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Tampa Bay Rays MLB/MiLB Recap: Harper Departs Amid Rally

By Robbie Knopf
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I was really hoping to be able to stop these combined MLB and MiLB recaps now that the profiles of all 40 draft picks are done, but here we are again.

Tampa Bay Rays, 5, Washington Nationals 3

This looked like it was going to be a frustrating loss for the Tampa Bay Rays. Chris Archer allowed 3 runs in the first 2 innings and had already thrown 53 pitches as the Rays trailed 3-1. It could have been even worse if not for an outfield assist from Steven Souza Jr. to end that second frame. However, Archer rebounded to toss scoreless ball in the subsequent 3 innings, and the Rays found a way to come back in the sixth against Doug Fister.

It all started when Joey Butler‘s incredible season continued to begin the frame. His opposite-field home run was his fifth of the season, and he’s still hitting .331 through 143 plate appearances. We can never know how long something like this can last, but it has been exciting to see. I’m planning on doing a piece on historical precedents for streaks like this from older rookies in the next few days.

Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe followed with singles, although Forsythe’s came on a should-have-been double play ball to Ian Desmond (and should have been ruled an error). Desmond then had more trouble on the groundball that Souza hit to him, stumbling to cost the Nationals another double play although he did get the force out at third base. Then Asdrubal Cabrera singled into right field, and Forsythe was held at third before scoring on Bryce Harper‘s throwing error. Souza also scored when the throw went into the stands.

As it turns out, Harper’s throw was wild because he was injured on the play. It was initially described as a mild hamstring strain, and given that the Rays won’t be playing the Washington Nationals again for a long time, we should all be wishing Harper a full recovery. He has played unbelievably this season and it was cool to see everything he could do as he went up against the Rays. His success is only a good thing for baseball.

The Rays scored on insurance run in the inning when David DeJesus smashed an RBI triple off reliever Blake Treinen. It really was quite a piece of hitting–Treinen’s breaking ball has tremendous depth, but DeJesus went down to get it and crushed it. The emotional high never dissipated for the Rays as Brandon Gomes, Kevin Jepsen, Jake McGee, and Brad Boxberger each followed with a scoreless relief inning. Jepsen did allow 2 hits and a walk before escaping, but it was especially exciting to see Boxberger have a great frame after his recent struggles.

The win takes the Tampa Bay Rays to 38-30 on the season and still 1 game ahead of the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. Nate Karns will go up against Carlos Carrasco as the Rays take on the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field at 7:10 PM EST.

Triple-A International League: Columbus Clippers (CLE) 6, Durham Bulls 1 (6 innings–rain)

The Rays-Nationals game was able to be concluded with only a brief rain delay, but the same couldn’t be said of this contest. Dylan Floro had a frustrating start, allowing 6 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings. In typical Floro fashion, his groundout to flyout ratio was still 10-1. Kyle Winkler then allowed a run in relief behind him. On the position player side, meanwhile, Taylor Motter went 2 for 3 with a double and the lone RBI while Allan Dykstra went 1 for 1 with a walk. You have now heard about all 3 Bulls hits in this game.

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Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 11, Biloxi Shuckers (MIL) 5

The pitching was downright ugly in this one–Jared Mortensen recorded the win despite allowing 5 runs and the relievers allowed plenty of baserunners even as they pitched shutout ball–but there was plenty to talk about on the offensive side. We will start with Johnny Field, who went 1 for 3 with a 3-run homer, a walk, and 3 runs scored. He’s now up to a .294/.352/.522 line on the season with 15 doubles, 11 homers, 49 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. Who would have thought that Field would top his .864 OPS from last year? Field’s 61-15 strikeout to walk ratio is still concerning, although he has a more reasonable 10-4 mark in his last 70 plate appearances.

Justin O’Conner‘s season has been about as bad as Field’s has been good (.576 OPS), but things have been looking up for him lately. He went 2 for 5 with a homer, a double, a stolen base and 3 RBI in this game to give him a .333 average with 3 doubles, 2 homers, and 5 RBI in his last 5 games. O’Conner endured a 1-for-27 dry spell immediately before that, but hopefully he is putting that in the past. He won’t pull a Field and one-up his breakout season, but the Rays are certainly hoping that he can finish with respectable numbers.

Hector Guevara also homered in the win while Joey Rickard went 2 for 5 and Boog Powell went 1 for 3 with 2 walks, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. It is unfortunate that Daniel Robertson is still out with a left wrist injury, but Powell continues to put up nice numbers, hitting to a .333/.416/.425 line on the year.

High-A Florida State League: Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 7, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3

On May 29th, Kean Wong was hitting .218 on the season. Now he is at .288, hinting at just how good he has been since then. In this game, he went 3 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored, giving him a .441/.447/.529 line in his last 77 plate appearances. Wong still isn’t hitting for any power (.349 SLG on the year), but he has improved his strikeout to walk ratio from 2.75-to-1 to 2.07-to-1 and already has 13 steals in 15 attempts after managing 13 out of 20 last season. His all-around game is making major strides.

Mike Marjama also went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI while Braxton Lee had a 1-for-3 performance with a walk. Marjama, signed to be an organizational backup catcher, has hit a surprising .293, albeit while playing mostly first base and DH.

You wouldn’t know it from the final score, but German Marquez delivered his best all-around start of the season before the bullpen collapsed behind him. He went 6.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 8 while walking none. He entered this start with an 8.36 ERA in the 3 outings in which he had struck out at least 5 batters compared to 1.76 otherwise, but he was simply too dominant in this game for that trend to continue. Marquez has been spectacular as a 20 year old at High-A, posting a 3.24 ERA, and he seems poised to raise his 6.8 K/9 as well.

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Low-A Midwest League: Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) 3, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1

Put this game down as a career day for Nick Ciuffo. He went 3 for 4 with the Hot Rods’ only RBI at the plate and threw out both baserunners that dared to steal against him. Ciuffo continues to look excellent behind the plate, and hopefully the bat will eventually come around too. He still has just a .236/.253/.302 line on the season, hitting for limited power while striking out 31 times against 5 walks. The positive side is that Ciuffo is still just 20 years old and O’Conner was considered a top prospect after breaking out at 22. The Rays will continue to be patient with Ciuffo.

On the mound, Brent Honeywell‘s inconsistency continued but he did finish with a quality start. He went 6 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. Apparently the Rays knew what they were doing keeping Honeywell at Low-A as he is still trying to find himself again after a great beginning to the season. Edgar Gomez finished the game with 2 hitless innings, striking out 2 while walking 1. The pitchers were helped out by Ciuffo behind the plate and Bralin Jackson‘s pair of outfield assists.

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