Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Dylan Floro Duels With Masahiro Tanaka
By Robbie Knopf
It sounds like some kind of practical joke–while Alex Colome failed to exceed 5 innings for the fourth time in his five Tampa Bay Rays starts, every starter in the Rays organization tossed 6 innings or more. They were also excellent as they did so, with no one allowing more than 1 run, but questionable bullpen work and some missed opportunities on offense were enough to make it just a 2-2 day in the system.
Triple-A International League: Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY) 4, Durham Bulls 3 (10 innings)
The Bulls got a firsthand look at rehabbing Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched well but seems to be a while from returning. He wound up going 3 shutout innings allowing 2 hits while striking out 2. He threw just 41 pitches, making him three starts away from the majors at the absolute minimum. The Rays will hope to make some distance between themselves and the Yankees between now and then.
On the other side, Dylan Floro had his best start for the Bulls (at least according to Game Score), going 6.2 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. His groundout to flyout ratio was an outstanding 12-3. This is the Floro that the Rays are hoping to see more often–a ton of groundballs and a passable number of strikeouts. If he can meet that standard, we may see him in the majors at some point in the second half of the season.
Floro started slowly this season just like he did in 2014 at Double-A, but as it stands right now, his walks per 9 innings have stayed stagnant at 1.2, his K/9 has gone down from 5.7 to 4.7, and his HR/9 has more than doubled from 0.2 to 0.5. His control is good enough to play at any level, and he will only be helped by improved infield defense behind him as he advances, but strikeouts could be hard to come by and more of his mistakes will be hit out of park. It’s clear why Floro isn’t a top prospect, but the hope is that he can improve his secondary pitches to record more K’s.
Andrew Bellatti, coming off an exhilarating experience in the major leagues, had a letdown in this game, allowing 3 runs in 1.1 innings to led the Bulls’ 3-0 lead slip away. It’s understandable that he would go through that type of outing, but the hope is that he will go right back to being sharp. Ronald Belisario then allowed the winning run to cross in the 10th inning.
Eugenio Velez drove in all 3 runs for Durham on an RBI double in the sixth inning and then a 2-run double in the eighth inning against Yankees top prospect Jacob Lindgren. Those were his only 2 hits in 5 trips to the plate. Taylor Motter also went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored for the Bulls while Allan Dykstra went 1 for 3 with a walk.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 4, Tennessee Smokies (CHC) 3
Speaking of groundballing pitchers having great starts, Bradin Hagens led the Biscuits to victory in this game with 7 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a perfect 10-0. Hagens’ ERA stands at 4.30 on the season because he allowed 7 runs each in his two outings leading up to Thursday, but he has looked good for the Biscuits on the whole. One strange quirk is that Hagens had two big league appearances in his career, both last season with the D-Backs, while Floro has zero.
Ryan Garton followed Hagens with a shutout inning before Bryce Stowell blew up in the ninth, walking 4 straight batters. Luckily Colton Reavis was able to clean things up allowing only 1 additional run to score for the save as the Biscuits held on to win 4-3. Montgomery went ahead with 3 runs in the third inning and another in the sixth as they were just barely able to hang on.
Leading the way was Boog Powell, who finished 2 for 3 with a triple, a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored. He also stole his 6th base of the season, but only while getting caught for the 6th time as well. He capped his day with an outfield assist, though, so we won’t mope around too much. It was a night of contributions across the board as five other players finished 1 for 3, but the ones we’ll mention are Johnny Field, who had a walk, a stolen base, a run scored, and 2 outfield assists, and Patrick Leonard, who had a walk, a triple, and an RBI.
The stolen bases are still a work-in-progress for Powell, but he has improved in regards to extra-base hits, registering 4 in his last 11 games after managing just 3 in his first 24. He is now up to a .321/.406/.415 line with 3 doubles, 3 triples, a homer, and 12 RBI, striking out 24 times but walking on 17 occasions. His plate discipline and pure hitting are excellent, but given that he will never be a big power threat, he really needs to get his basestealing up to par to round out his game.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 2, Tampa Yankees 1
After the Yankees went up 1-0 in the second inning, the Stone Crabs came back in remarkable fashion. In the third, Juniel Querecuto struck out but reached on a wild pitch. An error by Yankees starter Gabriel Encinas on a pickoff attempt moved him to second base, and he then scored when Kean Wong reached on a fielding error at shortstop. That is some way to score a run. The go-ahead run in the fourth was a little bit more conventional as Mike Marjama singled, advanced to second on wild pitch, and scored on a Pat Blair RBI single.
