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Tampa Bay Rays MLB/MiLB Recap: John Jaso Begins With a Bang

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We already covered the first game of yesterday’s disappointing Tampa Bay Rays doubleheader, and now let’s go through the second game and the minor leagues. The Rays lost by a combined score of 16-6, but the Bulls were somehow worse.

Kansas City Royals 7, Tampa Bay Rays 1

First the bad news, then the good news. Matt Andriese started for the Rays and got off to a great beginning, but he wound up failing to last 5 innings. He finished with 4.2 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3. Andriese threw strikes for the most part, but the occasional lapse cost him. His 5-pitch walk to ninth hitter Jarrod Dyson loomed especially large in the fifth inning as Dyson stole second and scored on Alex Gordon‘s bloop single.

The bigger deal, though, is that Brandon Gomes got hit hard and it seemed everything like he was tipping his secondary pitches. I’m not going to burn my entire data plan watching his outing over and over again to see if I can spot the difference in his motion (I don’t have wifi at work), but there are two good pieces of evidence supporting that hypothesis. The first is how great the Royals were at swinging at the secondary pitches when they were in the zone and laying off when they were out of it.

It started with Omar Infante, who saw two sliders from Gomes and two splitters. He laid off the two pitches down and swung at the two that were strikes, fouling one off and grounding out on what was actually a hanging split. After Cheslor Cuthbert singled on a first-pitch slider, Dyson drew a walk after swinging at four of Gomes’ five fastballs but not a single one of his three secondary offerings. Finally, Alcides Escobar took three more splitters and sliders down while swinging at all three that were borderline (although he whiffed at one). What are the chances of all of that happening by chance?

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The other thing to talk about is Gomes’ release point according to Pitch F/X. On the season, Brooks Baseball has Gomes’ release point at 2.19 feet to the left of the center of the mound horizontally (-2.19 because left is negative) and 5.51 feet above the mound vertically (he throws sidearm to some extent). His slider is at -1.96 and 5.62 while his splitter is at -1.91 and 5.60. Doing some trigonometry (arc-tangent to be exact), his release angle is 35.3 degrees on the fastball, 33.6º on the slider, and 32.9º on the splitter. Most importantly, the angle was 1.7º off on the slider and 2.4º off on the splitter.

In this game, however, the difference was 2.6º on the slider and 3.0º on the splitter, 53% more than usual on the former pitch and 25% on the latter. We would need a major study to determine what the effects of that would be, but suffice it say, it is interesting that the release angle on Gomes’ secondaries was farther off from his fastball than usual as he struggled in this game. We will have to monitor that moving forward (and I’ll try to look into his previous games when I have time). Gomes finished with 4 runs allowed in 0.2 innings pitched.

At least John Jaso had an excellent first start with the team. After singling in his first official at-bat of the year in the first game of the doubleheader, Jaso doubled to lead off the second contest and then homered for the Rays’ only run. Jaso later walked to cap his strong 2-for-3 evening. Jaso can be a force against right-handed pitching and gives the Rays an excellent option at leadoff. He can’t change this offense’s fate by himself, but he can certainly help. For that to matter, though, the Rays’ bullpen needs to get itself on track–this team won’t win many slugfests.

Chris Archer will oppose Jeremy Guthrie at 8:10 PM EST tonight as the Rays are once again desperate to get back on track.

Triple-A International League: Charlotte Knights (CHW) 17, Durham Bulls 6

Let’s just say that this bullpen day didn’t go well for the Bulls. Wow. Kirby Yates was the only pitcher not to allow a run, and it wasn’t easy as he needed to get past 2 hits and a walk. Vince Belnome and J.P. Arencibia ended up pitching in the eighth, and the Knights showed no mercy, tacking on 5 more runs. At least there were some offensive highlights as Nick Franklin, Luke Maile, and Corey Brown drilled a 2-run homer each.

Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 10, Biloxi Shuckers (MIL) 7

At least Joey Rickard had a perfect day, setting a Southern League record with 6 walks. He capped his 0-for-0 day with an RBI, 3 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored. Congrats to Rickard as his remarkable turnaround with Montgomery continues. He now has a .319/.410/.475 line with the team compared to .243/.337/.296 with the team last season. Justin O’Conner also had a huge day on the walking front. He finished 1 for 3 with 2 walks, a stolen base, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. The walks were his 8th and 9th of the year versus 77 strikeouts. Hopefully that ratio can get a lot more reasonable.

Jake Bauers also went 2 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, Dayron Varona drilled a solo home run, and Thomas Coyle went 1 for 1 with 2 walks, 2 RBI, and a run scored after entering for Patrick Leonard (who hopefully isn’t hurt). On the pitching side, meanwhile, Ryne Stanek got the win despite allowing 5 runs in 5 innings. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 8-1. Actually good were Parker Markel, who got past a hit with 2 strikeouts in 1.1 shutout innings, and Brad Schreiber, who recorded the save in the Double-A debut by working around a hit with a K.

High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, St. Lucie Mets 3

Not everyone in the system needed to allow 7 runs yesterday. Brent Honeywell was just named a top-50 prospect by Baseball America, and finally delivered a nice game at Double-A after getting unlucky in his first start and having nothing in his second. Honeywell went 6 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3. It could have been prettier–it was just Honeywell’s second time allowing 3 walks and fourth time allowing 4 walks in his 15 starts on the season–but it was nice for Honeywell to have a good outing and start building confidence.

Steve Ascher and Jeff Ames tossed 3 shutout innings to finish the game, and the Stone Crabs couldn’t have been any better situational hitters. They scored 5 runs by going 1 for 1 with runners in scoring position and getting 3 sac flies, 2 from Kean Wong and another from Jace Conrad. Granden Goetzman also went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored while Mike Marjama went 2 for 4 with a triple and a run. Andrew Velazquez also went 1 for 3 with a run scored in the win.

Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 6, Dayton Dragons (CIN) 4

After the Tampa Bay Rays traded Enderson Franco, we discussed Yonny Chirinos as a possibility to replace him in the Bowling Green rotation. For once, we were right, and Chirinos was excellent in his first Hot Rods start. He tossed 5 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. He has zoomed from the Venezuelan Summer League to Low-A since 2013, even making a pair of spot appearances at High-A. Edgar Gomez then struggled behind him before Brian Miller recorded the save with 2 shutout frames.

It is nothing short of remarkable that Alec Sole is batting third for Bowling Green now after not hitting at all at Hudson Valley last year. In this game, he drilled a critical 2-out, 3-run triple in the fifth inning and scored on Justin Williams‘ RBI double. Williams finished the game 3 for 4, raising his average to .293. Grant Kay and Nick Ciuffo also each went 2 for 4 with a double, with Kay adding an RBI and a run scored, while Thomas Milone went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.

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Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 4, Elizabethton Twins 2

It’s a little scary that this was the only game in the system with dominant starting pitching and no huge bullpen collapse. Blake Bivens started and looked great, allowing 1 run on 5 hits in 5 innings, striking out 5 while walking none. After striking out 1 while walking 3 in his first start, Bivens now has an 11-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 10.1 innings in his last 2 outings. Ian Gibaut was then outstanding behind him, tossing 3 scoreless innings allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 4. He has a 0.00 ERA and a 13-3 K-BB ratio in 8 innings, and a promotion could easily be oncoming.

Offensively, Kewby Meyer went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI, Jamie Mitchell and Zac Law drove in the other runs, and Jose Rojas went 1 for 3 with a double and a run scored. Angel Perez and Peter Maris also contributed a 1-for-3 game each. The P-Rays went a strong 3 for 5 with runners in scoring position.

Rookie Gulf Coast League: GCL Red Sox 11, GCL Rays 1

I guess this piece had to end on another downer, although we will conveniently ignore the negatives. Yael Regalado started and looked good, allowing just a hit in 2 innings while striking out 1. Abrahan Rodriguez forced an 8-2 strikeout to walk ratio in his 4.2 innings, and Collin Chapman tossed 1.1 shutout frames. At the plate, meanwhile, Juan Rodriguez went 2 for 3 and Blair Beck delivered an RBI.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 85: Roller Coaster Ends at Bottom

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