The Tampa Bay Rays played an exciting one-run game last night, and all of their affiliates who played followed suit. Get ready for some more nail-biting games, and it was the pitching that especially stood out as the system finished 2-1 on Monday.
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Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 4, Indianapolis Indians (PIT) 3
This game had a lot in common with the Rays-White Sox contest, and appropriately enough, the Bulls had a major league pitcher on the mound. Matt Andriese rebounded from one of his rare rough starts on the year to toss 5 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was a perfect 8-0. A cool stat is that the walks were Andriese’s first in the minors since June 17th (although he did walk 3 in his lone MLB start in that span). With Matt Moore now back with the Bulls, Andriese is awaiting his next major league chance. Drew Smyly is ahead of him on the depth chart if healthy, but the presence of Moore at Triple-A could open up Andriese to move into a big league bullpen role if the Rays like.
Andriese departed with a 4-1 lead, but it took an incredible amount of fortune to score that many runs. The Bulls scored 4 runs on just 2 hits on the game! In the second inning, a would-have-been sac fly off the bat of Jake Elmore turned into a double play when J.P. Arencibia was thrown out at home, but then an error on a Joey Rickard grounder made it 1-0 Durham. Then, after the Indians had tied the game at 1, the Bulls loaded the bases in the fourth on 2 walks and a hit batsman before Rickard delivered an RBI single, Hak-Ju Lee contributed a sac fly, and another error scored the fourth run.
The Bulls needed every little bit as Enny Romero was sketchy in relief, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 2.2 innings. It seems like every piece of the Rays’ bullpen depth has fallen apart with the exception of Andrew Bellatti (and Andriese if you want to count him). Romero now has a 4.61 ERA at Durham (and a 5.43 ERA overall) even though he is pitching exclusively in relief these days. His stuff remains very good, but those numbers are extremely concerning. At least Jim Miller was sharp to hold the 1-run lead, earning the save with 1.1 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 3.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 1, Mississippi Braves 0 (12 innings)
I hope no one was particularly worried after Taylor Guerrieri allowed 4 runs in 3 innings in his first Double-A start. In his second outing, Guerrieri got back to showing the stuff and sharp command that has made him into one of the Rays’ best pitching prospects once again. Guerrieri used just 57 pitches to toss 5 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. He was efficient, and he was also forcing groundballs, managing an 8-3 groundout to flyout ratio. The game marked Guerrieri’s second time reaching 5 innings since Tommy John Surgery.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ plan is to limit Guerrieri to around 75 innings this year, and after this start, his season total now stands at 50 IP. That gives him a chance for 5 more starts of 5 innings, although it would be nice if Guerrieri had enough bullets left to pitch in the Southern League playoffs if the Biscuits can make it. Guerrier has pitched well since returning to action for good in mid-May, putting up a 2.52 ERA and a 51-14 strikeout to walk ratio in 50 innings. It has been over four years since he was drafted, but he won’t turn 23 until December and can still turn into an excellent major league pitcher.
The pitchers continued to dominate behind Guerrieri in this one as the Biscuits combined for a 3-hit shutout in 12 innings. Kyle McPherson allowed only a walk while striking out 3 in 2 hitless innings, Brad Schreiber gave up a lone hit in 3 innings, striking out 1 and forcing 5 groundouts, and Matt Lollis earned the win with 2 perfect frames, enticing 4 outs on the ground. Schreiber has followed up a 1.83 ERA in 30 High-A appearances with a 0.69 ERA and a 13-3 strikeout to walk ratio since joining the Biscuits. Pretty good for a former non-drafted free agent.
The Biscuits finally took the lead when Jake Bauers doubled in the 12th and scored on a go-ahead RBI single by Leonardo Reginatto (AKA the greatest clutch player I’ve ever see who generally isn’t so great). Bauers finished the game 2 for 5 with 2 doubles–great to see him pad his extra-base hit total–while Johnny Field went 1 for 3 with 2 walks and a stolen base.
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Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Tri-City ValleyCats 6, Hudson Valley Renegades 5
The Renegades were behind 6-1 after 4 innings in this game before finding a way to make it interesting. Michael Velasquez had a rough start, allowing 6 runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings. On the positive side, he struck out 5 while walking none, forced a 2-0 groundout to flyout ratio, and gave up 5 bad-luck hits on groundballs. Tomas Michelson followed with 2.1 innings allowing just a hit, striking out 1 and managing a 3-0 groundout to flyout ratio, before Cristopher Crisostomo managed a similar line (2 IP, 1 H, 1 K, 3-1 GB-FB). Diego Castillo then worked around a hit with a strikeout in his scoreless frame.
Catcher Taylor Hawkins has been playing extremely sparingly for Hudson Valley, seeing time in just 2 of their last 7 games, but a few more performances like this could get him in the lineup more often. Hawkins went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored and also threw out the only runner that tried to steal against him. Hawkins was an above-slot signing by the Rays back in 2012 as a catcher with good power potential. He has progressed very slowly, but he won’t turn 22 until September and still has a chance to make himself into something if his bat can click.
Jake Cronenworth also had a nice game, going 2 for 5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, while Manny Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a run. Cronenworth now has his line up to a strong .306/.422/.440 with a 36-22 strikeout to walk ratio in his pro debut. Michael Russell drove in 2 runs in the loss for Hudson Valley while Alex Schmidt and Angel Moreno contributed 1 each. Moreno also added an outfield assist.