Ben Zobrist dislocated his thumb in Wednesday’s Rays game, and once again, we have a case of a player getting pulled from the Durham Bulls game. This time it was Cole Figueroa, who is in Durham waiting to see if Zobrist will be put on the disabled list and he will get his first big league call-up. Pending congrats to Figueroa, and luckily his Bulls teammates were able to win without him with Mikie Mahtook leading the way.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 6, Charlotte Knights (CHW) 4
After way too long, Merrill Kelly finally had his first bad start of the year. He went just 4.1 innings allowing 4 runs, 3 earned, on 8 hits, striking out 3 and walking 3 as well. The game marked the first time since he joined the rotation on April 12th that he went less than 5 innings in a start or allowed more than 3 runs. That just tells you how good he has been this year. Even better, the Bulls were able to score enough runs and get enough from their bullpen that they were able to win this game despite his struggles.
Something that we don’t normally think about: if a right-handed pitcher starts but exits the game early, the opposing team is stuck with a lefty-heavy lineup. Usually it doesn’t matter–if your starter exits early, you are probably losing by several runs–but in this game, the Bulls actually led 6-4 when Kelly departed and could straight a lefty reliever. Sure enough, Adam Liberatore retired all eight batters he faced, 2 via the strikeout and 5 more via the groundout. The credit goes to Liberatore–he has been unhittable this year to the tune of a 1.99 ERA and a 29-4 strikeout to walk ratio–but nice job by Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo seeing an opportunity for his lefty to dominate. Another lefty, Braulio Lara, then tossed a perfect 8th with a strikeout before Kirby Yates worked around a hit in the 9th for his 11th save.
On the offensive side, Mikie Mahtook was the hero, going 2 for 4 with an RBI single in the 1st, a 2-run double in the 3rd, and a run scored. The more exciting player in the game, though, was Hak-Ju Lee, who looked dynamic out of the leadoff spot. Lee went 1 for 3 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a stolen base. He is still working his way back, but progress is happening and Lee looks on track to make his big league debut in September.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 5, Montgomery Biscuits 2
Pretty rough game for the Biscuits, although a few players did have nice games. Mike Colla had a rough outing in his start, allowing 5 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings of work. Matt Lollis and Andrew Bellatti did allow just 1 hit in the final 2 innings behind him to finish the game. On the offensive side, Jake Hager was basically the entire offense, going 2 for 4 with 2 RBI. He is starting to heat up again, recording a hit in his last 5 games and multiple hits in his last two, and he has delivered a very good year overall, hitting to a .284/.347/.413 line. Taylor Motter also went 2 for 4 with one of the run scored in the Biscuits loss.
High-A Florida State League: Daytona Cubs 6, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2
This was a lot like a Rays game from this year–Reinaldo Lopez was great for 5 innings before collapsing in the 6th before Marcus Jensen was a disaster in relief. I guess the only difference is that Rays starters have often struggled even earlier than that. Lopez still finished was a good line, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in 6 innings, striking out 4 while walking 3. Jensen, though, allowed 4 runs in 2 innings of work to lose this game. After a great start, Jensen has not allowed 8 runs in his last 5.1 innings of work.
On the offensive side, Andrew Toles did have a nice game, going 1 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and a run scored. He also recorded an outfield assist. Leonard had the same 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored, but he also had an RBI. Leonard has gone just 1 for 4 in his last 2 games, but he still has a .306/.375/.528 line for his last 10 contests. Not too shabby.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 2
This game marked Ryne Stanek‘s second professional start, and let’s just say that we can see a place for improvement. Stanek allowed just an unearned run on 3 hits in 5 innings of work, but he walked 5 while striking out 2. The control was not good, but Stanek was effective nevertheless, going those 5 innings and forcing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Stanek’s control and command will be a focus for him as he begins his development, but it’s nice to see that he was able to overcome it to pitch well in this game nevertheless.
On the offensive side, it was a walk-off win for the Hot Rods as Granden Goetzman drilled a leadoff double in the 9th and scored on a Ty Young walk-off single. Young and Goetzman both had excellent games, registering 3 hits and 2 hits respectively overall. Young has rebounded especially bad from a horrific start, beginning the season just 2 for 33, but mashing to a .344/.434/.578 line in the 76 plate appearances since. But the player I wanted to talk about is actually Yoel Araujo. Araujo had a great game on Wednesday, drilling a game-tying 3-run homer in the 7th inning to cap a 1 for 3 day. He started just 4 for 46, but he has a .283/.316/.642 line ever since. The former high-profile international free agent signing still has major plate discipline issues, but his power is real as he now has 4 homers in his last 12 games.