On Tuesday, the Rays offense got 4 runs and their bullpen didn’t allow an earned run in 4 innings of work. Why did they lose? Chris Archer started and struggled, allowing 5 runs in just 5 innings pitched. We see more and more in baseball how the performance of the two teams’ starting pitchers will determine the end result of the game more often than not. A starting pitcher can basically win a game all by himself and he can certainly lose it as well. The worst feeling, though, is when your starting pitcher does well and your bullpen blows the game, and the result is a heartbreaking loss. Every Rays affiliate got a good outing from their starting pitcher on Tuesday. The fact that they went just 4-3 overall simply kindles frustration and elucidates how much we take for granted the performance in bullpens when that isn’t always true.
Triple-A International League: Gwinnett Braves 3, Durham Bulls 2 (10 innings)
Jake Odorizzi was due for a good start. He entered Tuesday’s start against Gwinnett with just a 6.45 ERA in his last five starts, failing to complete 5 innings three times. Odorizzi wasn’t looking for dominance but simply a stepping stone to make his way back to where he should be. He did exactly that. Odorizzi went 5 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. He labored, tossing 98 pitches in those 5 innings, but he kept the Braves off the board and departed with the Bulls ahead 1-0 on a Kevin Kiermaier RBI triple. But since Odorizzi failed to provide length, the Durham bullpen was going to have to cover 4 innings, a tough task in a 1-run game. But it looked like they would be able to do exactly that. Brandon Gomes followed Odorizzi with a dominant rehab appearance, striking out 2 in a perfect inning, and Steve Geltz followed by working around a hit and a walk to toss a scoreless 7th. But then the Bulls had to do something they weren’t exactly comfortable doing: bringing closer Kirby Yates into the game in the 8th inning.
Yates entered the game with an incredible 1.14 ERA, but he had not gone 2 innings in a game since July 9th and had not recorded a 2-inning save all season. Josh Lueke had been untouchable setting up Yates, but apparently he couldn’t make it to the Bulls game in time after getting demoted from the major leagues and Yates was going to have to go the extra mile. Unsurprisingly, Yates tossed a perfect 8th–the Bulls knew he could give them one great inning–and then Durham scored him an insurance run in the 9th on a Chris Gimenez solo home run. However, the Bulls also stranded two runners on base in the inning, giving Yates a long wait between innings, and when he came out for the 9th, he was a different pitcher. Yates blew the 2-run lead, allowing 3 hits, including an RBI single by Stefan Gartrell, a walk, and a wild pitch that tied the game at 2. Yates has delivered a great season. But on Wednesday, he looked everything like a one-inning pitcher and a one-inning pitcher alone, and the results were disastrous when he tried to do more. But the 10th inning was even worse. Adam Liberatore had gotten the first two outs of the inning sandwiched around a Brandon Boggs single before getting Philip Gosselin to hit a groundball to Tim Beckham at shortstop. But Beckahm threw wildly to second base and Boggs came all the way around to score as Gwinnett won 3-2. Between an overexerted closer and a defensive misplay, the Bulls by all accounts blew a game they surely should have won. All they can do now is make sure that this devastating loss doesn’t carry over into their next game.
Double-A Southern League: Jackson Generals (SEA) 2, Montgomery Biscuits 1
What has gotten into Victor Mateo? Through July 2nd, Mateo was easily the Rays’ worst starter at full-season ball, managing a 6.04 ERA, a 53-40 strikeoutt o walk ratio, and a 1.3 HR/9 in 17 starts and 85 innings pitched. But since then, everything has changed, and Tuesday was just the latest example. In this game, Mateo went 7.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. In his last 7 starts covering 48 innings, Mateo now has a 1.69 ERA, a 29-13 strikeout to walk ratio, and a solid 0.9 HR/9, turning into a totally different pitcher. The biggest difference could be Mateo’s changeup, which has long been his best secondary pitch but has now emereged as a weapong against hitters from both sides. Mateo has a long way to go if he wants to become any sort of prospect, but this is where it starts.
Finally in the 8th inning, the Biscuits got Mateo a run on a 2-out RBI double by Cameron Seitzer. After that, both teams’ bullpens took control and the scoreboard stayed quiet. Braulio Lara tossed 2.1 no-hit innings, Juan Sandoval worked around a hit and 2 walks to get the game through Montgomery through the 12th, and Erik Hamren tossed a scoreless 13th. In the 14th, however, consecutive 1-out singles were followed by an error by the third baseman Robby Price to end the game as the Biscuits lost 2-1. There weren’t any blown leads in this one, but after how well Mateo had pitched, they really wanted this game but just couldn’t get it. Cameron Seitzer went 1 for 5 with 2 walks and his huge RBI double while Mikie Mahtook went 2 for 7 with a double but struck out the other five times.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 1
The timing was strange for Dylan Floro‘s long-awaited promotion to High-A. Floro had pitched outstanding for Low-A Bowling Green, going 9-2 with a 1.81 ERA, an 85-19 strikeout to walk ratio, and a groundball rate over 60% in 19 starts and 109.1 innings pitched, he he had allowed 7 runs, 4 earned, in 6 innings in his last start. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Floro had to wonder whether his dominance would be fleeting. And he received another wake-up call to begin this game. Brent Keys laced a double off Floro to lead off the first inning and Ryan Rieger followed with a line drive single. But that was the only time that anyone was really worried about Floro all game. Floro then forced a double play ball off the bat off Alfredo Lopez, scoring Keys with the only run he allowed all game. Floro wasn’t dominant, allowing 8 hits in his 9 innings, but with help from that double play and a pair of outfield assists, he batted to keep the Hammerheads off-balance all game. Floro went all 9 innings allowing just that first inning run on 8 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was 11-6, not quite where it was at Low-A but still quite impressive. Floro is going to have a harder time against more advanced hitters at High-A and whether he can continue striking out enough batters and forcing as many groundballs as he did before is in serious question. But if Tuesday’s game was any indication, plenty of positive things lie ahead.
