On the same day that Chris Archer sputtered after four straight starts of dominance, several other players in the Tampa Bay Rays system saw hot streaks come to an end. On the positive side, a trio of starters in the system did not meet the same fate, and a highly regarded prospect returned from injury.
Triple-A International League: Pawtucket Red Sox 2, Durham Bulls 1
Matt Buschmann delivered a strong start for Durham, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in 6 innings, striking out 4 while walking 1. Buschmann has delivered 3 straight quality starts on his way to a 2.84 ERA, a 7.1 K/9, a 3.4 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9 on the season. He struck out a few more batters in previous years, but he is certainly meeting expectations nonetheless. Matt Andriese followed with 2 shutout innings to finish the game allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 4. The Bulls will look to stretch him out and get him back to starting.
On the offensive side, Joey Butler went 2 for 4 with a double while Hak-Ju Lee went 1 for 3 with a double. Curt Casali had the lone RBI for the Bulls on a single in the fourth inning. The Rays were hoping that Casali would be making a stronger push to replace Bobby Wilson by now. Instead, he has just a .174/.321/.174 line to begin the season. The good news, though, is that his strikeout to walk ratio in 8-9 in 56 plate appearances, which should be a sign that better results are on the way.
Double-A Southern League: Mississippi Braves 8, Montgomery Biscuits 2
Austin Pruitt began this game with a 1.01 ERA and a 26-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 26.2 innings pitched. He finished it a little bit worse in both regards. Pruitt finally came back down to earth, going 4 innings allowing 4 runs on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He was ejected in the fifth inning after uncharacteristically hitting Matt Lipka with a pitch. That left two inherited runners on with nobody out for Colton Reavis ahead of his miserable outing–4 runs on 4 hits in 2 innings to raise his ERA to 10.24, although he did strike out 4 while walking 1.
The positives in the game were Jordan Harrison‘s 2 shutout innings to end the game, a 2-for-3 day with a run scored from Jake DePew, a double from Justin O’Conner, and RBIs from Daniel Robertson and Richie Shaffer. The Biscuits actually tied this game at 2 in the fifth inning on Robertson’s hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded and Shaffer’s sac fly, but Boog Powell was picked off third base to end the inning and everything collapsed from there.
High-A Florida State League: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 4, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3 (11 innings)
The Biscuits were 4-hit, but the Stone Crabs were 2-hit in this game yet somehow led 3-1 after 7 innings. Charlotte tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the second inning when Joey Rickard walked, stole second base, advanced to third on a flyball, and scored on Juniel Querecuto‘s groundout. Then, in the fourth, the Stone Crabs delivered both of their hits, receiving a walk, a double from Rickard, and a two-run double from Querecuto to give them their lead.
Ryne Stanek made that three-run margin stick even though he was once again not as overpowering as we know he can be. He tossed 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 3. His groundout to flyout ratio was 7-3. Stanek’s stat line on the season is surprising and would make you think that he is an entirely different pitcher than he is. He has pitched to a 2.10 ERA but just a 6.0 K/9, a 2.8 BB/9, and 0.7 HR/9. He is striking so few batters out! Even so, he has yet to allow more than 2 runs in an outing, and the strikeouts should come.
It is a little bit disappointing that Stanek, who was the Rays’ second first round pick in 2013, is still only at High-A, but that is partially by design. The Rays could conceivably have converted Stanek to relief by now and let him zoom towards the major leagues, but starting him gives him a chance to give more value to their team and gives him longer stints to improve his command and secondary pitches in each game. No matter what happens, he should be better off from the experience.
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Kyle McKenzie allowed 2 runs, 1 earned, in the seventh inning to allow Fort Myers to tie the game before Jeff Ames took the loss. That doesn’t mean that Ames pitched poorly, however. He actually went 3.1 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He was sharp for the second straight outing as he lowered his ERA to 3.77 on the season. Ames had just a 5.00 ERA and a 3-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 9 innings across his first 4 games, but now the former first rounder has a 1.69 ERA and a 6-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 5.1 innings in his two appearances since. The Rays may get something out of the former supplemental first rounder yet.
Other highlights for the Stone Crabs included Jake Bauers, who went 0 for 3 but walked twice to improve his strikeout to walk ratio on the season to an outstanding 12-17. His plate discipline has been excellent while his power has arrived, and if this keeps up, he will be more widely considered a top prospect. Pretty good for a throw-in as part of the Wil Myers trade. Andrew Velazquez also played in his first game since April 22nd after being sidelined by a shoulder injury, and while he went 0 for 5, the Stone Crabs are expecting big things from him in coming games.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 10, Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 4
One day after Coty Blanchard went 4 for 4 for the Hot Rods, he moved into the leadoff spot and had another strong game. He went 2 for 6 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and a run scored as his average stayed relatively stagnant at .339. A different Hot Rod, though, actually delivered a 4-for-4 game of his own: Mac James. The usual catcher went 4 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored as the Bowling Green DH, raising his average to .303 on the season. James started off slowly, but the Rays are wondering whether this could be the start of his breakout.
You need quite a few clutch hits to score 10 runs, and several of them came from Bralin Jackson, who went 3 for 5 with 4 RBI and a run scored, and Grant Kay, who went 2 for 6 with 2 RBI and a run scored. Justin Williams also went 2 for 5 with a stolen base and 2 runs scored while Jace Conrad delivered a 2-for-3 day with a double, a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and 2 runs scored. Conrad’s pro debut at Hudson Valley didn’t go well, but Bowling Green has been a different story. He now has a .333/.377/.486 line with 2 homers, 10 RBI, and a perfect 9 for 9 in stolen bases.
On the mound, meanwhile, Chris Pike pitched well for the third time in four starts, going 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. He has just a 5.8 K/9 to begin the season, but he has been able to succeed nonetheless by allowing just 4 walks and no homers in 22 innings pitched. Mike Franco followed with 2 shutout innings working around a hit and a walk while striking out 3. In sharp contrast to Pike, he has a 12.6 K/9 to begin the season, striking out at least a batter per inning in his last 5 appearances.
The one big negative on this game was Brian Miller sticking to the theme of the day in the Tampa Bay Rays system. He entered the game having gone 9 innings allowing just an unearned run on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. His ERA jumped to 2.70 following the game as he allowed 3 runs on 2 hits, surrendering a 3-run home run to Tim Locastro. Miller can’t be perfect, even at the Low-A level, and hopefully he will get back to rolling following this game.