In his first season in the Rays organization, Patrick Leonard has had himself a tough time. The only piece acquired in the Wil Myers trade who isn’t close to the major leagues, Leonard has needed to contend with not only a higher level, Low-A, and increased expectations, but a position switch as well, from third base to first base. The results of that have been a start not up to Leonard’s capability as he was hitting just .170 in 55 plate appearances entering Sunday. But sometimes one hit can change it all, and after Leonard came through with as clutch a hit as they come versus Dayton, maybe he has finally reached a turning point.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 8, Durham Bulls 4
The Bulls’ first day sans Hak-Ju Lee did not go well. Alex Colome got the start but was ineffective, going 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2 and managing just 5-7 groundout to flyout ratio. Colome has been great to begin the year for Durham, but was enigmatic this time out and will look to get back on track in his next outing. Colome is one of the many pitching prospects the Rays have who can be very inconsistent, but the good news with Colome is that he throws enough strikes, especially with his fastball, so that his bad starts are the ones where he strikes out few batters and allows 4 or 5 runs instead of the type where he walks 5 or 6 guys and allows his start to become a disaster. Colome was only the beginning of the Bulls’ pitching struggles, as 3 of the 5 relievers they put in allowed runs as well. Not included in that was lefty Jeff Beliveau making his Rays organization debut as he went a hitless inning striking out the side while working around a walk. He seemed like an interesting acquisition by the Rays, and we’ll have to see what he can do. Offensively, Tim Beckham went 2 for 4 with a run scored, Wil Myers went 1 for 4 with a walk and a stolen base, and Mike Fontenot went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI. Beckham, ironic as it may seem, took over Lee’s spot at shortstop, and considering the Rays seem set on making Beckham a second baseman, we may see the Rays make a move for shortstop depth in the near future without a true shortstop on the roster.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 9, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 6 (11 innings)
Big win for the Biscuits in this one as they overcome an early 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the 8th and win it in the 11th. Matt Buschmann got the start for Montgomery and got hit hard in the 1st, but he managed to settle in and give Montgomery a halfway-decent outing, going 4.1 innings allowing 5 runs, 4 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 7 while walking 3. Those aren’t good numbers, but lasting as long as he did and saving the bullpen for that long was a key to the game as the Biscuits bullpen was huge in this game, allowing just 1 run in 6.2 innings. After Mayo Acosta pulled Montgomery within 5-4 with a 2-run homer in the 6th, he came up big with the Biscuits down 6-4 in the 9th, delivering an RBI double to make it 6-5, and with 2 outs and a runner on 3rd, pinch-hitter Riccio Torrez came through with a game-tying single. Then in the 11th, an error let home 2 runs before Mikie Mahtook padded the lead with an RBI triple as Montgomery won 9-6. Juan Sandoval tossed 1.1 perfect innings out of the bullpen while C.J. Riefenhauser gave the Biscuits 3 hitless frames, and on the offensive side, Acosta went 3 for 4 with a homer, a double, 4 RBI, and 2 runs scored while Kevin Kiermaier went 3 for 4 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored. Great job by the Biscuits overcoming the tough start, with both their bullpen and offense delivering huge performances.
High-A Florida State League: St. Lucie Mets 1, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0
This is a score we seem to see a little too often in the Rays organization, but Felipe Rivero‘s performance had to cancel out any bad feelings from this game for Charlotte. Rivero’s ERA entering his start was just 8.10, and his run average (counting unearned runs) was 12.60 as he had averaged just 3.1 innings per start. In this game, though, he finally looked sharp for the first time all season, going 4 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. Unfortunately, he came apart in the 5th, allowing both of his walks in the game to begin the inning, and a huge error by Hector Guevara while Bruedlin Suero was in the let what would prove to be the deciding run go across for St. Lucie. Suero and Shay Crawford allowed just 2 hits over the final 5 innings to finish of the 6-hitter, striking out 6 to give the Stone Crabs 13 for the day, but that 1 run was too much for Charlotte to overcome as Mets pitching prospect Hansel Robles dominated them for 6 shutout innings and the bullpen did the rest. Steven Tinoco‘s 2 for 4 was among the few hitting highlights for the Stone Crabs in the game.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 7, Dayton Dragons (CIN) 5
Can’t help but smile at this Hot Rods win as they fell behind 5-1 only to score 5 runs in the final 2 innings to win. Eduar Quinonez struggled in his start for Bowling Green, going 5 innings allowing 5 runs on 6 hits, striking out 7 while walking 4, but that was all the Dragons would get all game as Reinaldo Lopez and Marcus Jensen each tossed 2 shutout innings to end the game, giving the Hot Rods’ bats the opportunity to get right back in the game. The Hot Rods were gifted the tying runs in the 8th inning, scoring on a bases-loaded walk, a huge error, and a groundout, and Bowling Green wasn’t going to let the opportunity go to waste. With 2 outs and the bases loaded in the 9th, Patrick Leonard stepped up to the plate for the Hot Rods and delivered a 2-run single that proved to be the difference as Bowling Green won 7-5. The red-hot Andrew Toles was the only hitter with a dynamic game in this one, going 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored, but Leonard drove in 3 big runs and both Luke Maile and Ben Kline went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored, with Maile also driving in a run. Always fun to come back in the later innings of the game, and getting Leonard the type of performance that could get him going could be huge for him moving forward.