There’s something special about extra-inning baseball. It’s not just additional but above and beyond the norm, and often sets the stage for some of the most exciting moments you’ll ever see. It’s especially nice when those exhilarating events happen in favor of your team, and luckily that was the case on Monday in the Rays organization. Just four games in this minor league recap because of rainouts, but there were three extra-inning victories.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 4, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 3 (10 innings)
When a pitcher tosses 8 strong innings and doesn’t get the win, that’s terrible. When he’s in line for the loss, that’s criminal. That was going to be the case with Mike Colla, but the Biscuits rallied to make sure that didn’t turn into reality. Colla just continues to impress since joining the Rays organization, this time going 8 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. Colla now has a 2.70 ERA in five starts with the Biscuits, and you have to wonder why the 26 year old started the year in Independent ball. In this game, though, the biggest question was why Colla pitched so well but Montgomery could only score 2 runs against Alberto Cabrera and a pair of Smokies relievers (including Zach Rosscup, who was part of the Matt Garza trade). But with 2 outs and nobody on in the 9th, Mikie Mahtook walked and Cameron Seitzer got him to 3rd on a single before a wild pitch tied the game. And the rally was completed in the 10th inning, when Hector Guevara laced a walk-off single to send the Biscuits to a dramatic 4-3 win. Unfortunately, Colla couldn’t get the win, but Juan Sandoval did in his first game back at Double-A after his stint at Triple-A and did pitch very well, allowing just 1 hit in 2 innings and striking out 3. On the offensive side, Kevin Kiermaier and Cameron Seitzer have been the Biscuits’ offensive starts all year, and that just continues to be the case. Kiermaier went 3 for 5 with a homer, a double, and 2 runs scored while Seitzer went 4 for 5 with his huge 9th inning hit. Both are on long-term hot streaks. Kiermaier is hitting a ridiculous .381 in his last 33 games and 147 plate appearances (which is more impressive, his average or the sample size?) while Seitzer is hitting .353 in his last 96 PA’s. Mahtook went 0 for 3 but reached base a couple times via the walk and scored the game-tying run while Robby Price went 2 for 3 with 2 walks.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 1
The Rays’ big league game against the Tigers featured enough drama (thank you, Jake McGee!), so the Hot Rods made sure that they would make this one nice and easy. Jeff Ames got the start and was out of the game early as control issues plagued him but kept the Whitecaps off the board. Ames allowed no runs but 3 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings, striking out 4 in the process. Eduar Quinonez followed and earned the win in the game by allowing 1 run in 3 innings of work before Jose Molina tossed 2 perfect innings wiht 2 strikeouts to finish the game. But of course you want to hear about the offense. Leonardo Reginatto continued his hot streak with a career day, going 3 for 5 with a triple, 5 RBI, and 2 runs scored, Andrew Toles went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored, Thomas Coyle went 2 for 4 with a walk and an RBI, and Brandon Martin had a very encouraging game, going 1 for 2 with 2 walks, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. Martin is starting to come alive, hitting .295 in his last 49 plate appearances, and the rays are still expecting big things from their 2011 supplemental rounder.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 1, Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM) 0 (11 innings)
I was at this game sitting in the press box, and it was certainly worth the trip. It was a pitcher’s duel all the way and moved lightning-fast, completing 9 innings in 1:55 and the entire game in 2:22 despite it being 11 innings in large part because neither team walked a batter until the 9th inning. Some fans might not like that, but in the Rays organization, this is what everyone lives for. Ben Griset got the start and pitched very well, going 5 innings allowing just 2 hits, striking out 2 and getting 7 more outs on the ground. I’ll discuss Griset more over the next couple of days, but suffice it to say that he attacked the strike zone and forced a ton of weak contact from the Cyclones. Justin Choate followed and continued the outstanding pitching to get it through 9 innings, allowing just 3 hits in 4 innings, not striking out a batter but forcing a 6-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Andrew Hanse allowed only a walk in the final 2 innings for the win. You have to feel sorry for Robert Gsellman, who went 8 innings for the Cyclones but got a no-decision. He allowed just 4 hits, striking out 4 and getting 13 outs on the ground. He was overpowering and made Renegades hitters look lost all day. In the 11th, htough, they finally put something together. Julian Ridings led off the inning with a double before Ariel Soriano bunted him to 3rd to bring Ty Young to the plate. Young then hit a groundball to L.J. Mazzilli at second base, but Ridings beat the throw home to send the Renegades to victory on, of all things, a walk-off fielder’s choice. 4 of the Renegades’ 5 hits were doubles, but the Renegades couldn’t score them until the 11th. John Alexander and Granden Goetzman both had encouraging games, with Alexander drilling a double and Goetzman having a single (albeit on a weak bloop) and stealing a base, but the most impressive plays of the game were actually defensive plays. Oscar Hernandez somehow took one of Griset’s offerings and simply flicked his wrist to deliver a rocket to Alexander at first base to pick off Gavin Cecchini. He has a lot of work to do defensively, but he’s athletic with a strong arm and should be fine in time. Ty Young also made several great plays at third base including a vintage Evan Longoria-esque play where he made an excellent stop on a groundball to his right, set his feet, and was perfect on a long throw from the back corner of the infield. The two went just 0 for 8 with a walk, but they certainly made their presence felt on the defensive side of the ball.
Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 4, Johnson City Cardinals 3 (12 innings)
One cool thing about Rookie ball is that with pitchers making such short starts, pitching is a real team effort and it’s really nice when everyone comes together. That was the case in this one as the P-Rays found a way to win in 12 innings. D.J. Slaton got the start and got killed by the old “never allow groundballs in Rookie ball adage” (that I totally made up), allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 3.2 innings, striking out 3 while walking 2. Of course, his groundout to flyout ratio was 7-0 and half of the hits he allowed were on groundballs. After Oscar Armenta got out of the 4th inning, Luis Cabrera went 3 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2, Darren Fischer went 2.2 hitless innings striking out 3 while walking 1 (7 of his 8 outs were either strikeouts or groundouts), and Isaac Gil earned the win working around 3 hits in 2 innings, striking out 1. Great to see so many pitchers throwing the ball well. On the offensive side, all the regulation scoring came on the home run, with Spencer Edwards, David Garcia, and Leopoldo Correa all going deep, and Bralin Jackson won the game in the 12th with a walk-off single. Jackson is hitting just .111, and you have to hope that the confidence generated by his game-winning hit will extend far beyond this game alone.