The Undercards: Kyeong Kang’s Walk-Off Homer Tops Night of Clutch Hits

In every game that Rays affiliates played on Tuesday night, they scored the final run. And five of the seven games, they scored the go-ahead run in the final three innings to win. Sometimes it’s nice to win games and make sure they’re not even close. But it’s the come-from-behind victories and the clutch performances that leave you riveting and eagerly anticipating the start of the next game.

Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Charlotte Knights (CHW) 4

Every team has bad games. And within games, it’s very rare that they won’t have a bad inning or two. The key is to respond to those bad innings with fireworks of your own. The Bulls executed that plan flawlessly in this contest. Mike Montgomery had his second straight tough start for the Bulls, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits in 4.2 innings, striking out 2 while walking 4. He allowed 3 runs in the 4th and another in the 5th. However, the Bulls scored once in the 2nd before responding to the 3 in the 4th with 3 of their own and equaling the Knights’ tally in the 5th as well. They didn’t score the rest of the game, but their bullpen made sure that they didn’t need anything more. Steve Geltz went 2.1 innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 3, Josh Lueke worked around a hit with 2 strikeouts in his shutout 8th, and Kirby Yates struck out 2 more working around a walk in the 9th for his 18th save as the Bulls won 5-4. We talked about when the Bulls scored, but now let’s talk about the how. Mike Fontenot went 2 for 4 with a solo homer, Kevin Kiermaier went 2 for 3 with 2 triples, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, Vince Belnome went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI, Tim Beckham went 2 for 5 with another triple, an RBI, and a run scored, and Chris Gimenez went 1 for 2 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored. Fontenot has not put up great numbers as he attempts to make his way back to the major leagues, but maybe he’s finally starting to turn it on, registering 2 hits in his last 3 contests.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Mississippi Braves 2

After Jake Thompson, Aaron Norcraft, and the two bullpens had fought to a draw in the first 8 innings, Juan Sandoval took the ball for the top of the 9th. Sandoval threw the ball well, allowing only an infield single and a line drive one, but a critical passed ball in between by Curt Casali gave the Braves a 2-1 lead. But the Biscuits had not come this far only to lose this game. Kyeong Kang stepped in against Ryne Harper and drilled a walk-off 2-run home run to win the game for the Biscuits 3-2.

Thompson went the first 5 innings for Montgomery and overcame control issues to be effective, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 5 innings, striking out 5 while walking 4. He didn’t throw a ton of strikes but was able to keep the ball down when he did, forcing an 8-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Then Jimmy Patterson stepped in behind him and was dominant, allowing just a walk in 3 no-hit innings, striking out 3. Their combined efforts kept the Braves to 1 run, and luckily the Biscuits were able to overcome the hiccup with Sandoval in the game with help from Kang. Kang went 1 for 3 with that huge homer, a walk, and 2 runs scored, Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 4, and Robby Price went 2 for 3 with a double in the win for Montgomery. 2013 may mark Kang’s third straight year at Double-A, but his numbers this year are his most impressive yet. He has hit to a .256/.362/.494 line with 16 doubles, 6 triples, 15 homers, 42 RBI, and 3 stolen bases in 95 games and 359 plate appearances. The homers, triples, OPS, and slugging percentage are all his highest in his three years at Double-A. Maybe next year he’ll finally make it to Triple-A.

High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 1, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 0

Three Stone Crabs pitchers combined on a 4-hitter and Richie Shaffer provided the run support as Charlotte edged Fort Myers 1-0. Ryan Carpenter made his first start for the Stone Crabs since his DL stint and did well in his shortened appearance, allowing 3 hits in 4 innings, striking out 3 while walking 1. Lenny Linsky then continued his recent run by tossing 3 shutout innings, allowing a hit and 2 walks while striking out 4, getting 4 more outs on the ground. And it was Andrew Bellatti that finished up the game for the Stone Crabs for his 2nd save, tossing 2 perfect innings with a pair of K’s. They were dominant, and Shaffer gave them that one run they needed with a 7th inning solo home run. Shaffer entered the game in a little 0 for 10 rut, and it was nice to see him break out of that in resounding fashion. Luke Bailey also had a great game for Charlotte, going 1 for 3 and also picking off a runner and catching another trying to steal.

Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 3, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 2

Reinaldo Lopez outdueled Diamondbacks first rounder Braden Shipley and Patrick Leonard drilled a game-winning single as the Hot Rods nailed down a dramatic victory against the team directly behind them in the standings. Lopez went 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. He came right back from his 6-run outing last time out to deliver exactly the type of performance the Hot Rods have seen from him all season. The Silver Hawks were down 2-1 after Shipley allowed 2 runs in 5 innings of work, but they came back in the 8th against Stone Speer, scoring on an Alex Glenn single to tie the game at 2, but Speer escaped a bases-loaded, 1-out jam to keep the game tied. And in the 9th, Leonard came through with a go-ahead single that proved to be the difference as the Hot Rods won 3-2. Speer allowed the tying run but made up for it with clutch performances the rest of the 8th and in the 9th, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 2 innings of work, striking 1 while walking 3 but finding a way  to survive. Andrew Toles also went 2 for 4 with a triple, a double, and a run scored and Leonardo Reginatto went 2 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base in the victory.

Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 1, Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 0

Another 1-0 game, and this one was even more exciting because the Renegades were matched up against Matt Harvey–no, check that, word just came in that the pitcher was actually Hunter Harvey. Why would Matt Harvey be pitching for the Orioles in a Short Season game anyway? In any event, Hunter Harvey pitched well, allowing just 1 unearned run on 4 hits in 4.1 innings, striking out 5 while walking 1, and Dylan Rheault was even better in relief, allowing just 2 hits in 4.2 shutout innings, striking out 6 while walking 1. They also combined on a 13-2 groundout to flyout ratio–24 of their 27 outs came either via a strikeout or groundout, and another came via a pickoff. But the Renegades’ pitching staff matched them blow for blow with the help from some terrific defense. Chris Kirsch started for Hudson Valley and was outstanding, going 6 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2 and forcing a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio with two of those groundouts being 6-4-3 double plays. Then Anthony Tzamtzis went 3 no-hit innings to finish the game, walking 2 while striking out 2 and getting help from two more 6-4-3 double plays. Kirsch, signed for an above-slot bonus as the Rays’ 14th round pick last year, has been about as good as the Rays could have hoped in his first extended time at pro ball, managing a 2.90 ERA with a 39-22 strikeout to walk ratio in nearly 2 groundouts for every airout in 13 starts and 68.1 innings pitched. So how did the Renegades win this game? In the 5th, Granden Goetzman singled, stole second, advanced to third on a groundball, and scored on an errant pickoff throw to give the Renegades the lead they would never surrender. That was it. Goetzman was the one hitter who gave Aberdeen trouble every time he was at the plate, going 3 for 4 with that stolen base and the run scored.

Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Danville Braves 2

It is impossible to have a wild pitch in a perfect game. What does that mean? There have been 23 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball and someone must have thrown an errant pitch that went to the backstop in one of them! There surely have been such pitches, but they weren’t scored wild pitches because you can’t have a wild pitch without a runner on base. Josh Kimborowicz learned that lesson the hard way on Tuesday night, but luckily the P-Rays found a way to win.

Jorge Rodriguez started for Princeton and pitched extremely well, allowing no runs on 6 hits in 5.2 innings, striking out 4 while walking 1 and managing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Strikeouts and groundouts are two things pitchers want to have plenty of and Rodriguez has done a great job making that happen, putting up a 47-8 strikeout to walk ratio and a 1.42 groundout to airout ratio in 53 innings pitched. The relief work behind him, though, was pretty sketchy. Edgar Gomez allowed the Braves to come within 3-2 on a Connor Lien solo homer before a pair of singles gave the Braves two on with one out. Then Josh Kimborowicz came in and posted great numbers, allowing no hits in 1.2 innings, striking out 4 while walking 1. But what that doesn’t tell you is that Kimborowicz allowed two wild pitches, the second of which scored the tying run for Danville. But in the bottom of the inning, Leopoldo Correa bailed him out with a go-ahead RBI single as the Pi-Rays won 3-2. Spencer Edwards and Travis Flores had the other RBIs for Princeton in their victory.

Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 4, GCL Twins 3

In baseball, no game is ever over until the final out. Even if your team was down by 8 runs, there is always a chance, however small, that you could be watching not a devastating loss but the greatest comeback your team has ever seen. There’s no clock posing as significant of a threat as your opponent–how long your comeback bid lasts is solely based on how you perform. The GCL Rays were down 3-0 and looked totally lifeless. But 4 runs in the 7th inning changed everything as they came back to win 4-3.

Jose Alonzo wasn’t quite at his best in his start for the Rookie Rays, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings of work, striking out 3 while walking 2. But Andres Gonzalez was excellent behind him, allowing no runs on 3 hits in 4 innings, striking out 2, and that gave the GCL Rays a chance to come back. In that storied 7th inning, there was 2 outs and a runner on 2nd when Jeremy Hadley came through with a clutch RBI single to make it 3-1. And that opened the floodgates. A walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases and a Kean Wong walk forced in a run. And then it was 2013 first rounder Nick Ciuffo who came away with the game-winning hit, lacing a 2-run single to make it 4-3 GCL Rays. Ciuffo has been just decent in his pro debut, managing a .255/.290/.314 line (pretty bad, but much better than what Luke Bailey and Justin O’Conner did in their first couple of years), but he’s had a penchant for the clutch hit, hitting .286 with runners in scoring position, and you have to hope that a hit like this could really get him going.

Topics: Chris Kirsch, Granden Goetzman, Kyeong Kang, Reinaldo Lopez, Richie Shaffer, Tampa Bay Rays

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