One of my least favorite things to see in sports is when frustrated fans go from hating a struggling player’s performance into hating him as a person. In the case of Joey Butler, though, I would hope that people wouldn’t have that reaction. He was the underdog, and every second of his success was miraculous. And at the end of the day, what would you give just to hit in the major leagues for one day like Butler did for the better part of two months? Down at Triple-A, Butler is aiming to recapture just a little bit of that perfection and provide another spark for the Rays in September.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 8, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 4
The Bulls were down 2-0, but Joey Butler’s homer made it 2-1. Norfolk scored 2 more runs, but Butler homered again and it was 4-3. He had inspired his teammates and they did the rest, with Mikie Mahtook and Richie Shaffer each drilling a critical 2-run double. Butler finished 3 for 5 with his 2 homers and 3 RBI while Mahtook went 4 for 5 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored.
On the Triple-A season, Butler has his line up to .333/.416/.575 with 9 doubles, 6 homers, 24 RBI, and a 31-14 strikeout to walk ratio in 137 plate appearances. His time in the major leagues is funny when we look at that because in his first 164 plate appearances, his line stood at .338/.378/.519–it was crazy and unsustainable, and it still wasn’t as good as his production at Triple-A. It makes us appreciate just how crazy the jump between the minors and majors truly is and how fortunate the Rays were to have Butler carry their offense for so long.
Mahtook, meanwhile, has a .319/.380/.472 line in 79 plate appearances since returning to Durham after his promising big league stint. He has especially reached a new echelon on his current 6-game hitting streak, delivering a pair of 4-hit games to help him go an insane 14 for 29 (.483). Especially given the uncertainty regarding Desmond Jennings after he re-injured his knee, Mahtook has the ability to be an impact guy for the Tampa Bay Rays in the season’s final month.
On the pitching side, Bradin Hagens battled through a few rough patches to keep the Bulls in the game. He tossed 6.2 innings allowing 4 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits, walking 3 without a strikeout but forcing a 12-5 groundout to flyout ratio. Robert Zarate then worked around a hit and a walk with 2 strikeouts in his relief inning before Jhan Marinez tossed 1.1 perfect innings with 3 groundouts. Zarate and Marinez are both sleepers to be called up by the Rays in the next few days.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 4, Jackson Generals (SEA) 2 (1o innings)
We can all laugh about Taylor Guerrieri‘s rough first start at Double-A at this point. Since then, He is 2-0 with a 1.08 and a 19-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 25 innings, and from a couple of perspectives, this start was his best of the bunch. Guerrieri’s 2 runs, 1 earned, given up on 6 hits in 5 innings could have been better, but he struck out 5, his most since joining the Biscuits, and forced each of his 10 other outs on the ground. Of the hits he allowed, 3 more also came on groundballs while 2 were described as “soft line drives” by MiLB.com. In any event, Guerrieri is really good.
The bullpen also delivered solid results behind Guerrieri as Jeff Ames, Matt Lollis, and Ryan Garton combined to toss shutout ball. Garton let up just a hit while striking out 2 in 2 innings, and he got the win when the offense finally came around. It did so in the person of Leonardo Reginatto, who continued his inexplicable clutch tendencies by drilling a walk-off 2-run home run. Also having big games were Dayron Varona, who went 2 for 4 with a triple, a double, and an RBI, and Tyler Goeddel, who had a 3-for-5 game with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored.