If I was being negative (and didn’t care as much about Search Engine Optimization), the title of this Tampa Bay Rays minor league recap would be “The Undercards: Extra-Inning Losses Sure Are Fun.” Luckily, Justin O’Conner headlines some of the positives that occurred in the system aside from that.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 8, Montgomery Biscuits 4
Mike Colla allowed 5 runs, 2 earned, in his start for Montgomery while Parker Markel and Braulio Lara were nothing special in relief. Justin O’Conner obviously didn’t have a fun time calling this game, but he made up for it in other ways. At the plate, he went 3 for 4 with a run scored, giving him a .421 average (3 for 19) and a five-game hitting streak since moving up to the Biscuits. Then defensively, O’Conner picked off one runner and caught too more stealing. O’Conner has a 51% caught stealing rate to go along with all the offense in his breakout year.
O’Conner wasn’t alone on the offensive side for the Biscuits. Kes Carter went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and an RBI, and both Jake Hager and Cameron Seitzer went 2 for 5 with a double. Seitzer drove in 2 while Hager scored once and drove in 1. Ryan Brett also stole his 25th base of the year in the loss. Seitzer’s first hit broke an 0 for 17 slump, and hopefully many more hits are on the way for him.
High-A Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals 7, Charlotte Stone Crabs 6 (10 innings)
There were so many cool things about this game for Charlotte. Jared Mortensen had one of his best starts of the year, going 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3. Nick Sawyer had his latest encouraging outing, striking out 2 while walking 1 in a hitless inning. Then, on the offensive side, the Stone Crabs got a trio of home runs from less-than-likely candidates: Johnny Field, Marty Gantt, and Maxx Tissenbaum. Tissenbaum’s blast even tied the game in the ninth inning! Yet bullpen woes can overshadow so many good things. Tyler Goeddel also went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI while Patrick Leonard had his usual great game, going 1 for 3 with 2 walks.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 12, Great Lakes Loons (LAD) 6
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Hot Rods defense collapsed behind Andrew Hanse and allowed 5 runs, just 1 earned. That was literally the only negative in this great Bowling Green win. Christopher Kirsch wasn’t just effective but also overpowering in a way that he hasn’t often been this season. He went 5 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. The 6 K’s in 5 innings are a nice sign for a pitcher who entered the game with just 5.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. Willie Gabay and Stone Speer pitched well behind him, finishing the game with 3 shutout innings after the disaster when Hanse was pitching.
As the 12 runs would indicate, there were plenty of fireworks on the offensive side. James Harris went 2 for 5 with a homer and 3 RBI, Kean Wong went 3 for 4 with 2 walks and 3 runs scored, and Ty Young went 2 for 5 with a triple, a double, a walk, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. Julian Ridings and Alexander Simon also had multiple hits. For Wong, the five times on base were a career-high, and he has rebounded from a cold stretch with a 5-game hitting streak.