If you’ve been around baseball long enough, then you know just how crazy of a sport it is. But even so, it is still amazing to see the improbable happen day in and day out- it is what makes baseball a truly amazing sport. Rays affiliates had themselves a crazy day on Monday, as three of four affiliates went into extra innings. Despite that, the highest scoring game was the Montgomery Biscuit’s, the only that didn’t go into extras. Not only is that werd, but something even weirder- only 3 of the 36 hitters who had a plate appearance for a Rays’ affiliate would NOT register a hit. Baseball is a crazy sport indeed.
Triple-A International League: Louisville Bats (CIN) 4, Durham Bulls 3 in 10 innings
Merrill Kelly has defied all expectations this season, and that continued on Monday. He was strong once again, going 6.1 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 7. His ERA now sits at 2.52. Behind Kelly, C.J. Riefenhauser made his return from an oblique injury, though he allowed a hit and two walks without recording an out. Luckily, Jeff Beliveau would bail him out and neither would be charged with a run. Adam Liberatore went the final 2.0 innings, but he gave up a pair of costly runs that cost the Bulls the game.
Offensively, Mikie Mahtook had the best performance, going 2-4 with a pair of doubles. Mahtook has impressed this year, but it is unclear where he fits in with the Rays future thanks to a logjam in their outfield. Veteran middle infielders Jayson Nix and Ray Olmedo also contributed 2-4 efforts. But, the Bulls only scored 3 runs despite 16 base runners, and the pitching couldn’t hold on long enough for the offense to deliver a key hit.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 11, Jackson Generals (SEA) 9
The one game among Rays’ affiliates that didn’t go into extras, this game was exciting from start to finish. Runs would be scored in 12 of 18 half innings, a good sign for the hitters, but not so much for the pitchers. Mike Colla continued a recent stretch of rough outings for the Biscuits, going 5.1 innings and allowing 7 runs (6 earned). Matt Ramsey allowed 2 runs behind him in 1.2 innings, but at least Santiago Garrido threw a final 2.0 scoreless innings.
Luke Maile has to be the offensive MVP in this one, going 4-4 with a double and a walk while accounting for four of the Biscuit’s runs. Luke Maile has been overshadowed by more known catching prospects in his time with the Rays organization, but he is finally getting a chance at an everyday job and is making the most of his opportunity. Jeff Malm added a pair of doubles of his own, driving in 2 runs and scoring another. Jake Hager and Riccio Torrez also added two-hit performances in a night where each starter had at least one hit. The pitching staff was barely passable in this game, but the offense got the job done to give the Biscuits a great win.
High-A Florida State League: Port Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 6 in 12 innings
Yet another exciting game from start to finish, Jake DePew was the hero, drawing a walk-off walk to win it for the Stone Crabs in 12 innings. Port Charlotte quickly got off to a 5-0 lead, but they would slowly give it up to let the game go into extras. Josh Sale was the best offensive performer, going 3-4 while being a double away from hitting for the cycle. Sale has been nothing but a disappointment after being a first round pick in 2010, both in terms of performance and character, and it is clear the Rays have soured on him. However, his raw power is still there, and hope remains he can tap into it and become a decent hitter. Justin O’Conner and Leonardo Reginatto also had nice 3-6 performances in a nice day for the offense.
Reinaldo Lopez started for the Stone Crabs, going 5.0 innings and giving up a trio of runs. Behind him, Eli Echarry and Marcus Jensen combined to give up 3 runs over the next 4.0 innings. Jose Molina and Ryan Garton would finish off the final 3.0 innings with scoreless performances. Not a good day for the pitching staff to give up the lead, but a nice job by Molina and Garton to hold on in extra innings.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 4, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 3
Another 12 inning win for a Rays Single-A affiliate, but this one was more of a pitcher’s duel. Christopher Kirsch out-pitched Lugnuts starter Jeremy Gabryszwski (try saying that three times fast) by going 6.0 innings and giving up just 2 runs (1 earned). Brad Schreiber went a scoreless inning, and then the Hot Rods handed the ball to Ian Kendall looking for the 6 out save. Unfortunately that was too much to ask, as Kendall would give up the tying run in the bottom of the 9th. Luckily the next pitcher, Aaron Griffin, got things back on track, throwing 3.0 scoreless innings and earning the win.
Offensively it wasn’t too impressive of a day for the Hot Rods, but they came through when needed in the 12th to win the game. Oscar Hernandez was the biggest contributor, going 3-5. He plays stellar defense at catcher, and his bat is finally starting to come around after a slow start. If he keeps it up, we could hear Hernandez’s name among the Rays top prospects by the end of the year. Johnny Field also smacked a pair of doubles in 6 at-bats. No other Hot Rod would have more than a single hit, but every starter did have at least one hit in this win. Somehow the Hot Rods record now sits at 20-23 after a 2-13 start, an amazing feat on its own.