With the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff continually struggling, it is getting harder and harder to see talented starters that are performing well in Triple-A. The Rays have a plethora of top pitching prospects in Triple-A, including the likes of Nate Karns and Enny Romero. But their best performer of the year has been Merrill Kelly, who has posted a 1.67 ERA and is quickly turning himself from little known organizational pitcher to someone pushing for a big league call-up. Kelly once again was strong on Saturday, throwing 7.2 shutout innings while striking out nine and allowing just five men to reach base.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 1, Columbus Clippers (CLE) 0
The Bulls faced a tough assignment from the beginning of this one, as former first round pick Trevor Bauer took the mound for the Clippers. The offense would not exactly live up to the challenge as Bauer threw seven shutout innings, followed by another three shutout innings from the bullpen. The Bulls did manage a solid 11 hits, led by Kevin Kiermaier‘s 3-5 performance and Cole Figueroa‘s 2-4 effort. But, a lack of timely hitting kept the Bulls off the scoreboard until the 11th inning rolled around. Thankfully for the offense, the pitching staff saved this one, and a Jerry Sands walk-off RBI single in the 11th was all that the Bulls would need.
Merrill Kelly was the leader of the staff, once again looking strong, a nice surprise given that he did not even begin the year in Durham’s rotation. Let’s hope he can keep up the good work. Behind Kelly, Adam Liberatore, a player who has quietly put up some nice seasons in the Rays’ system, threw 1.2 scoreless innings. Kirby Yates finished things off for the Bulls, going 1.2 innings and earning the win, lowering his ERA to a miniscule 0.61 on the season. Very rarely does a pitching staff throw nine scoreless innings, let alone eleven, but the Bulls did just that to bail out the offense in this one.
Double-A Southern League: Huntsville Stars (MIL) 11, Montgomery Biscuits 0
Nothing went right for the Biscuits for the second night in a row as they dropped to the Milwaukee Brewers’ Double-A affiliate. The offense would manage just three hits, one each by Jeff Malm, Richie Shaffer, and Cameron Seitzer. It is pretty hard to win any game with that kind of offense, especially one in which your pitching staff gives up 11 runs. Matt Neil started the game and got shelled, throwing just 3.1 innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits. Jake Thompson did a good job in his 1.2 inning outing, allowing no runners to reach base. Matt Lollis threw the next two innings and gave up just an unearned run. Then Braulio Lara came in to give up three more runs in his inning of work, and Santiago Garrido finished the final frame with a scoreless inning. Even the defense was poor in this one, as Ryan Brett made two errors (his 8th and 9th of the season), and Luke Bailey made an error as well. This was a forgettable day for the Biscuits.
High-A Florida State League: Game 1: Port Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 4. Game 2: Stone Crabs 4, Hammerheads 1
The Stone Crabs played a pair of seven inning games Saturday after getting rained out on Friday. In the first one, they pulled their best Durham Bulls’ impression, walking off in the 7th inning thanks to an Andrew Toles RBI infield single. Despite the shortened game, the Stone Crabs managed 15 hits, led by Tommy Coyle’s 3-4, 2 RBI performance. Kes Carter added a 3-4 performance as well, and Toles went 3-5 as 8 of the 9 hitters in the lineup managed at least one hit. Reinaldo Lopez started the game and wasn’t at his best, but he kept the Stone Crabs in this one by throwing 6.0 innings and giving up four runs. Lefty Kevin Brandt threw a scoreless 7th to earn the win, and his ERA is still a perfect 0.00. The 2012 18th round pick has done nothing but perform since joining the Rays organization, and could quickly rise the rest of the way through the system if he keeps up the good work.
In game two, the Stone Crabs prevailed once again, though it did not come with the drama that occurred in game one. The offense would score just one less run in game two, but they did so while managing only four hits. Maxx Tissenbaum had a nice 2-2 performance with a run scored, and Tyler Goeddel smacked a double. Bruedlin Suero was the starter, and went 5.2 innings while giving up just one run. Marcus Jensen earned his second save of the season by throwing the final 1.1 innings as the Stone Crabs swept the doubleheader.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 8, Great Lakes Loons (LAD) 1
The Hot Rods started off the season slow, but have been hot as of late, and that continued on Saturday. German Marquez started the game for the Hot Rods and was stellar, going 5.0 scoreless innings and striking out five while walking just two. Marquez continues to impress as just a 19-year old in full season ball, and has now lowered his ERA to just 2.38. Thanks to an advanced arsenal and maturity beyond his years, Marquez is quickly making himself one of the Rays most promising pitching prospects. 2013 10th round pick Aaron Griffin threw the next 4.0 innings, allowing just a solo home run to Jesmuel Valentin to earn the save.
8 of 9 Hot Rods hitters joined the fun in Saturday’s contest as the team managed a solid 15 hits. Oscar Hernandez went off, going 4-4 with a pair of doubles, an encouraging performance after he started the season off slowly. Granden Goetzman raised his average to .340 with a 3-4, 2 double performance. Yoel Araujo and Juniel Querecuto added two hit games of their own, and Ty Young smacked a two-run homer to contribute as well. Overall, a great day from the Rays’ Low-A affiliate.