It is always fun to play close games, and it is even better when you win them. That was the story on Sunday as Tampa Bay Rays farm teams played three close contests in the minors, emerging victorious in two. The Charlotte Stone Crabs won with a walk-off single from Maxx Tissenbaum in the bottom of the 14th, Montgomery lost one in the bottom of the ninth, and the Durham Bulls pulled off an efficient 3-1 win.
Triple A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Gwinnett Braves 1
The Bulls benefitted from solid pitching performances and some Braves errors to defeat the home team Braves today. Nate Karns yielded only one run on a solo homer in five innings of three-hit pitching and struck out 7 while walking just 2. After two rough outings, Karns finally looked like the pitcher the Rays gave up Jose Lobaton and a pair of solid prospects to acquire. With Alex Cobb joining Matt Moore on the DL, Durham pitchers know they have a solid chance to be called up if they throw well enough. Karns made his case in this game. Adam Liberatore followed Karns with two scoreless innings, Steve Geltz blanked the Braves in the 8th, and C.J. Riefenhauser earned his first save with a scoreless ninth.
On the offensive side, the Bulls slammed Braves pitching for 12 hits, all singles or doubles, although they did leave 16 men on base. Nevertheless, the Bulls took advantage of some Braves errors and were able to score enough for the win. Roman Ali Solis went 3 for 5 with a run scored, Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 4 with a walk, and Mike Fontenot went 2 for 4 with a run scored, and Ray Olmedo and Robby Price each had an RBI. Good pitching and just enough hitting is the formula that the Rays expect to get them to the World Series this year, and the Bulls were able to execute that in this game
Double A Southern League: Mobile BayBears (ARI) 2, Montgomery Biscuits 1
Santiago Garrido had not allowed a single run this season prior to the bottom of the ninth against the BayBears today. But with the game tied 1-1, Garrido yielded a home run to Jordan Parraz that just curved around the left field foul pole. That would be the winning margin for Mobile as they emerged victorious 2-1 Alejandro Segovia had tied the game for the Biscuits in the top of the seventh when he ripped a two out single to center, scoring Willie Argo to tie the game. Grayson Garvin started for the Biscuits and pitched three no-hit innings, striking out 4 while walking 1. The Rays have been careful with the Tommy John survivor to begin the year, but as the training wheels start to come off, he could start moving fast. Andrew Bellatti yielded the BayBears first run but struck out 3 in two innings, and Jim Patterson also struck out 3 in 2.2 scoreless innings. Ryan Brett also went 2 for 4 in the loss for Montgomery, raising his average .290 on the young season.
High A Florida League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 8, Palm Beach Cardinals 7 (14 innings)
It was a wild night in Charlotte, as the Stone Crabs and the Palm Beach Cardinals were tied 6-6 after four innings, but did not score again until the 11th. Each team tallied another run that inning to keep the contest going until the bottom of the 14th. Ildemaro Vargas came in to pitch for the Cardinals and promptly walked Josh Sale. Marty Gantt sacrificed Sale to second. Kes Carter’s grounder to third trapped Sale in a rundown, and he stayed in it long enough for Carter to get to second. That was the key play, because it put Carter in position to score on Maxx Tissenbaum’s subsequent single to left to clinch the win.
Charlotte jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of a throwing error and passed ball from Braves catcher Casey Rasmus, a wild pitch, and some solid singles and doubles by Stone Crab batters. They gave back some runs on errors, as Stone Crabs starter Austin Pratt yielded 6 runs in 5 innings, but only two of them were earned. But the Stone Crabs relievers prevented things for getting any worse as Kevin Brandt pitched 3 scoreless innings and Parker Markel 2 of the same, and Ryan Garton got the win for pitching a scoreless top of the 14th.
The Stone Crabs needed quite a few at-bats to have four players reach 2 hits, but especially notable were Tissenbaum, who went 2 for 7 with a double and his clutch single, Andrew Toles, who went 2 for 5 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, 2 runs scored, and an outfield assist, and Josh Sale, who went 1 for 5 but had 2 walks, 2 RBI, and a run scored. This was not what the Biscuits had in mind after leading 6-0, but they found a way to end the afternoon happy, and that is what matters most.