between the pitching of Linsky and Bellatti and the strong offensive effort, they were able to overcome Bruedlin Suero‘s 9th inning collapse. Speaking of the offense, Willie Argo went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, 2 stolen bases, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, Drew Vettleson went 2 for 3 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored, and Richie Shaffer, Jeff Malm, and Kes Carter also had 2-hit games. Argo has really put together a nice season for Charlotte, managing a .310/.415/.395 line with 33 stolen bases in 79 games. He profiles as a tweener player with not enough power to profile in a corner spot and not enough speed for centerfield, but his all-around skill-set could still make valuable.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Fort Wayne Tincaps (SDP) 7 (10 innings)
The Hot Rods scored 7 runs in the 2nd inning. And then they completely blew this game. Reinaldo Lopez gave up a run in the bottom of the 1st, but those 7 runs, highlighted by a Patrick Leonard 3-run homer and a Joey Rickard 2-run shot, gave him a huge lead. But the Tincaps battled back with 3 runs in the bottom of the 2nd, and after Lopez had appeared to settle down, they got him for 2 more in the 8th (both of which scored after he left the game). One more run in the 8th, and the Hot Rods 7-1 lead had dissolved into a 7-7 tie. But in the 10th, Marty Gantt made sure Hot Rods fans went home happy. Gantt’s double proved to be the difference as the Hot Rods won 8-7. Gantt had a huge game, going 3 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, and while he’s had several big games, that double was probably the biggest hit of his young career. Gantt struggled in his pro debut, but he continued his bounce-back season for the Renegades, upping his line to .270/.343/.390 with 19 doubles, 7 homers, 52 RBI, and 18 stolen bases in 108 games. Gantt was accompanied by several of the Hot Rods’ usual suspects at Andrew Toles went 3 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, Rickard went 2 for 4 with a walk in addition to his homer, and Luke Maile went 2 for 5 with a double. Justin O’Conner went just 0 for 4 with a walk, but his defense was crucial to the Hot Rods’ victory as he threw out 2 for 2 runners attempting to steal. Obviously we want to see O’Conner hitting, but gaining confidence with his defense will be crucial for his future as well.