Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: 2 Stone Crabs With 4-Hit Games
By Robbie Knopf
Racking up four hits in a game is a difficult feat. When two of your players pull it off, it is quite a special day. And when one of the players has been battling through a tough year, it is even more exciting. Dayron Varona continued his hot start while Maxx Tissenbaum started the road to join him as the Stone Crabs breezed to a 7-2 win.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 4, Charlotte Knights (CHW) 1
Curt Casali may finally be breaking out of his slump to open the season. He drilled a homer on Wednesday and looked even more impressive yesterday. Casali went 3 for 4 with another homer, a 2-run shot. Casali has a long way to go–he’s still hitting just .202–but we saw at Double-A how good he can be at the plate, and he has a chance to continue being a solid offensive catcher at higher levels. Former catcher J.P. Arencibia went 3 for 4 with a double and 3 runs scored while Richie Shaffer had a 1-for-3 game with a double and an RBI.
On the pitching side, Scott Diamond had a solid outing, going 5.1 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 1 while walking 1. Preston Guilmet followed with 1.1 hitless innings, striking out 2 while walking 1, while C.J. Riefenhauser got past a walk with 3 groundouts in his frame. Ronald Belisario then finished the game with 1.1 perfect innings, striking out 2 and getting the other 2 outs on the ground. Belisario has a 2.96 ERA in 24.1 IP for the Bulls, but his 14-8 strikeout to walk ratio has not been enough for him to get another big league chance.
Double-A Southern League: Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 1
It had to happen eventually–a bad outing for Blake Snell. He went 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 4. He has now allowed 3 homers in his last 2 outings after giving up 0 in his first 9. Snell’s scoreless streak is over, but now he has to compose himself and find a way to keep pitching well. This was his first truly bad outing, but it is a little concerning that he has walked 4 batters in consecutive starts. Hopefully Snell can return to dominance and make these 2 games into a blip on the radar.
Ryan Garton finally allowed a hit for the first time in 5 appearances. He still looked very good, striking out 2 in his shutout frame. Then, after Colton Reavis allowed an unearned run in an inning of work, Kyle Winkler struck out 1 while working around a hit to finish the game. Neither Garton not Winkler joined the Biscuits until May, but they have given them quite a relief duo of late.
This was just one of the days for Montgomery at the plate as the offense went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Patrick Leonard and Thomas Coyle each went 2 for 4 with a double for the Biscuits, with Leonard stealing a base, while Boog Powell and Cameron Seitzer added multi-hit games as well. Leonard heated up right as Shaffer was getting called to Durham and has continued his strong play even after shifting to third base regularly. He has a .267/.353/.500 line in his last 68 plate appearances.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 2
Dayron Varona is supposed to be playing this well. He is a 27 year old in a league where most players are 22 and 23. Even so, his transition to baseball in the US has gone well, and he has never looked better than yesterday. Varona went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and an RBI. He now has a .361/.378/.528 line on the season, striking out just twice among his 37 plate appearances although he has walked only once. The one player we can compare him to, Leslie Anderson, managed just a .262/.303/.405 line in 89 PA’s with the Stone Crabs in 2010.
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The other 4-hit game was more meaningful as Maxx Tissenbaum went 4 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Tissenbaum played relatively well with the Stone Crabs last season before going off in the Australian Baseball League, but he began the season with just a .226/.337/.286 line in his first 100 PA’s, showing great plate discipline but nothing else. The Rays have prioritized getting him games at catcher over putting him at the right level offensively, and that is probably the right move. It would be good for everyone’s sanity, though, if he had a few more games like this.
Carter Burgess, the Rays’ 28th round pick from last year, made his Charlotte debut and went 2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and 3 runs scored. Burgess played well at Princeton last year, and it is nice to see get a chance to continue his professional career now that Juniel Querecuto is in Montgomery. Granden Goetzman also went 2 for 3 with a walk, a steal, and 2 runs scored while Jake Bauers went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Goetzman and Bauers have been two of the system’s biggest breakouts, improving in plate discipline and power respectively.
Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 7, Kane County Cougars (ARI) 3
We may not be far away from the Tampa Bay Rays promoting Casey Gillaspie to Charlotte while Bauers goes up to Montgomery. In this game, Gillaspie went 2 for 5 with a homer, 2 RBI, and a run scored, plus he started a 3-2-3 double play to help Enderson Franco escape a jam. Justin Williams, Riley Unroe, and Nick Ciuffo also had multi-hit games for the Hot Rods. Williams doubled and scored a run while Unroe walked and drove in a run.
On the mound, Enderson Franco retired the final 10 batters he faced to finish a solid outing. He went 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits, striking out 1 while walking none. With better luck, his outing could have gone a lot better–his groundout to flyout ratio was 11-1, and 5 of his hits came on groundballs. The strikeouts have been down for Franco, but we have to like the trifecta of a mid-90’s fastball, groundballs, and control. Damion Carroll and Brian Miller combined to allow 1 run in the final 4 innings of the game.
Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 55: Erasmo Ramirez Solid Vs. Ex-Mates