The Undercards: Casali and Brett Back At It Again As Biscuits Win in Blowout
By Robbie Knopf
Anyone can have a hot streak. If you’re good enough to make it to a particular level of professional baseball, you’re good enough to have a good couple of weeks and look like you have really figured everything else. But then the league adjusts and only the players with the talent to keep going have the ability to adjust back. Curt Casali and Ryan Brett have cooled off after hot starts for the Montgomery Biscuits. But on Thursday night, they began showing that adjusting back should not be an issue.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 3, Durham Bulls 2
No closer is perfect. With 18 saves in 20 chances, a 1.37 ERA, and an 86-21 strikeout to walk ratio in 59 innings pitched, Kirby Yates made his best effort to convince us otherwise. But against the Tides, Yates did show that he is indeed human. Matt Buschmann started for the Bulls and kept his amazing run going, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits in 6.1 innings pitched, striking out 5 while walking 1. Entering 2013, the 29 year old Buschmann had just a 6.93 ERA in 171 career Triple-A innings pitched (all in the Pacific Coast League). But this season has been a totally different story. Buschmann, David Price‘s former roommate at Vanderbilt, is 7-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 15 starts and 86 innings pitched for the Bulls, and this isn’t a matter of a pitcher getting lucky. Buschmann has an incredible 10.2 K/9, a 4.1 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9. Triple-A pitchers supposedly going nowhere aren’t supposed to strike out batters like that. Could the Rays have a real late bloomer poised to eventually crack their roster?
But while Buschmann’s fortunes keep rising, the Bulls’ fortunes went into a free-fall at the end of this game. Jeff Beliveau tossed 0.2 shutout innings and Brandon Gomes threw a scoreless 8th, but then Kirby Yates came apart. Attempting to protect a one-run lead, Yates recorded just 1 out while allowing 3 hits, including a walk-off two-run single to Zelous Wheeler, as the Tides came back to win 3-2. Kevin Kiermaier went 2 for 3 with a walk and Ryan Roberts went 0 for 1 with 3 walks, a stolen base, and a run scored in the loss for the Bulls.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 10, Mississippi Braves 3
Sometimes a player struggles when moving up to a new level because he’s trying to be something that he’s not. A few more days like Thursday, though, and the Rays could get used to the new power-hitting Ryan Brett. Brett entered the game 4 for his last 39 (.103) but had a huge breakout game in this one, going 2 for 4 with a homer, a walk, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Brett already has 6 doubles and 2 homers in 74 plate appearances at Double-A after just 11 doubles and 4 homers in 225 plate appearances at High-A. And while he has struggled, he also struck out just 7 times while walking 6 times. Brett will have to keep making adjustments if he hopes to keep this type of power output up. But power was always the flaw in Brett’s game, and if he can rectify that, he just might solidify his status as one of the Rays’ top prospects.
Brett’s partner in crime in this game was Curt Casali, who made up for a horrific defensive night (catcher’s interference, two passed balls) with a 3-run home run. Casali has seen his average drop down to .380 as he has hit an ordinary .282 in his last 10 games, but hopefully this homer is a sign that his incredible streak is far from over. Steven Tinoco also had a strong game for the Biscuits, going 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored, and Shawn O’Malley went 1 for 3 with 2 walks and a run scored. There was also some pitching for the Biscuits in this game, with Marquis Fleming allowing 2 runs in 4 innings pitched.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 4, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 3
It was far from pretty, but the Hot Rods rode a trio of clutch hits and incredible pitching with runners in scoring position to steal a game from the Whitecaps that they had no business winning. Jordan Harrison has been great for the Hot Rods but not against West Michigan as he lasted just a 4.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, striking out 2 while walking 3. Ryan Garton has hit his groove for Bowling Green, but he actually allowed 2 hits and 3 walks in this game. Somehow he pitched shutout ball. And then in the 9th, Andrew Hanse got in a bases-loaded 1-out jam up just a run, but he got a strikeout and a groundout to end it as the Hot Rods won 4-3. Bowling Green pitchers held the Whitecaps to just 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position. And while the Hot Rods themselves did strand 9 runners, Tyler Goeddel drilled an RBI double in the 2nd inning, Brandon Martin brought home 2 more runs with a 2-run double later in the frame, and Ryan Dunn had an RBI single in the 8th for game-winning hit. Goeddel went 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and 2 runs scored in the game while Martin went 2 for 4 with that huge double.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 4, Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL) 2
Having lost 13 of their previous 16 games, the Hudson Valley Renegades have been desperate for a lift for quite a while. Maybe Ben Griset just gave them just that. Griset went a career-high 6.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was an impressive 11-3. It was a career game for Griset and right up there for the best start by a Renegades pitcher this season, and the Renegades could not have needed it any more. The Renegades took advantage of three Ironbirds error, but forced the issue with 6 stolen bases on the night. John Alexander went 2 for 3 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored and Ariel Soriano went 1 for 2 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, an RBI, and a run scored, but most impressive what was Johnny Field did. Field went just 0 for 4 in the game, but he stole 2 bases after reaching on a fielder’s choice and an error and also had an outfield assist.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 4, Bristol White Sox 2
Crazy things happen in Rookie ball. But German Marquez and Spencer Edwards continue to settle in quite well. Marquez went the first 5 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. Oscar Armenta followed by allowing just 1 run in 3 innings of work, striking out 3 while walking none, and Luis Cabrera struck out 2 in a perfect 9th for the save. It was Edwards that drove in all 4 P-Rays runs, going 3 for 4 with 2-run doubles in the 3rd and 5th. The Rays’ second round pick from 2012 has a .364/.391/.523 line with 5 doubles, 8 RBI, and 4 stolen bases in his last 10 games. It was Coty Blanchard and Enmanuel Paulino who scored the runs for Princeton, with Paulino going 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored and Blanchard going 1 for 2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored.