On the same day that the Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-2, two different Rays affiliates, the Durham Bulls and the Charlotte Stone Crabs, both won by the same score. It was almost like saying “hey, Rays. You had David Price on the mound. Why in the world couldn’t you execute?” We live in a bizarre world when Mike Montgomery and Austin Pruitt deliver strong outings and David Price does not.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 6, Louisville Bats (CIN) 2
The Bulls offense was quite majestic in this one. 4 of their 6 runs came on home runs, solo shots by Mike Fontenot and Vince Belnome plus a 2-run blast by Mikie Mahtook. Mahtook had an all-around great day, going 3 for 4 with that homer, a double, a stolen base, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Mahtook has delivered a great season for the Bulls, and it is great to see him hitting for more power than he did in previous seasons. It is Belnome, though, that really needed a big day and got it by going 3 for 4 as well. Belnome is hitting just .225 on the season, but he is up to .394 in his last 10 games and he is doing everything in his power to put his rough start behind him. Jayson Nix also had a strong second game with the Bulls, going 2 for 4 with a double.
The Bulls relief corps also had their usual dominant game. Jake Thompson tossed 1.2 perfect innings, striking out 2, before Kirby Yates worked around a walk to strike out the side in the 9th. But it is the player on Durham’s squad that had to work hardest for his strong results that may be the most encouraging. Mike Montgomery had far from his best control on Sunday, walking 4 while striking out 4 in 6.1 innings pitched. Yet he worked into the 7th inning and allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits as he was able to battle through the control issues and deliver the game to the bullpen with the lead. It was the first time all season that Montgomery worked more than 5.1 innings while allowing more than 2 walks. Montgomery has found some incredible moments this season, but his inconsistency overall has bothered everyone. If Montgomery can continue to have outings like this when he does not have his best stuff, that is a great sign for his future in the major leagues.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 8, Montgomery Biscuits 1
If you were looking for a Rays-esque heartbreaking loss, this was it. Roberto Gomez started but allowed 4 runs, 2 earned, on 7 hits in just 5 innings of work. That wasn’t so terrible, but the game was iced when Matt Neil and Matt Lollis allowed 2 more runs each. There were three highlights, though: Jeremy Moore, Bryce Stowell, and Luke Bailey’s bat. Moore hit his first home run of the season in Saturday’s game and followed it up with his second blast on Sunday. He showed impressive power in spring training, and we’ll have to see if he can keep this latest display up. Stowell, meanwhile, struck out 2 in a perfect inning to be the only effective Biscuits pitcher of the game. He has really struggled this year, but he has been awesome in his last 3 outings, striking out 7 while walking none across 3 shutout innings. Could he be harnessing his big-time stuff? Finally, Bailey went 1 for 1 with 2 walks to continue his strong start at the plate. After years of struggles, he has a .296/.412/.370 line in his first 10 games. Unfortunately, his defense was a different story–he committed 2 errors and allowed 3 passed balls in this game.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 2
Austin Pruitt had a great outing and the bottom of the order provided the run support as the Stone Crabs found their way to a smooth win. Pruitt entered the game having allowed 4 or more runs in both of his previous 2 outings, but this game was a different story as he went 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. That is the type of outing that a polished college pitcher is supposed to have at High-A, and hopefully we’ll see more of that from him moving forward. Ben Griset finished the game with 2 shutout frame.
On the offense side, spots 7 through 9 in the batting order had 4 of the Stone Crabs’ 5 RBIs (the other run scored on an error). Jonathan Quinonez went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI, Josh Sale went 1 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, and Marty Gantt went 1 for 2 with a walk and an RBI. That doesn’t mean that the top of the order was totally inept, though, as Andrew Toles did go 2 for 4. Toles has a 4-game hitting streak including 2 multi-hit games, but just 1 hit in that streak has been for extra bases. Toles has found trouble hitting the ball with authority at High-A, and hopefully that is an adjustment he can make as the season continues.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Great Lakes Loons (LAD) 4
The Loons scored the last 4 runs in this game, but the Hot Rods were able to hold on to win. Jacob Faria and had another solid start, going 6 innings allowing 3 runs (2 earned), on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. He now has a 3.24 ERA and a 34-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 41.2 innings pitched this season. Andrew Hanse did allow a run over the next 2 innings the Hot Rods’ lead to 1, but Colton Reavis tossed a perfect 9th for the save.
In terms of the run support, it was a quartet of 2-hit games that fueled the Bowling Green offense. Armando Araiza went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI, Kean Wong went 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored, Alexander Simon went 2 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored, and Pat Blair went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Simon got off to just an 0 for 21 start to this year, but he has been awesome ever since, hitting .317 in his last 109 plate appearances. Blair, meanwhile, deserves a lot of credit for his .286/.380/.411 line this year. Blair hit just .186 in his pro debut as he played out of position out of necessity for the Hudson Valley Renegades, but he has rebounded in a big way now that he is in his comfort zone defensively.