The Undercards: Angel Moreno Leads P-Rays to Division Title
By Robbie Knopf
After the Durham Bulls clinched their seventh division title in eight years on Monday, two more Tampa Bay Rays affiliates locked up their divisions on Thursday. Coty Blanchard and Angel Moreno were among the heroes as the Hudson Valley Renegades and Princeton Rays both extended their seasons.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 5, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 3
Mike Montgomery has been struggling at an incredible extent recently. He entered his start on Thursday with just an 8.06 ERA in his previous seven starts and more walks than strikeouts. Montgomery’s ERA on the season did go up slightly by the end of the game to 4.29, but he still took a step in the right direction. He went 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. It was his first time managed a strikeout to walk ratio better than 2-to-1 since July 25th. Steve Geltz, Josh Lueke, and Adam Liberatore allowed just one hit in 4 shutout innings or relief behind him.
Mikie Mahtook served as the Rays’ offense in this game as he continued his breakout year by going 3 for 5 with 2 homers, a double, and 4 RBI. Mahtook’s good, but not great power has always been something of a concern thanks to his corner outfield profile, but he now has 3 homers in his last 2 games and 4 in his last 6. Justin Christian also had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored, and Hak-Ju Lee had an encouraging performance, going 1 for 3 with a walk a stolen base, and a run scored.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 1, Jackson Generals (SEA) 0 (10 innings)
This game was one heck of a pitchers’ duel as both teams managed just 3 hits. The game also ended in about as bizarre fashion as you’ll ever see. Alejandro Segovia doubled with two outs in the ninth before being pinch-ran for by Willie Argo. Argo then scored the game-winning run on back-to-back balks. Wow. Segovia went 1 for 3 with his double and a walk while Taylor Motter went 1 for 3 with a single, a walk, and a stolen base. Jake Hager had the only other hit for Montgomery.
Things were more exciting on the pitching side as Mike Colla went 7 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. Colla was coming off two starts where he failed to escape the fifth inning, but he has been excellent for a while besides that, managing a 2.96 ERA in his last 15 starts. Matt Lollis followed with a scoreless inning before Bryce Stowell earned the win with 2 shutout frames.
High-A Florida State League: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3
A bullpen collapse made this game end in sorry fashion for the Stone Crabs, but there were a few highlights. Jaime Schultz had his best High-A outing, going 5 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. Even though Schultz was a 14th round pick, we always knew that his stuff was electric. His work this season has been impressive, and we’ll see more from him in the Arizona Fall League. Tyler Goeddel also slammed a two-run homer while Granden Goetzman continued his recent hot streak by going 2 for 3.
Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI) 8, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1
One horrific inning–a 7-run 6th–did the Hot Rods in as they lost to South Bend. Bruedlin Suero came apart after pitching well before that, finishing his outing having allowed 7 runs, 4 earned, in 5.2 innings pitched. Josh Kimborowicz did pitch decently behind him, allowing 1 run on 2 hits in 2.1 innings pitched, striking out 3 while walking none. Kimborowicz, drafted five rounds after Schultz, has a 3.00 ERA and a 29-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 33 innings pitched for the Hot Rods.
Willy Adames and Alexander Simon combined for the only Bowling Green run on a pair of doubles in the first inning before Simon got caught stealing home, apparently after the Silver Hawks’ catcher went threw with a throw to second base when Simon was on third. It was all downhill from there for the Hot Rods offense, although Kean Wong and Julian Ridings both went 2 for 4.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 5, Connecticut Tigers 3
The Renegades scored 3 runs in the first inning and never trailed in the game as they clinched their second McNamara Division title in three years. Enderson Franco (the Rays’ minor league Rule 5 pick from last year) gave them a decent start, going 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He did force a 9-3 groundout to flyout ratio. The money pitcher in this game was Edgar Gomez, who went 3 innings allowing just a hit, striking out 2 while walking none, before Edwin Fierro recorded the save in the ninth.
The offensive heroes of the day were Coty Blanchard and Grant Kay, who each went 2 for 4 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored. Blanchard’s other hit was a double. Casey Gillaspie, Braxton Lee, and Jace Conrad had the Renegades’ other three RBIs as it was a complete team effort on offense, and Leopoldo Correa went 3 for 4.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 4, Burlington Royals 3
Sketchy bullpen work almost ruined it, but Angel Moreno’s 8th-inning homer proved to be the difference as the P-Rays clinched their division title as well. Nic Wilson and David Garcia both went 2 for 4 with an RBI for Princeton while Manny Sanchez continued his hot streak with an RBI double. Yonny Chirinos gave the P-Rays a very good start, going 5 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. Chirinos was making just his second start of the season and made it brilliantly. Then, after some sketchiness in the middle, Steve Ascher finished the game in style, going 1.2 innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 3. The P-Rays have managed a winning record just once since 2010, so this division title is big for them.