You’re not going to find a better way to summarize the feeling of Rays fans right now than this: the Durham Bulls had a 5-1 lead in the 8th and allowed 6 runs, losing 7-5.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 7, Durham Bulls 5 (Game 1, completion of suspended game)
The worst part about this game: it wasn’t just a devastating loss, but the Bulls had to start playing a second game right after. J.D. Martin originally started this game for the Bulls back on August 23rd, tossing a scoreless inning, but Merrill Kelly was the starting pitcher this time around and pitched very well. Through his first 6 innings, Kelly had allowed just 1 run on 3 hits. But then in the 8th inning, everything fell apart as Kelly recorded just 1 out while allowing a single and a Yamaico Navarro home run to pull the Tides within 5-3. Then C.J. Riefenhauser came in and allowed three singles without recording an out. Steve Geltz was next and allowed a sac fly and a grand slam to complete Norfolk’s comeback as they won this game 7-5. Ex-Devil Rays Mark Hendrickson, who is somehow still pitching, got the win in this game, which felt more like a vintage Devil Rays loss than anything else. Leslie Anderson went 3 for 3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI and Evan Frey went 2 for 4 with a stolen base and an RBI, and in the loss.
Norfolk Tides 1, Durham Bulls 0 (Game 2, 8 innings)
How many pitches in a gut can a team take in one day? Juan Sandoval spot-started for the Bulls and was excellent, going 4 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. Braulio Lara was just as good as he tossed 3 no-hit frames, striking out 3 while walking 1. But Navarro, who had hit the home run that started the trouble in the 8th in Game 1, came through with a walk-off single in the 8th inning of Game 2 to send the Tides to victory. The Bulls were held to 5 hits in the loss, going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. Is not hitting with runners in scoring position spreading throughout the organization?
Double-A Southern League: Birmingham Barons (CHW) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 1
Another lackluster loss and this Minor League Recap is going nowhere fast. (Keep reading–after this game it turns around!) Joe Van Meter started for the Biscuits but his ineffective breaking pitches prevented him from having more than a halfway-decent start once again. Van Meter went 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Carlos Fisher, the former big leaguer signed by the Rays off the scrapheap, finally showed some promise behind him, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 2 innings but striking out 3 while walking 1. On the offensive side, Shawn O’Malley went 2 for 4 with a run scored and Curt Casali went 1 for 2 with a walk.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Palm Beach Cardinals 4
Is there such a thing as a dramatic win that turns an entire organization around? You have to hope so after this game. Jesse Hahn started for the Stone Crabs, his first back since the injury that sidelined him for over a month, and he pitched well once again, going 3 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 3 while wallking none. In Hahn’s career, he still hasn’t gone past 5 innings in a start, but he has been downright unhittable whenever he has pitched, managing a 2.38 ERA, a 9.1 K/9, a 2.5 BB/9, and a 0.1 HR/9 in 34 starts and 121 innings pitched in his career. Will the Rays keep starting him hoping he can stay healthy or will they just give up and will they give up and expedite his development out of the bullpen?
Jared Mortensen followed Hahn and had a rough 4th inning, allowing a pair of runs, but he rebounded to allow just 1 run over his last 3 innings. Overall, Mortensen did allow 3 runs, 2 earned, in his 4 innings, but you could see the dominance once again as he struck out 6 while walking 1. Seeing Mortensen, their pitcher who has been absolutely on fire of late, allow a bunch of runs could have demoralizing for the Stone Crabs. Instead, they rallied for 3 runs in the 6th inning behind Mortensen, on an RBI single by Richie Shaffer and a 2-run single by Hector Guevara. Mortensen allowed a run in the 7th to tie the game at 4, but Guevara helped Charlotte regain the lead with another run-scoring single (including an error). The Stone Crabs scored a run on a 9th inning error as they won the game 6-4. Andrew Bellatti and Nate Garcia allowed 1 hit combined in the final 2 innings to give the Stone Crabs the opportunity to come back. Guevara has seen everything fall apart for him this season as he got demoted from Double-A to High-A a month ago, but maybe this game could be the start of his turnaround.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Lake County Captains (CLE) 3
This is the type of game that everyone wants to have. Kevin Brandt wasn’t dominant, but he worked around some hits to pitch solidly and got the run support to win the game. Brandt went 6.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. Andrew Hanse tossed 2.2 perfect innings for the save. Speaking of the run support, Brandon Martin did hit a 2-run home run, but it came primarily from a strong 3 for 5 effort with runners in scoring position, with Justin O’Conner, Tommy Coyle, and Leonardo Reginatto all coming through in the clutch. Tyler Goeddel also had a big game, going 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. When the Rays were clicking on all cylinders this season, this was the type of game they were winning all the time. Now we have to hope they can get back to that.