We focus so much on individual performances in these minor league recaps, but for once, let’s talk about who will make the playoffs. Another Tampa Bay Rays affiliate punched its ticket to the postseason on Monday, making it a total of three that have done so thus far with a fourth a favorite to make it as well.
Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 2, Gwinnett Braves 1
This win takes the Bulls to 69-68 on the season, but they have already been eliminated from the IL Wild Card race and their elimination number for the IL South division is just 2. What is really surprising is that their .504 winning percentage actually puts them last in their division–there are 8 teams above .500 in the 14-team International League, and 4 of them are in the IL South. In any event, this was a great win for Durham as they kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
Bradin Hagens started and was excellent despite being the opposite of overpowering. He tossed 6.2 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, walking 3 without a strikeout but forcing a 10-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Hagens lowered his ERA to 2.97 since moving up to Triple-A, and while he doesn’t have the arsenal to keep pitching like that as a big league starter, he has given the Bulls more-than-serviceable innings. Andrew Bellatti followed with 1.1 perfect innings, breaking up a disastrous streak where he allowed a run in 5 straight outings and a 9.72 ERA overall. Jhan Marinez then earned the save with a 1-2-3 frame, striking out 1.
Offensively, Joey Rickard went 3 for 3 with a walk and a run scored, Corey Brown went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and a run, and Jake Elmore went 1 for 2 with 2 walks and an RBI. Mayo Acosta had the other Bulls RBI on a sac fly. It was reported after the game yesterday that the Rays had promoted Richie Shaffer, Mikie Mahtook, Matt Moore, C.J. Riefenhauser, Kirby Yates, and Luke Maile (plenty more on that in a few hours), and it was interesting that guys like Elmore and Bellatti are not yet up.
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The Bulls will likely have several more players promoted after the season ends on September 7th, though, with Nick Franklin, Ryan Brett, and Hak-Ju Lee joining Elmore and Bellatti among the obvious candidates who are at Triple-A and already on the 40-man roster. Justin O’Conner is unlikely to get the call after a rough Double-A season at the plate, and the same could be said of Lee. Brett will be interesting as a guy who will probably head to the Arizona Fall League after the season as he hopes to get past his injury-filled year. The Rays may want to give him some time off before that, so if they want a guy just for pinch-running purposes, Lee appears a better fit.
A few others (Taylor Motter, Marinez, Jim Miller, Robert Zarate, Everett Teaford) also have cases to be added to the 40-man roster for September, and we will hopefully get a chance to discuss them in the next few days.
Double-A Southern League: Montgomery Biscuits 2, Mobile BayBears (ARI) 0
The playoff structure in the Southern League–and every other full-season league below–is that the first-half champion in each division plays the second-half champ in a best-of-5 series with the winner heading to the best-of-5 SL Championship Series. (If a team wins the division in both halves, they play the team with the second-best overall record but are given a heavy home-field advantage.) The Montgomery Biscuits finished the first half at 34-34, third in their division and not good enough to clinch a postseason berth at that time.
The second half has been a different story, however, as the Biscuits are 40-24, 6 games better than anyone else in their division with 5 games to play. They sealed to deal with a strong pitching effort led by Taylor Guerrieri. Guerrieri got past 5 hits and a walk in 5 shutout innings, striking out 2 and forcing an 8-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Guerrieri’s 1.64 ERA in 7 Double-A starts was a nice boost to Montgomery to end the year. Jeff Ames then need to work around a hit and 2 walks to keep his ERA at a pristine 0.39 before Mark Sappington, Matt Lollis, and Brad Schreiber were perfect in the last 3 innings.
Tyler Goeddel, another huge reason that the Biscuits stepped up in the second half, went 2 for 5 with 2 doubles, an RBI, and a run scored. Goeddel jumped from a .256/.327/.370 line with 3 homers and 28 RBI in 251 first-half plate appearances to a .304/.375/.509 line with 9 homers and 44 RBI in 265 second-half PA’s. He went from a sure bet to be left off the 40-man roster to a guy that the Rays certainly have to consider. Cameron Seitzer also went 2 for 4 with an RBI in the win.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, St. Lucie Mets 2 (Finished after top of sixth–rain)
The Stone Crabs were first-half champions in the FSL South with a 45-25 record, but the second half has proved to be a disaster as they have gone just 22-38, putting them last in the division. They will be in the playoffs, but they would like to find some way to get hot as the season draws to a close. This game is hopefully the start of something like that.
