Nothing quite like excellent pitching, timely hitting, and solid defense. Those three things have been the hallmarks of the Tampa Bay Rays during their run from 2008 through present, and not surprisingly, are a big part of the minor league plan as well. Merrill Kelly and Mike Colla lived up to their end of the bargain, as they continued to build upon excellent starts for their teams last night.
Durham Bulls 3, Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) 1
Merrill Kelly has been virtually unstoppable since joining the Bulls. While tonight was not his best outing, he still had a solid outing for Durham against the IronPigs. The Bulls got a run in the top of the third, as Cole Figueroa singled to lead off the frame, and scored on a two out double by Tim Beckham. Durham tacked on two more runs in the fourth, as Vince Belnome singled to lead off the inning, and scored on Ryan Roberts‘ double. Roberts moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch to give the Bulls a 3-0 lead. Kelly dominated through the first three innings before wearing down. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, and Kelly got a popup to record the second out. After a walk forced in a run, Adam Liberatore came in and stifled the rally. The Bulls had a potential scoring threat go by the wayside in the eighth, but neither team was able to mount any further offense as Durham took a 3-1 victory. Kelly improved to 2-0 for the Bulls, giving up one run on three hits and four walks, striking out three in 5.2 innings. Roberts was 2-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
Montgomery Biscuits 3, Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers) 0
Just as Merrill Kelly continued his strong performance for the Bulls, Mike Colla did the same for the Biscuits last night. Locked in a pitching duel with Chattanooga counterpart Chris Reed, both teams were scoreless heading into the fifth. There, Montgomery struck first, as they loaded the bases with one out. Mark Thomas grounded into a double play, but it was enough to push Cameron Seitzer across the plate for the first run of the game. Chattanooga mounted a threat in the sixth, putting runners on first and second with one out, but Colla got through the jam by inducing two ground outs to end the threat. The Biscuits got another run in the eighth, as Riccio Torrez doubled to lead off the inning, moved to third on a groundout , and scored on a two out single by Robi Estrada. Seitzer drove in an insurance run in the ninth, as the Biscuits pitching held the Lookouts to eight baserunners. Colla picked up the win, allowing four hits and two walks in seven shutout innings. Seitzer was 1-3 with a run, an RBI and a walk. Torrez and Kevin Kiermaier each had two hits in the victory.
Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins) 11, Charlotte Stone Crabs 5
So, those excellent pitching performances from the first two games? Not so much in Charlotte, unfortunately. Starter Ryan Carpenter got shelled almost immediately, allowing back to back singles before recording his first out. That out would be the highlight of his night, as he promptly gave up a two run double to Alex Burg. After loading the bases and allowing another run, Carpenter then gave up a grand slam to Josh Adams, giving the Hammerheads a 7-0 lead with still the one out. After allowing a single to the ninth batter of the inning, Adams was mercifully pulled from the game. Jupiter scored twice more in the third, courtesy of RBI singles from Burg and Alfredo Lopez to extend the lead to 9-0. The Stone Crabs finally got on the board in the fourth, putting runners on first and third with one out. After a pop up, Curt Casali singled to drive in Charlotte’s first run of the game. The Hammerheads tacked on another run in the fifth before Charlotte made the game interesting. Willie Argo hit a two run home run, and Richie Shaffer hit a two run double, but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple to end the inning. The Hammerheads tacked on another run in the sixth as they took the 11-5 victory. Carpenter took the loss, giving up seven runs on seven hits and a walk while recording one out. On the positive side, Ryan Brett was 4-4 with a walk, two runs scored and a stolen base.
Lake County Captains (Indians) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
This game actually continued the trend of excellent starting pitching, as Taylor Guerrieri was excellent for the Hot Rods, giving up four hits and a walk over five shutout innings. However, Dylan Baker was even better for the Captains, with a no hitter through five. Eduar Quinonez came in for Guerrieri in the sixth, and the Captains greeted him quite rudely. After striking out two of the first three batters he faced, the Captians loaded the bases against Quinonez. A bases loaded walk pushed the first run of the game across, then Jorge Martinez followed with a ground rule double to give Lake County the 3-0 lead. The Hot Rods came back in the sixth, as Ryan Dunn walked and stole second with two outs. Leonardo Reginatto then got the first hit of the night for Bowling Green, a base hit to drive Dunn home for the Hot Rods first run. Baker was removed at that point, and after another hit, Luke Maile followed with an RBI single to cut the lead to one. The score remained at 3-2 into the bottom of the eighth when the Hot Rods had a prime opportunity to tie the game. Brandon Martin doubled to lead off the inning, and stole third with one out. However, he was stranded there, as lake County reliever Cody Penny got two ground outs to end the threat. The Captains expanded that lead in the top of the ninth. Yhoxian Medina and Logan Vick had back to back doubles to bring in a run, and the Captains loaded the bases with one out. Jeremy Lucas came through with a two run single to extend the lead to 6-2. The Hot Rods got a run back in the bottom of the inning, but it was not enough as the Captains took the 6-3 victory. Quinonez took the loss, giving up three runs on two hits and four walks while recording two outs. Dunn was 0-2, but scored a run and drew two walks. Marty Gantt was 1-4 with a double and a run scored, providing the Hot Rods with their only extra base hit.
Hudson Valley Renegades 6, Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) 5 (Ten Innings)
After a two game losing streak, the Renegades got back on the winning side of the ledger last night, but the game did not start off promisingly. Starter Benjamin Griset struggled, loading the bases with one out. Matthew Oberste doubled, driving in two runs. He moved to third as another run scored due to an error by Ismel Antunez, which was the start of the mistakes for the Renegades that inning. A two out walk put runners on first and third, and a wild pitch moved the runner to second. Griset had a chance to get out of the inning as he got a ground ball to short, but Pat Blair made another error, leading to two more runs. However, Hudson Valley fought back. Johnny Field drove in a run in the first, and then the Renegades pulled within one in the third. They loaded the bases with no outs, and scored a run on an error. After a groundout brought in another run, Omar Narvaez singled to cut the lead to 5-4. The comeback was completed in the fourth, as Julian Ridings reached on an error for the second consecutive inning, this time getting to second on the miscue. After Blair was hit by a pitch, the Renegades executed a double steal, with Riding scoring the tying run on a throwing error. That score held up through the ninth, and the Renegades came through in extra innings. Oscar Hernandez singled with one out, and moved to third on a two out base hit by Darryl George. A walk loaded the bases, and James Harris came through with a single to cap off the come from behind victory. Justin Choate earned the win in relief, pitching four shutout innings, allowing only two hits and a walk. Hernandez was 2-5 with an RBI and the game winning run.
Princeton Rays 4, Burlington Royals 0
And back to the strong pitching performances. The Rays got all the run support that they would end up needing right off the bat in the bottom of the first, as Spencer Edwards led off the inning with a home run. Princeton got three more in the bottom of the third, scoring a run on an error and a two run double by David Garcia. Meanwhile, the Princeton pitching staff was dominant, giving up five baserunners as the Royals were able to muster only one true scoring threat. With two outs in the top of the fifth, Michael Mercurio doubled, and attempted to score on a base hit by Desmond Henry. However, Yoel Araujo gunned him down at the plate, ending the threat. The Rays went on to the 4-0 victory, as Hunter Wood earned the win in relief, allowing one walk in 1.2 innings. Garcia was 3-4 with two doubles two RBIs in the win.