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The Stone Crabs managed only 5 hits, so we have already mentioned a large part of their offense, but we should also talk about Kean Wong. He finished 1 for 3 with a walk and 3 stolen bases, although he was caught stealing third in the ninth inning after he had already stolen second base. Wong is off to an extremely slow start, hitting to just a .223/.288/.281 line in 135 plate appearances, but he has tried to make up for it on the basepaths, swiping 10 bases in 12 attempts after managing just 13 in 20 attempts last season. Marty Gantt, meanwhile, went 0 for 4 on Thursday but saved the game in the fifth inning with an outfield assist at home.
On the mound, Jacob Faria received nice results, but it wasn’t pretty. He went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 and walking 4 as well. Faria hadn’t walked 4 batters since July of 2014, and hopefully he won’t get into the habit of doing so more often. Faria has maintained a 1.55 ERA through 48.2 innings, but he will need to improve his peripherals to avoid major regression. His 40-18 strikeout to walk ratio is mediocre and it’s pure luck that he hasn’t yet allowed a home run despite flyball tendencies.
Kyle McKenzie followed with 1.1 shutout innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 2. When you see a line like that, the pitcher in question was presumably bailed out by the guy behind him. In this case, that pitcher was Brad Schreiber who tossed 1.2 perfect innings with a strikeout and 3 groundouts for his 10th save. Schreiber has been incredible as the Stone Crabs’ closer, managing a 0.93 ERA and a 22-6 strikeout to walk ratio in 19.1 IP. He has been excellent since signing with the Rays as a non-drafted free agent, and he may soon make it to Double-A.
Low-A Midwest League: West Michigan Whitecaps (DET) 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3 (14 innings)
The Hot Rods deserve a lot of credit for making this game last as long as it did, but eventually they ran out of steam. After falling behind 2-0 in the fifth, they came back on a two-out RBI double by Riley Unroe in the sixth and then an error on a Jace Conrad groundball in the eighth. That didn’t count as an RBI for Conrad, but he made up for that in the 12th, drilling a game-tying home run. Finally in the 14th, West Michigan came up with 3 runs on the Hot Rods couldn’t answer.
Chris Pike did allow those 2 runs, but he turned in an excellent outing nonetheless, going 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He has remarkably completed 7 innings in each of his last 3 starts, something we rarely get to see at any level, but especially at Low-A. Pike is 5-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 7 starts and 41 IP, but he may not zoom to High-A because his K/9 is just 5.7, albeit to go along with a 1.3 BB/9 and a 0.7 HR/9. Pike still has work to do, but the Rays have to like the early returns on their ninth rounder out of Oklahoma City University in the NAIA.
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Ryan Pennell followed with 2 shutout innings allowing a hit while striking out 2 before lefty Kyle Bird had some kind of game. He entered Thursday having gone 3 innings in a game just twice in his career, but he finished this one with 4 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 8 while walking 1. Yes, he struck out 8 in a relief appearance and isn’t a starting pitcher by trade. He did allow a run in the 12th, but luckily Conrad was able to make that up. Bird has been another pleasant surprise since being selected in the 35th round of the 2014 draft. However, Edgar Gomez allowed a trio of unearned runs in the 14th after his own throwing error to bring this game to its conclusion.
Aside from the players we already mentioned, Grant Kay went 3 for 5 with a double and a walk while Casey Gillaspie, Mac James, and Bralin Jackson all went 2 for 6, with Jackson scoring a run. Riley Unroe also finished 2 for 6 to go along with his RBI double and a walk. Unroe has caught fire of late, reeling off 3 straight multi-hit games with 3 extra-base hits after he had managed just 3 extra-base hits in his previous 31 contests. He has raised his OPS from .616 to .695 just in that stretch as he is now markedly ahead of his .640 mark from 2014.
Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 42: First Place Alone, At Long Last