We call them “The Undercards,” but on the night before Tampa Bay Rays baseball returns from the All-Star Break, Rays affiliates had the spotlight focused squarely on them. Luckily, they lived up to the hype. From excellent outings from Matt Andriese and Blake Snell to 4 RBI games from two different Bowling Green Hot Rods, it was another fun night in the system that will hopefully be exciting to hear about as well.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 7, Gwinnett Braves 0
Yesterday, the Rays called up Curt Casali despite the fact that he was not on their 40-man roster because he was the best option to replace Ryan Hanigan. That’s good news for Matt Andriese, who is not yet on the 40-man himself, but is arguably the Rays’ best starting option currently at Durham. This start was his latest exhibition of his talents as he went 7.2 shutout innings allowing 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. He was not as overpowering as we have seen him, but he was absolutely masterful at forcing groundballs, managing a 10-2 groundout to flyout ratio and 5 double plays. On the season, he is 11-4 with a 3.19 ERA, a 95-36 strikeout to walk ratio, and 1.70 groundouts per airouts in 115.2 innings pitched. That is known as a great year. Adam Liberatore tossed 1.1 perfect innings behind him to finish off the game.
On the offensive side, the Bulls got five different multi-hit performances, with Jeremy Moore and Wilson Betemit each registering 3 hits and 2 RBIs while Ali Solis matched them only in the RBI department. Mikie Mahtook also went 2 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored. Moore is currently riding a 9-game hitting streak, and he now has a .387 average through 16 games with the Bulls.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 8, Montgomery Biscuits 4
This game was marred by a rough outing from Dylan Floro, who allowed 6 runs in the 5th inning. Floro did a lot of things well in this game, managing 6 strikeouts against 1 walk and a 4-1 groundout to flyout ratio, but he also allowed 7 runs on 13 hits, including a pair of home runs. Every pitcher is entitled to the occasional bad outing, and it says a lot that Floro’s ERA only rose to 3.36 even after his rough results. Matt Lollis delivered 2 shutout relief innings of the too little, too late variety, allowing just a hit while striking out 1.
Alejandro Segovia actually gave Floro and the Biscuits a 3-1 lead at one point with his 3-run shot in the 2nd inning to cap a 3 for 4 day. Ryan Brett, Richie Shaffer, and Luke Maile, meanwhile, all went 2 for 4 in the game for Montgomery. Brett is heating up again after something of a slump, hitting in his last 6 games including 4 multi-hit performances.
High-A Florida State League Game 1: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Lakeland Flying Tigers 1 (7 innings)
Game 2: Charlotte 3, Lakeland 0 (7 innings)
It was a doubleheader sweep for Charlotte with the help of two relatively similar games. In Game 1, Blake Snell got the start and delivered his 4th straight strong outing after a disastrous start as a member of the Stone Crabs. Snell went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. It is always exciting when a pitcher known for control problems does not walk a batter in a game. He also had a strong 8-3 groundout to flyout ratio. It took Blake Snell a while to get to the Stone Crabs and then a while to adjust to the level, but now he is clicking on all cylinders and showing just how good he can be. He was supported by an RBI each from Justin O’Conner, Josh Sale, and Tyler Goeddel, with Patrick Leonard also going 2 for 3 with a run scored.
Austin Pruitt cannot say that he rolled as effortlessly as Snell, but he delivered a very good performance in Game 2 of the doubleheader to lift Charlotte once again. He went 5 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3. Jordan Harrison followed by allowed just a walk in 2 shutout innings for the save, striking out 3 in doing so. The Stone Crabs got their runs early, scoring on RBI singles by Leonardo Reginatto and Maxx Tissenbaum in the first inning before Reginatto tripled and scored on a Tissenbaum sac fly in the third. Luckily the catcher Tissenbaum helped the pitchers do the rest as the Stone Crabs capped off quite a day.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 2
This was a crazy game for the Hot Rods, and it all starts from the fact that their eight runs were driven in by only two players–and one of their was their leadoff man! Juniel Querecuto went 2 for 5 with a triple, 4 RBI, and 2 runs scored, while three-hole hitter Oscar Hernandez went 2 for 5 with a homer, 4 RBI, and a run scored. It was certainly not as though Querecuto and Hernandez were the only Hot Rods with strong games–obviously they needed to have people to drive in–but for whatever reason, they were the ones coming through with the RBIs. The hitter between Querecuto and Hernandez in the batting order, Kean Wong, went 3 for 4 with a walk but only 1 run scored, while three other Hot Rods had multi-hit games.