The Stone Crabs got Floro all three of his runs in the 7th inning, with Willie Argo lining an RBI single and Drew Vettleson delivering a two-out, two-run single to give Floro not just the lead but a two-run cushion. Vettleson had a huge game, going 2 for 3 with a double, 2 walks, and those big RBIs, and Argo wasn’t too shabby himself, going 2 for 5 with his 31st steal, an RBI, and a run scored. Hector Guevara also went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Vettleson seems close to catching fire, hitting just .250 but with an outstanding 8-6 strikeout to walk ratio in his last 10 games, and maybe finally he’s ready to start transitioning from seeing the ball well to hitting it with authority.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 2, Kingsport Mets 0 (Game 1, 7 innings)
Complete games are extrmely rare at Rookie ball. However, games are just 7 innings in doubleheaders, giving pitchers a chance if they pitch dominantly and efficiently. D.J. Slaton just missed. Slaton allowing just 4 hits in the first 6 innings, striking out 3 while walking none, but back-to-back two-out singles in the 7th forced Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer to replace him with Isaac Gil to record the final out. Gil struck out Michael Bernal to end it as the P-Rays won 2-1. Slaton, this year’s 37th round pick by the Rays, had to settle for 6.2 shutout innings but lowered his ERA to 2.45 in 9 starts and 44 innings pitched. (His 23-11 strikeout to walk ratio as a 20 year old at Rookie Ball does temper enthusiasm.) On the offensive side, Spencer Edwards, Hunter Lockwood, Bralin Jackson, and Travis Flores combined for the 4 Princeton hits as they all went 1 for 3, with Edwards and Lockwood delivering RBI singles and Jackson stealing his 7th base.
Princeton Rays 6, Kingsport Mets 2 (Game 2, 7 innings)
The Princeton Rays have suffered through a horrific season and have been waiting all year to get something that could inspire them. Maybe this doubleheader sweep could be exactly that. In this game, Jacob Faria got the start and followed up Slaton’s great outing with an amazing effort of his own, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 6 innings, striking out 7 while walking 1. Faria’s 2.58 ERA and 45.1 innings pitched are very similar to Slaton, but as a player who’s 10 months younger and has managed an outstanding 50-6 strikeout to walk ratio, he has stood out significantly more. Faria has managed a strikeout to walk ratio of 4-to-1 or better in 8 of his 9 starts this season. But Faria was far from the only player who impressed in this game. Lockwood and Edwards both were solid in Game 1 of the doubleheader, but they exploded in this game to lead the Princeton offense. Lockwood went 3 for 4 with 2 triples, a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored while Edwards went 3 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. For some perspective on Lockwood’s game, just 15 players have managed exactly 3 hits that were two doubles and a triple in a nine-inning game since 1990. Lockwood did it in just seven innings! Other stars of the game included Enmanuel Paulino, who slammed his first American home run, and Johnny Eierman, who went 2 for 4 wtih a double and an RBI.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 2, GCL Red Sox 1 (Game 1, 7 innings)
Yep, two Rookie ball doubleheaders. This one got sketchy at the end, but the GCL Rays were able to follow in the path of their Princeton brethren in Game 1. Trevor Shull began the game with a rehab appearance as he appeared in his first game since August 20th of 2012, worked around a walk in a shutout inning. No word on what Shull’s injury was other than that it was arm-related, but it most have been quite serious for him to be out for this long. Hyrum Forno then worked around a hit with a strikeout in his scoreless 2nd. But the GCL Rays were going to need some length to get through this game, and Geisel De La Cruz gave that to them, going 4 innings allowing no runs on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. De La Cruz has not been able to replicate his success of last season, when he made it from the Dominican Summer League up to the GCL Rays, but he does have a 2.77 ERA and an 11-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 5 appearances and 13 innings pitched. Nick Ciuffo staked De La Cruz a run in the 4th, drilling an RBI double, and Clayton Henning, walked, stole second base, and scored on a Cristian Toribio RBI single in the 7th to give the GCL Rays the insurance run that made the difference in the game. Ruben Paredes got into serious trouble in the 9th, facing runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out after a walk and an error, but Paredes escaped the jam allowing only a sac fly to seal the GCL Rays win. Toribio had a big game, going 2 for 2 with a walk and an RBI, and Unroe had a strong game as well, going 1 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.
GCL Red Sox 2, GCL Rays 1 (Game 2, 7 innings)
A bit of deja vu in this one as the GCL Rays allowed an unearned run in the 9th, and this time it was costly. Andres Gonzalez made his first start of the season after 8 great relief appearances and did so quite well, allowing 1 run on 5 hits in 5 innings of work, striking out 5 while walking 1 and forcing a 7-2 groundout to flyout ratio. But the GCL Rays only scored him 1 run, and the GCL Red Sox scored an unearned run off Yael Regalado in the 7th after a Taylor Hawkins throwing error to win in walk-off fashion. Alexander Simon went 1 for 3 with the only GCL Rays RBI and Clayton Henning went 1 for 2 with his 2nd stolen base of the day.