With the MLB Draft starting tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Rays’ recent first round picks will be discussed quite often. Richie Shaffer did his best on Tuesday to ensure that he would be mentioned in a positive light.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Pawtucket Red Sox 2
The hottest pitcher in the Rays organization right now just might be Nate Karns. He entered his outing against Pawtucket with a 1.39 ERA in his previous five starts, striking out 31 while walking just 12 in 32.1 innings pitched. Karns was not quite as sharp in this game, but he still went 5 innings allowing only 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 6 against 3 walks. He left with the game tied at 1 and the Bulls eventually trailed 2-1, but a four-run 6th inning was enough to give them the win.
Two of the runs in that inning came on sacrifice flies, and a third was brought to the plate on an error. The only RBI hit in the frame was a double by Cole Figueroa. Elsewhere in the game, though, the Bulls offense had a few more highlights. Mikie Mahtook went 1 for 2 with a walk, a stolen base, and 2 RBI while Justin Christian went 1 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 7, Montgomery Biscuits 6
A pair of Rays top prospects did everything they could to lift the Biscuits in this game, but inconsistent pitching until the very end cost them dearly. Roberto Gomez failed to get out of the 3rd inning after allowing 8 hits, but Jim Patterson stranded a couple inherited runners as Montgomery trailed just 2-0. A Jeff Malm solo homer brought them within 2-1, but then Patterson allowed 2 runs in the 4th to make it a 4-1 deficit. But while Sam Runion contributed 2 innings of 1-hit ball with 2 strikeouts, the Montgomery offense made its move.
Hector Guevara brought the Biscuits a run closer on an RBI double in the 5th. Then in the 6th, Richie Shaffer came up big, drilling a game-tying two-run home run to knot the game at 4. An error gave Montgomery the lead before a Jake Hager sac fly in the 7th added an insurance run. But the Biscuits bullpen blew it, allowing 3 runs in the final 2 innings. Nevertheless, Shaffer’s huge hit resonates, and it also gives him a 4-game hitting streak.
In addition, we have to mention Ryan Brett, who had one of his most dynamic games of the season. Brett went 3 for 4 with a triple, a double, a walk, 2 stolen bases, and a run scored. The walk and stolen bases are especially encouraging as Brett entered the game with just 8 walks and 8 stolen bases in 13 tries. We have a tendency to ignore things like that when the player in question is hitting .316, but it is great to see Brett working to rectify those issues with his game.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 4
Excellent bullpen work and a pair of home runs from unlikely candidates were enough to lead the Stone Crabs to victory in this contest. Bruedlin Suero had a rough outing, allowing 4 runs I’m 4 innings of work, but then Parker Markel and Ryan Garton righted the ship. Markel allowed just a hit and a walk in his 3 innings, striking out 2 and getting 6 more outs on the ground, before Garton stuck out 3 in 2 innings of 1-hit ball to close out the game.
On the offensive side, Thomas Coyle led off the game with a home run before Marty Gantt drilled his first homer of the year in the 7th. Tyler Goeddel and Patrick Leonard both had nice games as they each went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Leonard’s hit was a double, but it was Goeddel who really needed something positive. Goeddel entered the game just 6 of his last 54 (.111), and hopefully this is a sign that he is going to catch fire again.