Tampa Bay Rays Game 31: Evan Longoria Shines (And MiLB Recap)
By Robbie Knopf
It is under an hour before the game and we have nothing up about yesterday’s games both in the majors and minors. With that in mind, here we go: our first ever Tampa Bay Rays major league and minor league recap in one piece.
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American League: Tampa Bay Rays 7, Texas Rangers 2
The fill-in pitchers were excellent on the whole and the bats brought the power as the Rays put themselves in position to win 3 out of 4 against the Rangers. Evan Longoria got things off to a dream start on his bobblehead day, drilling a 3-run homer in the first inning, and the Rays later received another 3-run blast by Steven Souza and a solo homer from Asdrubal Cabrera. Longoria and Souza both had big games, with Longoria going 2 for 3 with that blast and a walk while Souza went 1 for 2 with his homer, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored.
Cabrera and Rene Rivera also impressed as they got some of their frustration on the season out of the way. Cabrera shoved Adam Rosales after Rosales (intentionally or unintentionally) tagged him hard on the wrist at second base, but he used that to help him focus at the plate rather than let him distract it. Cabrera finished 3 for 4 with that homer and a double. The homer was his first of the season, and the Rays are hoping that many more are coming. Rivera, meanwhile, went 1 for 3 with an opposite-field double, a walk, and a run scored.
On the mound, Matt Andriese failed to work 4 full innings for the third time in his three major league starts but did not look bad. He finished with 3.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. He forced 6 groundouts against 1 flyout, but he was burned on a Carlos Peguero 2-run homer in that fourth inning. Andriese still hasn’t been on a regular schedule all season so he deserves some slack. He has been fine and simply needs to get his pitch count up to the point where he could make a mistake like that and receive a chance to move past it.
Brandon Gomes and Steve Geltz tossed the next 1.1 innings before Andrew Bellatti took the Rays nearly the rest of the way. In his major league debut, Bellatti went 3.1 shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out 2. He allowed a couple of flyballs to the warning track, but he showed plenty of promise with a fastball touching 96.2 MPH and two strong secondary pitches in his changeup and slider. He did enough to earn the win in the game–although he would have finished it too if not for at Tim Beckham error. Instead, Brad Boxberger tossed 6 pitches for the save.
Triple-A International League: Syracuse Chiefs (WSN) 9, Durham Bulls 8 (12 innings)
We transition from excellent win to crushing loss. The Bulls laughed at that Rays’ power–they had five home runs. They received one each from Alexi Casilla, Allan Dykstra, Curt Casali, Eugenio Velez, and J.P. Arencibia, with Arencibia’s blast giving them a lead in the 11th inning. They even received multi-hit performances from the four players who didn’t homer, Taylor Motter, Mikie Mahtook, Leonardo Reginatto, and Hak-Ju Lee. However, their bullpen was so bad that it didn’t matter.
Scott Diamond had a mediocre start, allowing 4 runs in 6 innings before being replaced by Grant Balfour. Balfour pitched well, working around a walk with 2 strikeouts in a scoreless inning, but every other Bulls reliever struggled. Bryce Stowell allowed 2 runs in an inning, Ronald Belisario allowed the tying run in the ninth, and Jordan Norberto allowed the tying run in the 11th and the go-ahead run in the 12th. There was some bad luck in there and an unearned run, but that is devastating nonetheless.
Let’s talk more about the offense. The Bulls now have four players hitting at least .315 in Mikie Mahtook (.342), Alexi Casilla (.329), Leonardo Reginatto (.327, albeit in a small sample), and Eugenio Velez (.315). That is quite impressive. Mahtook has picked up right where he left off following his breakout 2014. Hak-Ju Lee, meanwhile, now has 3 multi-hit games in a row as he hopes to get back on track as a prospect.
Double-A Southern League: Birmingham Barons (CHW) 8, Montgomery Biscuits 7
This was another tough one-run loss, but this time, it was the Biscuits coming back and just barely falling short. With one out in the bottom on the ninth and the Biscuits down by three runs, Boog Powell drilled a triple, Daniel Robertson a two-run homer, and Richie Shaffer a double, but Montgomery couldn’t do anything else before falling to Birmingham. Robertson finished at 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, a homer, 3 RBI, and 3 runs scored. He is up to a .283/.386/.481 line on the season, looking everything like the top prospect the Rays thought he would be.
Powell and Shaffer also had great games to account for most of the rest of the Biscuits offense. Both went 2 for 4 with an RBI, with Shaffer drilling 2 doubles and Powell tripling and scoring a run. Powell is just behind Mahtook with a .337 average while Shaffer has to settle for .269 with a lot of power. Cameron Seitzer, meanwhile, is at .317 after going 1 for 3 with 2 walks in this game.
On the pitching side, Austin Pruitt allowed 4 runs in 5 innings and Zach Cooper allowed the same number in 2 frames, but Mark Sappington deserves credit for tossing 2 shutout innings to give his team a chance. Pruitt has allowed 4 runs in consecutive outings after a huge start, and he will hope to chance that in his next time on the mound.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, St. Lucie Mets 2
Finally we get up to another win. Jacob Faria started for Charlotte and was excellent, going 7 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. It took him five minor league seasons to get to High-A, but he is still just 21 and has ensured that the wait was worthwhile. He now has a 1.60 ERA in his first 33.2 High-A innings.
The Stone Crabs scored all of their runs in the sixth inning, with the big blow being a 2-out, 3-run double by Granden Goetzman. Goetzman is hitting .500 to begin his tenure at Charlotte in 2015. Juniel Querecuto also had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Querecuto managed just a .194/.211/.237 line in 95 plate appearances for Charlotte in 2014, but he has looked comfortable this season, hitting to a .290/.347/.387 line. He has never hit for much power, but he is a good defensive shortstop who can put the ball in play and draw some walks.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 4, South Bend Cubs 1
It’s pretty funny that the Rays received just a 3.2-inning start while their affiliates received two that lasted seven inning. Enderson Franco had a nice outing for the Hot Rods, going 7 shutout innings allowing 3 hits and a walk while striking out 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a solid 9-5. Franco is older than Faria, but the former minor league Rule 5 pick was ranked as one of the top prospects in the New York-Penn League last season and will hope to continue impressing at Low-A.
Nick Ciuffo led the way offensively for Bowling Green, going 3 for 3 with a double and a run scored. He is off to a slow start, but the Rays remain optimistic that his bat will come around. Maybe this can be the start of that. Coty Blanchard also went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored in the game. Lastly, we need to talk about the player replacing Ciuffo at catcher in this game, Mac James. He went 1 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored and also picked a runner off second base.