One flaw we are starting to encounter with these minor league recaps is the same players being featured over and over again. Then again, when a player is as hot as Hunter Lockwood is right now, what else are we supposed to do? Lockwood’s blast highlighted a night of impressive offense in the system to go along with the usual standout pitching.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 7, Buffalo Bisons (TOR) 2
Vince Belnome made his major league debut for the Rays on July 3rd, and he is showing that he is going to do whatever it takes to get back. Since returning to Durham, he has three multi-hit games in four contests, and Saturday was his best day yet. Belnome went 4 for 4 with a homer, a walk, 4 RBI, and 2 runs scored, and he upped his line to .368/.415/.632 in his last 10 games. Belnome is starting to rebound from his disastrous start to the season, and his taste of the majors has only increased his confidence that he can recover. Justin Christian also homered for Durham, while Jeremy Moore went 2 for 5.
There was also some strong pitching in this game, beginning with Matt Andriese. The 24 year old right-hander failed to complete 6 innings for the first time in four starts, but he pitched well nonetheless, going 5 innings allowing 2 run on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 3-2. Andriese has the misfortune of not yet being on the Rays’ 40-man roster, but he has delivered an outstanding season and could make his big league debut this year nonetheless. He currently is 10-4 with a 3.42 ERA, a 7.5 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9 in 16 starts, 2 relief appearances, and 103 innings pitched. The homer rate is a little alarming, but Andriese has overcome early-season command issues to lower his HR/9 to 0.7 in his last 10 starts. Merrill Kelly and C.J. Riefenhauser finished the game by each tossing 2 scoreless innings allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 1.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 8, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) 5
This was an ugly win for the Biscuits, but they received enough big hits to endure it. Kes Carter had a huge game, going 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, a walk, a stolen base, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Little was expected of Carter after he was promoted to Double-A more because there was a roster spot to fill than because of anything he did. However, Carter now has three multi-hit games in his last last four, and he actually has at least one extra-base hit in each. Also homering were Richie Shaffer and Ryan Brett, and Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored.
On the pitching side, Grayson Garvin had a solid start, allowing 1 run in 3 innings of work, and Jim Patterson followed him with 2 shutout frames. Braulio Lara and Santiago Garrigo would each allow 2 runs when they appeared, but Cory Burns was excellent. Burns, the only member of the Rays’ 40-man roster currently at Montgomery, went 1.1 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 3. Burns now has a 9 strikeouts against only 1 walk in 6.1 innings since joining the organization, and he may earn himself a trip back to Triple-A if he keeps that up.
High-A Florida State League: Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
This is the type of loss that Rays fans have become a little too much used to in recent days. Reinaldo Lopez had his best start of the season, going 7 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. Like usual, Lopez was not overpowering, but he forced 10 groundouts as he managed to keep Brevard County hits off-balance all game. Unfortunately for him, the Charlotte offense could not get him a single run during his 7 innings. Luckily, however, Josh Sale drilled a solo homer in the 8th, when Lopez was still the pitcher of record, and the Stone Crabs were heading for a dramatic 1-0 win. Instead, Kevin Brandt blew the save in the 9th and they lost 2-1. Lopez has never really been a prospect, but he has advanced one level at a time the last six years and has never posted an ERA above 3.70 at any of his primary levels in a season. That’s pretty impressive.
Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
There were a few major positives for the Hot Rods in this game, but they did not prove sufficient as they lost to Lansing 3-1. German Marquez made his second start since coming off the disabled list and looked sharp, going 4 innings allowing 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. The Rays would love to see a few more outings like this one from Marquez (especially over a couple more innings). Josh Kimborowicz followed with 3 shutout innings allowing only a hit and a walk while striking out 2, and Bowling Green entered the 8th inning tied at 1. But the 2 runs allowed by Jorge Rodriguez were enough to prove the difference in a low-scoring game as the Hot Rods could not respond. Ty Young did follow up his 2-homer game on Friday with another home run while James Harris went 2 for 3 with a walk. You can even forget about the home runs and Young still has a 6-game hitting streak and a .378 average in his last 10 games. Young suddenly has impressive numbers overall on the year, managing a .265/.371/.465 line. Young is playing third base now, but he has the defensive skills to play second base in the future and may have the offense to be a player worth keeping an eye once he does.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 12, Batavia Muckdogs (MIA) 10 (11 innings)
This was a crazy game, but not as crazy as this stat: Hunter Lockwood was 3 walk-off home runs already this season. How is that even possible? He went 3 for 6 with that homer, a double, and a single overall in the game, also scoring 3 times. He started the season off with a bang and has simply never stopped, managing a .318/.362/.636 line with 9 home runs on the year. You would love to see more patience, but his power is real and it will be interesting to see whether he can adjust at higher levels. Six other Renegades managed multi-hit games before this one was through, with Alec Sole driving in 3, Bralin Jackson managing 4 hits, and Braxton Lee contributing 3. There wasn’t much pitching to be found in this game, but Isaac Gil finished the game with 2.1 shutout innings with 3 strikeouts, and that was enough. How often do you get to say that the Renegades totaled 12 runs on 19 hits and needed it all?
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Bluefield Blue Jays 4, Princeton Rays 3 (12 innings)
Two thoughts before we get started in this game: 1) the Rays beat Blue Jays affiliates at the major leagues and Triple-A but lost at Low-A and Advanced Rookie. Does that mean anything? Probably not. 2) Bluefield Blue Jays sounds really redundant. Wouldn’t the Bluefield Jays be a nicer name? If you’re looking for a precedent of a team cutting off its own name in naming one of its minor league affiliates, look no further than the Orlando Rays, who were a Devil Rays affiliate from 1999 to 2003. Then again, that happened at Double-A rather than Rookie ball, where literally every team copies their own team name (like when the P-Rays were the Princeton Devil Rays until the Rays’ name change). Maybe a different city is the only solution to this name issue.
Princeton managed to lose this game in about the most dramatic way possible. After taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a Carter Burgess home run, Jose Alonzo saw his outing come apart and the P-Rays eventually trailed 3-1 entering the 8th. But Patrick Grady got a run back in that inning with a solo homer before Hector Montes sent the game into extra innings with a game-tying single in the 9th. Unfortunately, Richard Urena drilled a walk-off homer for the Blue Jays in the 12th as they won 4-3. That home run was allowed by Ruben Paredes, but it did not take the damper off Paredes’ overall outing. The 20 year old right-hander went 4 innings allowing only 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. That’s really impressive, and it capped off a day where Princeton pitching had 14 strikeouts without walking a batter. Alonzo struck out 6 while walking none despite allowing those 3 runs in 5.2 innings pitched while Rafael Cordova tossed 2.1 shutout frames with 3 K’s. The Princeton offense managed just 5 hits and 1 walk in the game, but every hit but one led to a run as they kept this game exciting until the very end.
Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Rays 4, GCL Orioles 2
Three runs for the Grays in the top of the 1st proved to be the difference in this one as they won 4-2. Angel Yepez, for whatever reason, had only a a 3-inning start, but he allowed only 1 run on 2 hits while he was in the game. Luckily. Junior Feliz was up to the task of proving length, going 4 innings scattering 5 hits and 2 walks to toss shutout ball. In terms of the offense, Matt Ford had an RBI double in the first inning while both Isias Alcantar and David Rodriguez had RBI singles, and Alcantar drove in a second run in the 6th inning. Matt Reida also had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with a triple in the first run scored of the game. Rodriguez is really the player to watch considering he’s just 18, and games like this where he goes 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI always make you wonder if he is about to start living up to his vast potential.