This is not the best time to be a Tampa Bay Rays writer to say the least, although don’t read too much into the fact that I haven’t been writing as often (I’ve been busy). In any event, the Rays lost again, the minor league system had a bunch of close loses as well, but a few teams had games of an entire different nature, most notably the Montgomery Biscuits.
New York Yankees 3, Tampa Bay Rays 2
First it was the offense, and now–at least on relative terms–it’s the bullpen that’s struggling. Actually, the relief corps has been struggling for a while, but it didn’t really matter before because the Rays weren’t scoring runs anyway. The bullpen arms were fine during the Toronto and Boston series that started this rut, managing a 3.48 ERA in those games (although they did allow at least 1 run in every game but 1). Against Cleveland and New York, however, they now have just a 9.78 ERA. That is truly remarkable.
In this game, Nate Karns was excellent after allowing 2 first-inning runs, tossing 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 10 while walking 2. Kevin Cash let him throw 113 pitches as he set his career-high in strikeouts and delivered arguably his most dominant game yet. Karns’ fastball and curveball were both solid pitches for him, but the difference for him (as has been the case on the whole of late) was his changeup. He was comfortable enough with it to throw it 27 times and wound up generating 8 whiffs (29.6%).
The Rays didn’t score any runs, but suddenly they did in dramatic fashion in the ninth, receiving a 2-run blast from the slumping Steven Souza Jr., who actually finished the game 2 for 4. The hope was that a hit like that could turn the Rays’ season around. Instead, Brad Boxberger allowed a double and a walk in the bottom of the ninth before making a wild throw on a sac bunt to allow the Yankees to walk off again.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides 5, Durham Bulls 4
Welcome to more of the same. Bradin Hagens was excellent in his first Triple-A start in the Rays system, tossing 5 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. He also forced a strong 7-1 groundout to flyout ratio. The Bulls held a 4-0 lead when he departed only to see Jose Dominguez allow 2 runs and the trio of Jhan Marinez, Preston Guilmet, and Jim Miller allow a run each to cost them the game.
On the offensive side, Taylor Motter is still playing out of his mind, hitting a 2-run homer to cap a 1 for 2 day with 2 walks and a stolen base. Richie Shaffer also clubbed his 12th homer and J.P. Arencibia his 14th. Arencibia leads the International League in home runs, but only with a .226 average and a .252 OBP. What’s most remarkable is that Shaffer is tied for 4th despite playing 25 less games than every other player in the league with at least 8 homers. Corey Brown also went 2 for 4 with a double and a steal in the loss.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Biloxi Shuckers (MIL) 2
Jacob Faria may never feel this good in a game again. That isn’t a reflection of what I think of him as a prospect–it’s just that this game was absolutely nuts. Faria tossed 7 no-hit innings allowing 3 walks and nothing else while striking out 14. Unfortunately, we can continue the theme of this piece, by talking about Jared Mortensen‘s pair of runs allowed in relief, but Faria deserves a lot more time. He praised Justin O’Conner for helping him work through a jam in the fourth inning (when he allowed 2 walks) and said that he had a great feel for his changeup, which (no coincidence) is a split-change.
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Faria is the next pitcher to take off in the Rays system after learning a split-change, and the fact that he throws that offering and a mid-90’s fastball gives him a chance to be a top prospect and eventually a very good major league pitcher. He needs to prove that his splitter can be anywhere remotely near this good on a more consistent basis and his curveball needs considerably more work. He also doesn’t do a good enough job commanding his fastball within the zone at this point. On the other hand, a game like this shows us just how good Faria has a chance to be, and doubting him is becoming an increasingly foolish proposition.
Leonardo Reginatto drilled a 3-run homer, just his second of the season, to highlight Faria’s run support. Patrick Leonard also went 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored while Johnny Field had a 2-for-3 day with a double, a hit-by-pitch, an RBI, and a run scored. Cameron Seitzer added a nice performance of his own, going 1 for 2 with a double, 2 walks, and 3 runs scored, and Jake Bauers may have taken the first step to finding himself at Double-A, going 1 for 3 with an RBI.
High-A Florida State League: Palm Beach Cardinals 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
It’s just a little sad that Taylor Guerrieri took the loss in this game. He tossed the first 3 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. He has to be longing for the days when he will be able to go a lot more than 3 or 4 innings and ensure that his team’s deficit never increases past 1-0. Kyle McKenzie was very good behind him, but he did allow an unearned run in 3 innings, striking out 3 while walking none. Isaac Gil then tossed 1.1 shutout innings, getting past 2 walks, before Jeff Ames finished the game with 1.2 innings working around a hit and a walk while striking out 3.
Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Cubs 1, Bowling Green Hot Rods 0
Hunter Wood looked great again in his second start for the Hot Rods, but one mistake was enough to cost him. He tossed 6 innings allowing 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was also a nice 6-2. Moving to the rotation hasn’t slowed down Wood at all, and he continues shooting up the Tampa Bay Rays’ prospect rankings. His mid-90’s fastball and knee-buckling curveball continued to give hitters fits.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 3, Staten Island Yankees 1
This game was the opposite of a lot of what happened in this system yesterday. A Rays affiliate beat a Yankees affiliate and it was the bullpen that led the way. Roel Ramirez had an uneven outing but battled to allow only an unearned run. He tossed 4.2 innings and gave up 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 1. However, then Brad Wallace was incredible behind him, finishing the game with 4.1 innings allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 6. Wallace, the Rays’ 10th rounder from last year, still has a 0.00 ERA through 12 innings for the Renegades, striking out 12 while walking 2.
Nic Wilson was known after the 2014 draft for his power, and he finally tapped into it in this game, going 1 for 3 with a walk and his first homer. It’s hard to be terribly optimistic about Wilson at this point–he has a .257/.297/.371 line as a 22 year old at Short Season-A–but given his power, he deserves a little bit more time. Michael Russell also went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored while Jose Paez went 2 for 4.
Not much happened in the GCL game, so let’s finish on a positive note.