Buddy Borden started for Charlotte and tossed the shortened complete game. He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits in 5 innings, striking out 3 while walking 3 as well. The run support was a little bit more exciting as Justin Williams went 3 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored while Granden Goetzman went 2 for 3 with a double, a stolen base, an RBI, and a run. Williams is 6 for his last 11 as he is finally finding himself at the High-A level.
Low-A Midwest League: South Bend Cubs 10, Bowling Green Hot Rods 4
The Hot Rods went 37-33 in the first half, but that only placed them fifth in their 8-team division. They needed to be better in the second half to make the playoffs, but instead they stayed in that fifth spot, this time with a 29-33 record, and were recently eliminated from playoff contention.
Brad Wallace had a rough start in this one, giving up 8 runs, just 2 earned, on 8 hits in 5 innings. Luis Urena gave up 2 more runs in his 2 frames before Edgar Gomez worked around 2 hits with 4 strikeouts to toss 2 shutout innings to end the contest. Offensively, Carter Burgess and Grant Kay each went 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored, with Burgess driving in a run and Kay adding a walk. Bralin Jackson also had a double, an RBI, and an outfield assist at home.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Hudson Valley Renegades 12, Lowell Spinners (BOS) 6
The Renegades are right in the thick of things in the New York-Penn League playoff picture. They are now 36-32, tied with the Staten Island Yankees for the best record in the NYPL McNamara division, and also putting them first in the Wild Card. This game gave them 4 straight wins and helped them keep pace with Staten Island as they overcame a rough start with a tremendous offensive performance.
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Hector Montes has poor overall numbers for the Renegades, but he has certainly had his moments, delivering a 2-homer game and now a pair of 4-hit performances. In this one, he went 4 for 6 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Also coming through with 4 hits was Joseph Astacio, who had been 0 for 6 since being promoted from the Gulf Coast League. He went 4 for 6 with 2 RBI. Angel Moreno also drove in 3 runs while Michael Russell and Taylor Hawkins drove in 2 each. The toolsy Moreno has shown off how good he could be when his skill-set comes together, hitting to a .373/.387/.661 line with 7 doubles, 2 homers, and 13 RBI in his last 15 games.
Benton Moss failed to deliver a strong outing for the Renegades for the first time in over a month, surrendering 5 runs, 4 earned, on 7 hits in 3.1 innings. At least his peripherals remained excellent as he struck out 4 while walking none and forced a 6-0 groundout to flyout ratio. The rest of the pitching stabilized the game to ensure that it would end up being a blowout. Sam Triece did give up a run in 2 innings, but Tim Ingram tossed 1.2 perfect frames with a strikeout before him while Tomas Michelson struck out 2 in 2 spotless innings after him.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League: Princeton Rays 3, Greeneville Astros 2
Princeton, at 37-30, sits 7 games back in the Appy League East, but they have already clinched a playoff berth as the division’s second-best team. The next step is for them to finish the season strongly after a recent rough stretch, and a win against the Astros, currently in line to make the playoffs themselves, is a nice beginning.
Alexis Tapia started for the P-Rays and was solid in his short outing, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 3 innings. He struck out 3 and forced 4 groundouts without giving up a walk or a flyout. Deivy Mendez was then superhuman in relief, striking out 5 while walking 1 in 4 hitless innings. Mendez has become known in Princeton for ridiculous stuff but terrible control, but the terrible control has gone away recently. He now has a 1.00 ERA and a 15-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 9 innings across his last 3 appearances, exponentially better than the disastrous results he had delivered beforehand.
In terms of the run support, Zacrey Law continues to impress, going 3 for 5 with a solo homer and 3 runs scored. He has delivered a .742 OPS, fourth on the P-Rays, despite being the team’s youngest position player by a good margin. David Olmedo-Barrera, the leading hitter, also went 3 for 5 while second-place finisher Brett Sullivan drove in a pair of runs despite going 0 for 5.