Every player has hot streaks and slumps, but some players gain a reputation as streaky for one reason: they place those streaks right next to each other. Over the years, Matt Joyce always seems to be unstoppable in April and May but then disappear off the map for a month and a half after that. Tyler Goeddel had an insane run for a while for the Stone Crabs, but he too fell into a major slump. On Thursday, however, he finally broke out and hopefully is starting to show that his success is sustainable.
Triple-A International League: Columbus Clippers (CLE) 3, Durham Bulls 0
The story of this game was Josh Tomlin, who tossed a 3-hit shutout on just 89 pitches for Columbus, striking out 10 while walking none. Interesting, though, 2 of the 3 hits came from Hak-Ju Lee, who delivered his second and third hits since coming back from his knee injury. He even drilled a double. Nice to see Lee do something, and hopefully the rest of the Bulls offense can join him tonight.
On the pitching side, Enny Romero was decidedly beaten by Tomlin as he went 5.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 9 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. It took him 95 pitches to get that far–which is fine, but more than Tomlin threw for the entire game. Romero now has a 9.0 K/9, a 3.7 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9, but just a 4.50 ERA as he has allowed a lot of hard contact in the air. Romero is progressing for the Bulls, but he is still a while away from helping the Rays. Juan Sandoval followed with 2.1 perfect innings and Adam Liberatore worked around a hit in a shutout 9th to finish the game for Durham.
Double-A Southern League Game 1: Huntsville Stars (MIL) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 2 (7 innings)
Game 2: Biscuits 7, Stars 3 (7 innings)
Like the Rays, the Biscuits also played a doubleheader on Thursday. Unfortunately, their results were not quite as good. In the first game, Dylan Floro had an encouraging outing, going 6 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. He also forced an 11-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Floro has had trouble missing bats at Double-A, but he forcing a ton of groundballs and walking no one. If he can strike out just a passable amount of batters, he can turn his season around. Unfortunately for Floro, Braulio Lara allowed 2 runs behind him in the 7th and solo homers by Cameron Seitzer and Alejandro Segovia were all the offense could manage.
In the second game, Jared Mortensen had an up-and-down outing, going 4 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking 4. Mortensen has pitched well for Montgomery but now has 19 walks in 26.1 innings and that will not cut it. Luckily for the Biscuits, they only had to cover 7 innings so the 4-inning start was just fine. Jim Patterson did allow a run in the 5th, but Andrew Bellatti finished the game with 1.2 no-hit innings, striking out 3 while walking 1. In terms of the run support, Ryan Brett put the Biscuits ahead with a 3-run homer in the 5th, and Jake Hager helped ice the game with an RBI triple in the 6th. Hager has 9 extra-base hits already this season after 19 total last year. He’s only hitting .299 compared to his double play partner Brett’s .330, but he has put together a fine season in his right.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 5
The 6-5 score is reminiscent of the Rays’ second game, and the Stone Crabs must have awfully satisfied by this one in their own right. Roberto Gomez had a rough ending to his start for Charlotte, allowing 3 runs in the 5th and 6th to finish with 5 runs allowed in 6 innings. The Stone Crabs were down 5-3 and needed to find some way to come back. But they came back to tie the game in the bottom of the 6th, getting an RBI triple by Tyler Goeddel and an RBI single by Maxx Tissenbaum, and they walked off on an error in the 9th. Jose Alberto Molina pitched 3 strong innings for the win, allowing just 2 hits and a walk.
Goeddel’s triple was only one part of his great day as he went as he went 3 for 4 with that triple, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. After beginning the season with a .348/.449/.591 line in his first 78 plate appearances, Goeddel fell into a 1 for 18 slump. However, Goeddel found a way to get past that in this game, and the Rays have to hope he starts hitting well again. Goeddel had a hot streak to begin 2012, but he proceeded the struggle the rest of the year. Can this run be different? Kes Carter, Tissenbaum, Leonardo Reginatto, and Josh Sale also had multi-hit games for the Stone Crabs, with Carter drilling a 2-run home run and a double. Carter has never hit lefties, not even in college, and he is already effectively playing a platoon role for Charlotte. But he has a .262/.357/.492 line against right-handed pitching this season, and the Rays might just have found another Matt Joyce or David DeJesus.
Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2
Three players were satisfied enough with their performances in this game for Bowling Green, but evidently that was not enough. Chris Kirsch started for the Hot Rods and allowed 2 home runs but did everything else right, going 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. He also forced a 9-4 groundout to flyout ratio. Kirsch has a scary 1.8 HR/9 so far this season as he continues to make too many mistakes up in the zone, but he has a 55.9% groundball rate and hopefully he’ll continue to improve moving forward. Jorge Rodriguez followed with his Hot Rods debut after one appearance in Charlotte and pitched quite well, working around 2 hits and a walk to toss 3 shutout innings, striking out 4. Rodriguez spent last season in Princeton, but with Rodriguez being 22 years old, you have to think the Rays will give him a chance to stick with the Hot Rods.
The entire Hot Rods offense, meanwhile, was Yoel Araujo, who drilled a 2-run home run. Araujo, once a highly-regarded international signing, finished the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader having done literally nothing on the season, managing just a .121/.164/.138 line in 63 plate appearances. But then he slammed his first homer in the second game and another homer yesterday and suddenly he has something going. He has a long way to go, but at least he is providing some reason for optimism.