The Undercards: Brandon Martin Homers Twice in Low-A Debut as Hot Rods Split Doubleheader
By Robbie Knopf
Wil Myers isn’t the only prospect breaking out for the Rays on the hitting side. Rays affiliates scored 36 runs in their 5 games on Wednesday (7.2 runs per game), including 33 runs in the 4 games aside from the Stone Crabs (8.25 R/G), and the leaders of that ranged from the usual suspects to players who just may have broken through. They say that hitting is contagious–could be the case throughout the Rays organization this season?
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 10, Buffalo Bisons (TOR) 2
Wil Myers did extend his hitting streak to 7 with an RBI double in this one, but he was far from the story. Juan Sandoval, the right-handed reliever signed by the Rays despite being blind in his left eye, was bumped up from Double-A to Triple-A after posting a 3.14 ERA, a 22-6 strikeout to walk ratio, and 11 saves in 22 appearances and 28.2 IP with the Montgomery Biscuits, and in this game he made his major league debut. It was his first Triple-A appearance outside the Mexican League since 2009 and there was a twist–he was the Bulls’ starting pitcher, starting a game also for the first time since 2009. Sandoval proceeded to do very well, going 3.2 innings allowing 1 run on 2 hits, managing 1 strikeout compared to 1 walk but forcing a 6-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Adam Liberatore, Cory Wade, and Kirby Yates allowed just one additional run over the next 5.1 innings and finish off a 3-hitter. Yates was especially impressive, striking out 3 in 1.2 perfect innings. This night, though, belonged to the offense. The Bulls actually trailed 2-1 after the top of the 5th, but the Bulls rallied for 5 runs in the bottom of that inning and 4 more in the 8th. Leslie Anderson went 4 for 4, Shelley Duncan slammed a 2-run home run, Jason Bourgeois, Rich Thompson, and Mike Fontenot all went 2 for 4, combining for 4 RBI and 5 runs scored, Vince Belnome had 2 more RBI, and Tim Beckham went 2 for 3. The Bulls went an outstanding 7 of 12 with runners in scoring position as they racked up clutch hit after clutch hit and make sure this game wasn’t close by the end.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 10, Mississippi Braves 0
As impressive as the Bulls were, the Biscuits found a way to one-up them, at least in terms of the final score. Jake Thompson got the start for the Biscuits and he has had himself one wild ride of a season. After starting the year with a dominant performance, Thompson was destroyed in his next two starts before pitching well again in the two starts after that, getting killed in the subsequent three starts, and then pitching well last time out on May 24th. Thompson was able to extend his “strong start” streak to two games in this outing, and hopefully this streak will actually last. Thompson went 6.1 innings allowing no runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2 and managing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Thompson has shown great stuff throughout the season, and maybe his results will finally turn around. Another pitcher in dire need of a good outing, Braulio Lara, finished the game with 2.2 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 2 while walking 1. But with the Biscuits scoring 10 runs, it’s impossible to not go on and on about their lineup. Keith Castillo is normally a player of little consequence in the Rays system, being an organizational guy who’s a catcher by trade and has made a few emergency starts for Montgomery this season. On Wednesday, though, Castillo had his finest moment in professional baseball, going 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, 4 RBI, and 3 runs scored. Riccio Torrez is a few rungs up the latter but entered the game hitting just .214, and he also came up huge, going 3 for 4 with 4 RBI of his own and a run scored. Kevin Kiermaier also went 3 for 6 and Shawn O’Malley went 2 for 5. But let’s talk about Cameron Seitzer. Seitzer went 1 for 2 with 3 walks and 2 runs scored, and after he cooled off after his great start to the year, suddenly he’s red-hot again. In his last ten games, Seitzer has a .355/.512/.516 line with 5 doubles, 4 RBI, and an incredible 4-8 strikeout to walk ratio. Seitzer isn’t hitting for much power, not even registering a home run yet on the season, but his OBP stands at .382 as he just keeps finding ways to get on base and held the Biscuits win. Montgomery didn’t need too much of his help in this one as they combined on an incredible team effort from the pitching to the offense on their way to a dominant win.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Palm Beach Cardinals 1
A bit of a change of pace in this one, but that was of no consequence to the Stone Crabs as they came away victorious. Ryan Carpenter took the hill and was enigmatic but effective for the Stone Crabs, going 6 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, walking 4 while striking out just 2 but also posting a 9-4 groundout to flyout ratio. Jacob Partridge and Nate Garcia allowed just 1 run over the last 3 innings to close out the game. On the offensive side, Kes Carter and Richie Shaffer both went 3 for 4, with Carter lacing a triple and driving in a run while Shaffer managed a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Carter was moved up to Charlotte’s leadoff spot to get him going and the move has worked to perfection as he has hit .382 in his last 10 games. The Rays have to hope Shaffer’s big game will help him move in that same direction as well. Nice to see the Stone Crabs get solid pitching along with the big individual performances of Carter and Shaffer to make sure this game ended favorably.
