Sloppier-than-usual defense has been one of the contributing factors to the Tampa Bay Rays’ down year. Unfortunately for Brent Honeywell and the Princeton Rays, their team caught the same virus, and could not have picked a worse time: the first game of their playoff series against the Danville Braves.
Triple-A International League Game 1: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 4, Durham Bulls 3
Game 2: Tides 9, Bulls 6 (7 innings)
The first game was the resumption of a suspended game from Saturday in which the Bulls were trailing 4-1. They managed to pull within 4-3, but that was as close as they could get. The damage was done to Matt Andriese before the day started as he went 6 innings allowing 4 runs on 9 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was an excellent 12-2, but he was punished when he made mistakes. Bryce Stowell finished the game in his Durham debut, working around 2 hits and a walk to toss 2 scoreless innings, striking out 1. Nick Franklin‘s 2-run single in the 7th inning gave him a 2 for 4 day and made this game interesting while Vince Belnome had the other RBI.
Something we expected to say more of in the last month: Nick Franklin had a really nice day on Sunday. After the aforementioned first game, he went 1 for 3 with 2 walks in the second and was involved in a 5-4-3 triple play turned by the Bulls. Other offensive stars for the Bulls included Jeremy Moore, who slammed a 3-run homer and Hak-Ju Lee, who went 2 for 4 with a solo shot. Justin Christian also went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles while Vince Belnome went 3 for 5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Unfortunately, it all went for nought because Nate Karns had a disaster outing, allowing 8 runs, 7 earned, in 4.2 innings pitched. It seems like whenever Karns seems to have hit his stride, he uncorks another outing like this. At least C.J. Riefenhauser was dominant behind him, striking out 3 in 2.1 perfect innings.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 7, Montgomery Biscuits 6
This was a slightly different story than the second Bulls game, but it was similar enough to frustrate the Biscuits. Jim Patterson was their spot-starter and was decent enough, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings, to depart with a 6-4 lead. But Matt Lollis and Parker Markel gave that lead back to send Montgomery to the loss. The heroes for the Biscuits included Ryan Brett, who went 2 for 4 with a homer to lead off the game and 2 RBI overall, and Richie Shaffer, who continued his hot streak to end the season by going 2 for 3 with a homer, a walk, and 2 runs scored. It would have been nice if Brett had shown a little more plate discipline this year, but he has still been outstanding entering the season’s final day, hitting to a .303/.346/.448 line including .362/.393/.513 in 122 plate appearances since July 12th. Shaffer’s .220/.315/.437 line leaves more to be desired, but he is finishing his season with a bang, hitting to a .346/.478/.769 line in his last 67 plate appearances. Cameron Seitzer also had a nice performance, going 1 for 3 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, while Jake Hager went 2 for 5.
High-A Florida State League Game 1: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 3, Charlotte Stone Crabs 2 (7 innings)
Game 2: Marauders 4, Stone Crabs 1 (7 innings)
The Stone Crabs’ season sadly ended with a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Bradenton, but there were a couple of big highlights as well. The Stone Crabs’ starter in the first game was Ryne Stanek, who made his first appearance with the team since July 19th after missing time because of shoulder fatigue. He was particularly dominant, allowing a run on 1 hit in 2 innings pitched, striking out 1 while walking 1, but it was great to see him on the mound before the conclusion of the season, and he will continue his rehab in Instructional League. Stanek showed flashes of being a frontline starting pitcher during his time in Bowling Green, and the Rays have to hope that they can have him ready for what could be a breakout 2015. Austin Pruitt tossed the rest of the first game for Charlotte, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 4 innings pitched. Johnny Field went 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored in the loss.
In the season’s final game, Reinaldo Lopez started and was fine for the first 3 innings before allowing 3 runs in the 4th. It was an unfortunate end to a season that saw him post a 3.49 ERA in 142 innings pitched, although he did strike out just 79 while walking 58. Nick Sawyer finished the game in decent fashion, allowing a run on 2 hits in 2 innings pitched, striking out 2 while walking 1. Sawyer was not overpowering by any stretch after returning to the Stone Crabs following a stint in the GCL to get his mechanics in sync. The good news, though, was that he walked multiple batters in an appearance just once after going so in 7 of his 13 games earlier in the season. Sawyer has a lot of work ahead of him, but some progress has been made and hopefully he can continue it next season.
On the offense side in the 2014 finale, Tyler Goeddel went 2 for 3 while Jonathan Quinonez and Juniel Querecuto went 1 for 2. Goeddel had a crazy season featuring three different extended hot streaks–including one to end the year–but also a few too many prolonged slumps. Overall, though, he delivered his best season as a professional, hitting to a .269/.348/.408 line. Finally, there was Charlotte’s best all-around player over the course of the season, Patrick Leonard. Leonard went 1 for 3 with a stolen base, his 14th without getting caught. All the focus this season has been on how much Leonard has improved in regards to his power and plate discipline, but his speed came out of nowhere and it will be interesting to see whether it keeps up next season at Double-A.
Low-A Midwest League Game 1: Fort Wayne TinCaps (SDP) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1 (7 innings)
Game 2: TinCaps 2, Hot Rods 1 (7 innings)
Three doubleheaders, three times that the Rays affiliate involved was swept. Yeah, this was a pretty sorry day for the system. In the first game, Chris Kirsch picked his final outing of the season to display uncharacteristically bad control allowed 3 runs in 3.2 innings as he walked 5 while striking out just 1. Shutout relief from Brad Schreiber and Josh Kimborowicz proved inconsequential as the Hot Rods offense managed just one run on a Julian Ridings solo homer. Elias Torres had a nice game in the loss, going 2 for 3 with a double. Torres hit a reasonable .266 in 151 plate appearances since being moved up from Hudson Valley to Bowling Green, but his 45 strikeouts against 9 walks paint a less optimistic picture.
German Marquez took the loss in Game 2, but he still managed an outstanding end to his breakthrough season. He went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking only 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was an outstanding 11-4. Marquez’s stuff is electric, and he managed a 3.21 ERA and a 95-29 strikeout to walk ratio in 98 innings pitched as a player who is still 19 years of age. We should see him in prospect rankings this season, and he could be among the Rays’ top prospects in two years if he pitches anything like this at High-A. William Gabay also had a nice finish, striking out the side in the seventh inning. Armando Araiza drove in the Hot Rods’ only run on an RBI single while Alexander Simon went 2 for 3 with a run scored and Oscar Hernandez went 1 for 3 with a double.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League Postseason (Best of 3): Danville Braves 4, Princeton Rays 3
Finally, we have this game, which was only one loss but was certainly costly. Brent Honeywell got four outs in the bottom of the first inning, but three errors, including two by Cristian Toribio in the same play, meant that there were only two outs on the scoreboard with a run in. Tanner Murphy then drilled a homer off Honeywell to give Danville a 4-0 lead that proved to be the difference in the game. Honeywell was fine after that and wound up going 4 innings allowing just 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1 and forcing a 5-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Greg Maisto was spectacular behind him in relief, tossing 4 perfect innings with 1 strikeout and 9 groundouts. Unfortunately, the defensive debacle in the bottom of the first overshadowed their efforts.
On the offensive side, Nic Wilson went 2 for 4 with a solo homer, Thomas Milone went 2 for 5 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored, and Hector Montes had the other RBI. Nick Ciuffo also went 2 for 4 in the loss. It is nice to see Princeton’s interesting group of prospects getting some more playing time, but now they will have to beat Danville twice in a row to keep their season alive.