The past two days have seen Rays starting pitchers rack up some crazy strikeout numbers. But as Alex Cobb showed by lasting just 4.2 innings despite striking out 13, strikeouts certainly don’t mean anything. On Saturday, three of the four Rays affiliates struck out at least nine batters and the other struck out 7 while walking just 2. Of course, they went just 1-3. No coincidence that they also allowed 4 home runs, with the team that won being the only one to not allow the other team to go deep. Power pitching has its advantages and disadvantages, and you better tip the scales in the right direction if you hope to be successful.
Triple-A International League: Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 9, Durham Bulls 3
This game was kind of a pity because the Bulls scored the final three runs in this game…but only after Lehigh Valley tagged Will Inman for a scary 7 runs in the 7th. Maybe the Bulls don’t score those runs if the IronPigs don’t rally like that but you never know. Chris Archer started this game for the Bulls after missing a start with a calf bruise, and he was on a strict pitch count. Archer wound up going 3 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3 as he was off, but hopefully he can build himself back up and resume dominating Triple-A hitters and pushing for a big league spot. Jim Paduch made up for Archer’s shortened start and pulled a Houdini act to only allow 1 run in his 3 frames, somehow working around 3 walks and 6 hits, striking out 3 in the process. Then, after Inman’s implosion, Adam Liberatore allowed just 1 hit over the final 2 innings, striking out 2. Everyone but Inman was great for the Bulls, but you need a complete team effort to win (or at least no one completely messing up), and the Bulls didn’t get that. On the offensive side, Mike Fontenot slammed his first homer of the season for the Bulls as he went 2 for 3 with that homer, a double, and 2 RBI, and Shelley Duncan went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 5, Montgomery Biscuits 4 (11 innings)
The emphasis on getting complete team play is even more incisive here in this closer game as a top-heavy lineup and a bottom-heavy pitching effort wasn’t enough for the Biscuits to come away with a victory. Victor Mateo has gotten off to a terrible start for the Biscuits this season but had arguably his best start in this game–but that was setting the bar pretty low. Mateo went 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 11 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. Mateo wasn’t on the hook for the loss when he departed because the Biscuits rallied for 3 runs in the 5th, with the top three players in their lineup, Kevin Kiermaier, Robby Price, and Mikie Mahtook, all notching consecutive RBIs on a single, a groundout, and a triple. After Mateo, the Biscuits bullpen went into lockdown. Marquis Fleming tossed 2.1 one-hit innings with 4 strikeouts to lower his ERA to 1.13, Juan Sandoval tossed a 5-pitch perfect frame with 3 groundouts to lower his ERA to 3.32, and C.J. Riefenhauser tossed a hitless inning to lower his ERA to 0.79 to get Montgomery through 10 innings. But someone had to come apart eventually, and that was Matt Nevarez, who finally allowed a run for the first time all season in his 7th appearance (raising his ERA to 0.93), and that proved to be the decider as the Braves won 5-4. Great bullpen work only means so much when your starter struggles, but the even larger disparity may have been between the top three in the Biscuits lineup and everyone else. Kiermaier, Price, and Mahtook went 5 for 14 (.357) with 2 walks between them and an RBI each. The rest of the lineup went just 3 for 26, and take out Mayo Acosta, who notched 2 hits, and they were only 1 for 22. Finding better starting pitching and more well-rounded offense wil be key for the Biscuits as they try to get back on the winning track.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 4, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 1
Speaking of the need for starting pitching, Ryan Carpenter certainly gave Charlotte as good of a starting as they could have hoped on Saturday and that was the key to the Stone Crabs’ 4-1. Carpenter went 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1, throwing just 90 pitches in the process. He could have gone 8 innings! Carpenter’s great start broke a string of a couple poor performances, but his ERA still stands at 2.85 as he has gotten off to a fabulous start to the season, striking out 43 while walking just 7 in 41 innings. Also impressing was Lenny Linsky, who worked around a hit for a scoreless 8th, striking out 2 and getting his other out on a groundout. Finally healthy after shoulder problems plagued him last season, Linsky has a 3.10 ERA and a 19-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 20.1 innings pitched. On the offensive side, the entire Stone Crabs offense consisted of home runs, with Drew Vettleson and Hector Guevara both slamming 2-run shots. Richie Shaffer and Jeff Malm both went 2 for 5 for Charlotte as well, with Malm lacing a double. Shaffer is slowly but surely breaking out, going 12 for his last 41 (.293) to get his average up to .240 on the season.
Low-A Midwest League: Lake County Captains (CLE) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
Not much to see here as the Hot Rods were thoroughly outplayed. Eduar Quinonez‘s defense didn’t do him any favors as he went 6 innings allowing 4 runs, just 1 earned, on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He came blame his defense all he wants, but he would have been better served not allowing a 3-run home run following the error. In terms of the offense, the Hot Rods were held to just 2 hits on the day as Dylan Baker and a pair of relievers shut them down. They didn’t manage a single hit from 2 outs in the 2nd all the way to 1 out in the 8th. Ryan Dunn went 1 for 3 with a double and the only RBI while Andrew Toles went 1 for 4 with 2 stolen bases.