Low-A Midwest League Game 1: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Lake County Captains (CLE) 5 (7 innings)
Joey Rickard and Brandon Martin began Wednesday with just one home run on the season between them–Rickard because he’s not much of a power hitter and Martin because he was making his season debut and his full-season debut. By the end of the day, the pairing had quintupled their total. Blake Snell was Bowling Green’s starting pitcher and really struggled, walking 6 while striking out just 1 in 4.1 innings pitched on his way to allowing 5 runs on 4 hits. However, Nick Sawyer finished the game with 2.2 hitless innings, and the Hot Rods offense was able to pick up their usually quite reliable starter. The keys to that were Rickard and Martin. Rickard homered in the 1st and 2nd innings before Martin slammed another of his own in the 3rd as the Hot Rods jumped out to an 8-1 lead and were able to overcome Lake County’s late charge in the game. Other notable performers were Tyler Goeddel, who had a 3-run triple, and Justin O’Conner, who continued his strong showing of late by going 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored. O’Conner hasn’t hit at all as a pro, but he’s hitting .306 in his last 10 games and .429 in his last four as maybe he has finally turned a corner. Disheartening to see Snell struggle as much as he did, but Rickard, Martin, and the rest of the Hot Rods offense was up to the task to lead Bowling Green to a win in the opener of their doubleheader.
Game 2: Lake County 6, Bowling Green 5 (7 innings)
More offense was to be found for the Hot Rods in Game 2, but not enough to overcome another pitching debacle. Brandon Henderson got the start, his first this season after managing a 2.73 ERA in 12 relief appearances, and he was not particularly effective, going 4 innings allowing 5 runs, 3 earned on 7 hits. He managed 2 strikeouts versus no walks and a 9-1 groundout to flyout ratio, but he allowed 2 home runs on a couple of the pitches he left elevated. Ryan Garton allowed just one run ove the final 2.1 innings, but unfortunately that was enough for the Captains to walk-off. In terms of the offense, Andrew Toles went 3 for 4 with 3 stolen bases and a run scored, bringing him to an insane 32 stolen bases already on the year, and Tommy Coyle went 2 for 3, but the big heroes were Tyler Goeddel and once again Brandon Martin, with both of them going 1 for 3 with a 2-run home run. What a day for Martin in his first exposure to High-A, going 3 for 6 with two home runs. Martin, who along with his new Bowling Green teammates Goeddel, Taylor Guerrieri, and Jeff Ames was one of the Rays’ 10 picks before the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft, hit for power just fine in his extended pro debut in 2012, slamming 10 in 63 games, but he managed just a .209/.272/.402 line in the process with 73 strikeouts versus 21 walks. You have to hope that at this point Martin’s plate discipline is better and he’ll be able to be a more well-rounded hitter. We’ll find that out in the coming weeks, but so far, so good. Tough loss for the Hot Rods here, but nice to see Martin and Goeddel finish off the doubleheader in style.