The Hot Rods didn’t need too much pitching in this game, but they received a good outing from Chris Kirsch nonetheless. Kirsch went 5 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. He also posted a strong 8-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Kirsch has delivered one of the more perplexing seasons in the system, managing a 2.89 ERA for the Hot Rods, but with no strikeouts at all (just 53 against 28 walks in 96.2 innings pitched). He does force groundballs (53.4% groundball rate entering Thursday), but when will Kirsch start using his impressive arsenal to miss some bats? The lefty Kirsch was a sleeper after the Rays’ selected him in the 14th round of the 2012 MLB Draft, but we can’t say that he is anything more than that even now.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 6, Auburn Doubledays (WSN) 2
The Renegades stormed back with 6 runs in the 8th inning of this game, with Wilmer Dominguez delivered a 3-run double, Jace Conrad coming through with an RBI single, and Casey Gillaspie capping things off with a 2-run double. Gillaspie went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored on the day, and somehow his line stands at .271/.351/.432 despite his horrific start. Hopefully his numbers, especially those in the power department, are primed to go up even more. Grant Kay also had a nice game, going 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored. When you play three full games and your average still sits at .667, you know you’re doing something right.
Off the mound, Mike Franco allowed 2 run, 1 earned, across 2.1 innings in his start, but the bullpen made sure that those were the only runs allowed all game. McCalvin stranded 3 inherited runners from Franco on his way to 3.1 shutout innings allowing just a hit while striking out 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 5-2. Gerardo Reyes followed by recording each of his 4 outs on strikeouts, but he did allow a hit and 3 walks. Luckily for him, Brian Miller stranded another 2 inherited runners on his way to 1.2 innings allowing just a walk while striking out 4. Miller can’t possibly be in Hudson Valley much longer–he has allowed 1 hit and 1 walk in 6.2 innings pitched, striking out 8 in the process. Miller drives hitters nuts by pitching from a variety of arm slots, and it can’t be long before we see how that approach will work in full-season ball.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Elizabethton Twins 2
Greg Maisto was one of the players we marked down as a sleeper from the 2014 Rays Draft, and he showed why in this game. Maisto went 5 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. The 19 year old lefty may has 8 strikeouts in his last 8.1 innings pitched after 6 in his previous 11.1. The sample sizes are small enough that we can’t glean anything from that, but Maisto entered pro ball with a promising changeup, and the Rays may be getting him to use it more. Bret Dahlson had 2 shutout relief innings later in the game for Princeton, working around a hit and a walk.
P-Rays catcher Taylor Hawkins was not doing much to help his team through the first seven innings, going 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts and allowing 3 stolen bases. In the 8th inning, though, Hawkins caught 2014 fifth overall pick Nick Gordon attempting to steal, and then he started the Princeton rally from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the frame. Hawkins began the inning with a double before scoring on a Riley Unroe groundout. Jose Paez‘s RBI single then knotted the game at 2 before Enmanuel Paulino drilled a walk-off single in the 9th. It was just one great inning for Hawkins, but you never know when a turning point can happen in a player’s career, and you have to hope that this is it for him. Hector Montes was the only player with more than 1 hit for Princeton, going 3 for 4 with a double, but of course he was not involved with the scoring.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Twins 6, GCL Twins 2
Rays affiliates played Minnesota Twins affiliates twice the day before the two major league teams take each other on, but unfortunately, this one was a downer for the GCL Rays. In fact, the biggest highlight may have been the name of the opposing pitcher Michael Theofanopoulos. In any event, Blake Bivens had a rough start for the Grays, allowing 4 runs in 2 innings, and Junior Feliz allowed by allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, in 4 innings behind him. Mario Adames did finish the game with 2 shutout innings allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 2. On the offensive side, no GCL Rays had multiple hits, but Matt Reida did go 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI while Christian Knott went 1 for 3 with a double. Knott, out of Division II East Stroudsburg, has not hit for a high average (.238) with the Grays, but has shown a solid approach, managing a 14-10 strikeout to walk ratio on his way to an .896 OPS.