The Tampa Bay Rays have seen their rotation struggle this season, and that is a big reason why they are 19-25. However, Alex Cobb is ready to return after rehabbing at Port Charlotte on Saturday, and his domainting performance shows just how big of a boost the Rays are getting.
Triple-A International League: Louisville Bats (CIN) 5, Durham Bulls 1
The Durham Bulls got a great start out of Nate Karns, but wouldn’t get much else in this one. Karns went 6.1 innings, striking out an 10 while walking just 2 and giving up only a single run. Karns struggled out of the gate this season, but has now given up just three runs combined in his last three starts. All of a sudden with Karns performing and Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellicson getting closer to their returns, the Rays pitching depth is starting to look solid once again. Unfortunately, the bullpen could do nothing behind Karns. Braulio Lara and Juan Sandoval each gave up 2 runs across the next 2.2 innings.
Offensively, the Bulls had a weird day in a night that they were without usual mainstays in their lineup thanks to the recent promotions of Kevin Kiermaier and Cole Figueroa. The Bulls pounded out 13 hits, led by Vince Belnomes 3-5 performance and Ray Olmedo‘s 2-3 performance. They would also draw 5 walks, but a severe lack of timely hitting led to them scoring just one run. You never want to see an offense get so many hits and have so little to show for it, so this is a night that the Bulls will try to forget.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 4, Jackson Generals (SEA) 0
Dylan Floro has had an up-and-down season, but he showed just how good he can be on Saturday. Floro went seven innings, allowing no runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while also striking out 7. He also induced 11 ground ball outs to just 1 fly out. Floro doesn’t get talked about much, but he has the potential to be a good mid-rotation starter thanks to his knack for inducing grounders. Behind him, Andrew Bellatti threw 2.0 scoreless innings to cap off the shutout.
On the offensive side, the Biscuits did the exact opposite of the Bulls by putting together just 5 hits but still scoring 4 runs. Jeremy Moore led the way with his 3-run homer, his first of the season. Richie Shaffer added a solo home run, his 5th of the season. Shaffer keeps hitting for power, as evidenced by his .515 slugging. But his average stands at just .234, and one would have to wonder if he can keep hitting for so much power if he doesn’t start making more conttest.
High-A Florida State League: Port Charlotte Stone Crabs 2, Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 0
Alex Cobb was the big storyline of this game in his first taste of game action since suffering an oblique injury back in April. As he should have, Cobb dominated the Threshers’ lineup, striking out 9 while walking none and allowing just 3 hits en route to throwing 5.0 scoreless innings. This is likely going to be Cobb’s sole rehab start before he makes his much-needed return to the Rays rotation. Behind Cobb, Parker Markel and Ryan Garton each went 2.0 innings to finish off the shutout. Markel has been great since being moved to relief this season, and could be promoted before too long.
Patrick Leonard‘s 2-run home run would be about all the Stone Crabs would get out of their lineup, but thanks to the pitching it was all they would need. Justin O’Conner did add a double, though it wouldn’t amount to anything. Not a good day for the offense, but thankfully it didn’t make a difference.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Great Lakes Loons (LAD) 2
The Hot Rods also got a strong pitching performance on Saturday, this one thanks to Blake Snell. Snell went 5.0 innings, giving up no runs while striking out 4. True to his nature, though, Snell did walk 4 batters. Snell has still allowed a few too many free passes this season, but he has still come a long way from his 6.6 BB/9 last season. His 2.26 ERA means that a promotion could be in the cards soon. Behind him, Jose Rodriguez and Ian Kendall combined to go the last 4.0 innings, each giving up a run.
In a storyline we are getting all too familiar with, Granden Goetzman led the Hot Rods offense, this time with a 3-5 performance that included his 16th double of the year. Oscar Hernandez and Ariel Soriano added 2-4 performances in a nice day for the Bowling Green bats.