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Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Casey Gillaspie Still on Fire

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Streaks are a funny thing in sports and in a multiplicity of other situations in our lives. We wonder what they mean, whether they are just random fluctuations or whether they are indicative of some actual betterment or decline. Was the Tampa Bay Rays’ solid start a sign that they could exceed expectations and does their losing streak show that they have fallen back to earth? Did Blake Snell‘s scoreless streak indicate that his upside is closer to an ace than a number three starter? The questions never end, and the only true way to answer them accurately is to wait.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 3, Jackson Generals (SEA) 2

Blake Snell’s control issues are back and he allowed his first home run in 2015. However, neither thing stopped him from delivering another solid outing to lead the Biscuits to victory. Snell went 6.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 4. He forced a 6-3 groundout to flyout ratio and forced a pair of double play groundballs to escape all of the baserunners. It wasn’t pretty, but it was nice to see Snell battling through his worst stuff in quite a while to put Montgomery in position to win.

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Snell entered the start with a 3.6 BB/9 on the season, including a 2.9 mark in his 5 starts since moving up to Double-A. For a pitcher who managed just a 4.4 BB/9 in 2014 and has walked 4.7 per 9 for his career, even the 3.6 number was a marked improvement. This start reminds us that Snell isn’t out of the woods yet–he will still occasionally lose control of his pitches and walk way too many guys. However, the hope is that the fewer walks on the whole are a sign that Snell is making the bouts of wildness fewer and farther between. We will have to see if that is truly the case.

After Ryan Garton retired the only batter he faced to strand one of Snell’s baserunners in the seventh inning, Parker Markel struck out the side working around a walk in the eighth and Bryce Stowell struck out 2 in a perfect ninth for the save. Stowell rebounded nicely after allowing 4 runs the previous day–Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee will hope to emulate that. The Biscuits trailed 2-1 after seven innings before coming back with a run each in the final two innings, and their relievers made sure those runs mattered.

Cameron Seitzer capped a 3-for-5 performance with a double by delivering the game-winning RBI in the ninth. He is now up to a .293/.349/.421 line on the season, which is nice but still may not get him to Triple-A. Joey Rickard also went 1 for 2 with 2 walks, a double, an RBI, and a run scored while Boog Powell went 2 for 5 with a run. Finally, after Baseball America expressed concern about not just Daniel Robertson‘s slump but also his lack of lack plate discipline, Robertson went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI. We have to think he will be fine.

High-A Florida State League: Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0

It’s always nice when we have strong individual performances to talk about, but there is an element of frustration when we talk about guys having good days at the plate when the team scored no runs in the game. The Stone Crabs went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base. Nevertheless, Dayron Varona looked good for the second time in his three professional games, going 2 for 5 with a double, and Kean Wong also went 2 for 5 in just his second multi-hit game since May 2nd. Hopefully that will soon change.

Alec Sole and Armando Araiza each went 1 for 3 with a walk. We know the story with Araiza–tremendous defensive catcher who can’t hit–but Sole is a new face. First off, his last name is pronounced Solé if you ever took Spanish or so-LAY if you didn’t. He is a shortstop out of St. Louis University who hit to just a .199/.285/.243 line for the Hudson Valley Renegades last year, albeit with good speed and plate discipline along with solid defense at short. The Rays clearly kept Sole around as he will fill in for the Stone Crabs at least while Juniel Querecuto is in Durham.

On the pitching side, German Marquez had a short outing but not an especially bad one, going 4 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 1 while walking 3. Given that Isaac Gil followed him with 3 innings of 1-ball ball, the Stone Crabs should have had enough pitching to win this game. Gil allowed 4 hits and no walks during his time on the mound, striking out 4 and getting his other 5 outs on the ground. He now has a 3.10 ERA with a ton of groundballs on the year. Steve Ascher then finished the game with a scoreless frame, getting past 2 hits.

Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 4, Bowling Green Hot Rods 2

Enderson Franco allowed more than 2 earned runs for just the second time in his 8 starts on the season, and a couple of late runs from the Hot Rods couldn’t overcome that. Franco went 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2 and forcing a 6-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Franco also walked as many as 2 batters for just the second time all year–he has a 1.4 BB/9 on the season. The ex-MiLB Rule 5 pick Franco has pitched well for Bowling Green, but this was unfortunately one of his worse outings.

Hunter Wood followed and continued his impressive relief work. He tossed 4 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit and no walks, striking out 5 and forcing a 6-0 groundout to flyout ratio. On the year, Wood now has a 1.40 ERA, an 11.9 K/9, a 2.3 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 in 11 relief appearances and 38.2 innings pitched. He is averaging over 3 innings per game–this isn’t a regular relief role–but Wood’s low-90’s fastball and promising curveball are shining in a way that they never did when he was starting. He may have found a home in relief.

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Casey Gillaspie finished this game on a strong note for Bowling Green, drilling a solo homer in the ninth inning to cap a 2-for-4 game. He is now up to a .275/.331/.488 line on the season, including a .422/.458/.644 line in his last 11 games and 48 plate appearances. He has 7 multi-hit games in than span compared to just 4 in his first 32 games of the year. Gillaspie has done fine (if not spectacularly) in his first year at full-season ball, and the question will be when the Rays advance him to High-A. In addition, would they be willing to do so while Charlotte’s talented young first baseman, Jake Bauers, remained with the team or would Gillaspie only be promoted if Bauers got to Double-A?

Bralin Jackson also went 2 for 3 for the Hot Rods while Thomas Milone and Coty Blanchard each went 1 for 3, with Blanchard drawing a walk. Jackson’s triple-slash is now at .294/.348/.392 as he continues rolling on his 7-game hitting streak, which features 5 multi-hit games. Jackson has hit to an insane .481/.548/.741 line in 31 plate appearances, drilling 4 doubles, a homer, and 4 RBI, stealing 2 bases, and posting a 4-4 strikeout to walk ratio. Everything is seemingly coming together for Jackson, and we will have to see if he can sustain some of the improvements he is showing.

Next: Book Review: “Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius”

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