The Undercards: Grant Kay’s Mastery Continues With 4 More Hits
By Robbie Knopf
On Tuesday, Jake Odorizzi gave the Tampa Bay Rays a strong start, but for once the story was not that the Rays starter was great and the offense provided just enough. The Rays offense pounced on St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright for five runs in the fifth inning, and they will be what comes to mind when Rays fans think back to this game. It was also the bats that stood out in the Rays’ minor league action on Tuesday. Amazingly, all three Rays full-season starters allowed 4 earned runs, but they found their way to a 2-1 record as their lineups were up to the task.
Triple-A International League: Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 4, Durham Bulls 0
Obviously this was the loss among the bunch. Nevertheless, we can still say good things about Matt Andriese. Andriese allowed more than three runs in an outing for the first time in six starts, and the principle reason for that was a three-run fifth inning by Rochester. Unlike Wainwright, however, Andriese kept it together and wound up tossing two more innings to save the Bulls relief corps. Overall, Andriese went 7 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. That is pretty good for his worst start in a while. Brandon Gomes followed with 2 shutout innings working around a hit with 3 strikeouts. The bats did not provide much for Durham in this game, but Wilson Betemit did go 2 for 4 in the loss.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Chattanooga Lookouts (LAD) 6
Against the Lookouts, for the the third straight start since his complete-game shutout on July 4th, Dylan Floro allowed at least 4 earned runs. This time, however, Floro rebounded outstandingly from a four-run second inning, allowing just one run in his final four frames, and the Biscuits rewarded him with his 9th win of the season. Floro went 6 innings and it certainly wasn’t pretty as he allowed 5 runs, 4 earned, on 11 hits, but he found a way to limit the damage to finish his outing. He struck out 4 against only 1 walk and also managed a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Matt Lollis did allow a run in 1.2 innings of relief behind him, but Cory Burns finished the game by forcing four groundouts as the Biscuits held on.
On the offensive side, it was a player that the Rays want to see plenty of more success from coming through with a huge game. Richie Shaffer went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, and 4 RBI. His performance broke a streak of three straight hitless games. Even amid another disappointing year, Shaffer has hit for quite a bit of power, managing a .196 ISO, 19 doubles, and 11 home runs. But the Rays need him to make contact more consistently and get his all-around game up to par. Cameron Seitzer and Kes Carter both finished the game with a .247 average after 2-for-5 days, with Seitzer scoring twice while Carter drilled a triple and a double and scored once, and Hector Guevara also went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 5
Austin Pruitt‘s start ended in disastrous fashion as he allowed four runs in the fifth inning, but Ryan Garton and Zach Cooper allowed just one run in the final four innings behind him, and the Charlotte offense had quite a day. Patrick Leonard went 2 for 4 with his 13th homer, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored while Maxx Tissenbaum went 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Leonard has delivered a monster year for the Stone Crabs, hitting to a .290/.375/.493 line, and Tissenbaum’s .300/.329/.404 line is all the more impressive when we consider that he was just converted to the catcher position in the past year. Even more encouraging for Charlotte, though, was the performance of two players that have been less consistent this season. Granden Goetzman entered the game on a disastrous 0 for 27 run, but he proceeded to go 2 for 4 with his first Stone Crabs stolen base. Tyler Goeddel, meanwhile, extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a 2-run triple. He now has a .270/.361/.403 line on the year–we have to remind ourselves that he looked totally lost for a month before this streak, but this season has to be regarded as an overall step forward after his tough two years in Bowling Green.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 11, Staten Island Yankees 5
The way that Grant Kay has started off his professional career is literally beyond comprehension. In this, his seventh game, Kay went 4 for 4 with a triple, a double, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He didn’t quite hit for the cycle like he did in his first game, but the performance gives him a ridiculous .536/.594/1.036 line so far. Yes, this is a small sample size, but players usually fall down from that level after a game or two. Kay just keeps it going, and there is reason to believe that he is for real. While a lot of players get super-aggressive during hot streaks, Grant Kay actually has 4 walks against 5 strikeouts. Even when every ball that comes off his bat stops being a laser, that type of approach gives him a chance to continue hitting well. This all sounds pretty good for a player that the Rays selected in the 27th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Other notable performers for Hudson Valley in this game include Bralin Jackson, who went 3 for 5 with 3 doubles and 2 RBI, and Braxton Lee, who was 2 for 5 with 2 stolen bases and 3 runs scored to extend his hitting streak to 6. In addition, Casey Gillaspie and Hunter Lockwood had near-identical good games, each going 1 for 3 with 2 walks and an RBI. Gillaspie surprisingly drilled a triple and scored once while Lockwood crossed the plate twice. The walks were a major surprise for Lockwood, who entered the game with just 7 in 149 plate appearances. Gillaspie, meanwhile, began his pro career with 16 strikeouts against 1 walk, but he has 17 walks against 16 strikeouts since, showing off his mature approach.
We probably should talk a bit about the pitchers in this game as well. Oscar Armenta started for Hudson Valley and had a strange outing, but a good one. He went 5 innings allowing only an unearned run despite giving 8 hits and a walk while striking out just 2. Then, after a bullpen collapse in the middle of the game, Brian Miller finished the contest with a perfect frame, striking out 1. So far in his pro career, Miller has gone 7.2 innings allowing just an unearned run on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 9. Maybe the Rays want to see a little bit more of him at this level, but it is only a matter of time before he moves up to full-season ball and we can start to figure out whether he can be a big league reliever.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 4, Johnson City Cardinals 1
The major league Rays topped the Cardinals, and the Princeton Rays pulled the same trick in the Appy League. Brent Honeywell started for Princeton and was excellent, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 4 innings, striking out 3 while walking none. The run was actually the first he has given up as a professional as he has pitched to a 0.75 ERA with 13 strikeouts against 1 walk in 12 innings pitched. Apparently Rookie ball hitters can’t stand that screwball. Damion Carroll followed with 2 shutout innings allowing a hit and a hit batsman while striking out 2. Finally, Roel Ramirez finished the game with 3 shutout innings allowing only 2 hits while striking out 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a strong 4-1. Neither Carroll nor Ramirez has the peripherals to back up their strong starts to the season (1.15 ERA and 0.67 ERA respectively), but they are gaining confidence and hopefully everything else will fall into place.
In terms of the run support, Angel Moreno and Thomas Milone were responsible for getting those four Princeton runs home. Moreno started the scoring with a first-inning sac fly before Milone drilled a seventh-inning two-run double and Moreno followed with an RBI triple. Moreno made it to Princeton in just his second professional season as a player who is not yet 18 and has found a way to hit .284–although his plate discipline and power are still coming along. Milone, meanwhile, has delivered a huge season for the P-Rays after not going much in his first pro season, hitting to a .296/.372/.435 line. Riley Unroe, Hector Montes, Carter Burgess, and Taylor Hawkins also had multi-hit games for Princeton, who improved to 16-15 on the season with the win.