A perfect day–it’s elusive and essentially impossible. It doesn’t matter how well you do, there is always going to be something that went wrong. Well, Sunday in the Rays organization was pretty darn close. While the Rays beat the Yankees 4-2, their minor league affiliates went 6-1 with some of the best pitching performances you will ever see.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 0
With Matt Moore likely sidelined until September and Roberto Hernandez‘s rotation spot a major question, the Rays may need a spot-start in the near-future. If they do, Jake Odorizzi will be the pitcher making it. In this game, Odorizzi looked as strong as ever for the second straight start, going 8 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits, striking out 11 while walking just 1. In 22 Triple-A starts, Odorizzi is 9-6 with a 3.33 ERA, striking out 124 while walking just 40 in 124.1 innings pitched. Odorizzi has shown significant strides with his fastball command after he made a mechanical adjustment a while back, and a role in the Rays’ plans the rest of the season should be in order. Kevin Kiermaier, Mike Fontenot, and Shelley Duncan had the RBIs in the win for the Bulls.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 0
Entering Saturday, Victor Mateo was 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last 9 starts for the Montgomery Biscuits spanning 60 innings pitched. He was obviously on a special run, but there was plenty of reason to be skeptical. Mateo was never much of a prospect and had never even had an extended stretch of dominance in the past. In addition, his strikeout to walk ratio even during that tremendous run was just 36-17 (the 36 K’s amount to just a 5.4 K/9), and he allowed 7 home runs, a mediocre 1.1 HR/9. Mateo was just getting lucky. But how can we respond after Mateo carved up the Jacksonville Suns? Mateo went the complete game and tossed a no-hitter, allowing just a walk in his 9 innings while striking out 5. He threw 74 pitches, 100 strikes, and got 10 of his outs on the ground. Unbelievable. It was, believe it or not, the second no-hitter of Mateo’s career after he threw one for the Hot Rods in 2011. But what happens next? Is this the pinnacle for Mateo after which everything falls apart or is this the start of something special unfolding before our very eyes? We don’t know what to think, but we do know is that Victor Mateo has dominated for two months now with no signs of slowing down and every sign of being a whole lot more than we thought he was entering the season. Cameron Seitzer had a 2-run home run and Todd Glaesmann went 3 for 4 to make sure that Mateo had his due support. Delmon Young also went 2 for 4 as his second game back in the Rays organization went much better than his first.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 0
The parallels between this game and the one above it are a little stunning. The final scores were identical, they pitted a Rays affiliate against a Marlins affiliate, and the pitcher for the Rays affiliate tossed a complete game. Only one issue: this game was only 5 innings because of rain. Felipe Rivero started for Charlotte and didn’t quite have his no-hit stuff but was still excellent. He went 5 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was an incredible 8-1. Rivero’s “complete game” was hardly as impressive as Mateo’s, but it was great to see Rivero on the top of his game and keeping the Hammerheads off the board. Jeff Malm had a solo homer and Richie Shaffer went 2 for 2 with an RBI double for Charlotte to make sure Rivero’s efforts were enough.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 7, Fort Wayne Tincaps (SDP) 0
Three shutout innings is not the type of outing you want to get from your starting pitcher on anything but a rehab start. Blake Snell‘s ERA was lowered by his three shutout frames against Fort Wayne, but it still left plenty to be desired. Luckily the Hot Rods’ offense and bullpen picked up the load as the Hot Rods won 7-0. Snell went 3 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 6 but walking 4. Eight of his nine outs came via a strikeout or a groundout and the other came on a pickoff. But Snell’s pitch count continued to ballon and he was unable to give the Hot Rods the type of length starting pitcher have to give. The good news is that hitters have had nothing on Snell his last two starts. The bad news is that he still has no idea where his pitches are going.
Stone Speer followed Snell with much lower-quality stuff but equal effectiveness, working around 2 hits and 2 walks to toss 4 shutout innings, striking out 2. Matthew Spann proceeded to allow just 1 hit in the final 2 innings to finish the game. On the offensive side, Justin O’Conner went 2 for 4 with his 14th home run, Ryan Dunn went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored, Joey Rickard went 2 for 4 with his 25th steal and a run scored, and Andrew Toles stole his 58th base. And in his second game at Low-A, Oscar Hernandez finally notched his first hit, going 1 for 4. Hernandez also did a nice job catching Snell, Speer, and Spann. O’Conner must hear the sound of Hernandez whizzing by him on the Rays’ catcher depth chart, but it won’t matter if he keeps hitting.