There has been minor league baseball in Princeton, West Virginia since 1988, and only once, in 1994, did the local team take the Appalachian League crown. The Princeton Rays are one win away from giving their city its second championship and its first since they became a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate after a dominating victory to start their best-of-3 series against the Greeneville Astros.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League Championship Series: Princeton Rays 12, Greeneville Astros 2
There truly wasn’t a single weak link in the chain. Aside from Blair Beck, who was a late-inning defensive replacement, the worst performance from anyone on the P-Rays came from Peter Maris, who still went 1 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. We could literally talk about everyone’s games up and down the lineup if we wanted to, and while we won’t do that completely, everyone’s names will be mentioned except for one if you count Maris above.
Princeton received a ridiculous four 3-hit games in this one, with David Rodriguez, Zac Law, Kewby Meyer, and Landon Cray doing the honors. Rodriguez drove in 2 runs while the other three brought in 1 each. Rodriguez finished second in RBIs in the game to Brett Sullivan, who continued his strong professional debut by going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI and a run scored. Sullivan finally got into the act for the P-Rays after a rough start to the postseason, and he did so in a big way. Angel Perez and Jose Rojas also had multi-hit games in the victory.
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The pitchers certainly didn’t have to be perfect in this game for the P-Rays, but they were still pretty darn good. Spencer Moran gave them exactly the type of start they were hoping for, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 5.2 innings. He struck out 5 without a walk as he finished his season in style. The projectable Moran entered the season as an unknown commodity, but between work in the weight room and continued improvement on the mound, he is starting to make a name for himself as a prospect. Deivy Mendez then finished the game with 3.1 shutout innings, getting past a hit and 2 walks while striking out 3.
Blake Bivens will take the mound tonight at 7:00 PM as the P-Rays hope to seal the deal against Greenville.
Short Season-A New York-Penn League: Aberdeen IronBirds (BAL) 4, Hudson Valley Renegades 0
The Renegades, recently eliminated from playoff contention, will need to win tomorrow just to finish 2015 above .500. In this game, Benton Moss had his second straight start in which he struggled despite failing to walk a batter, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 5.1 innings. He struck out 5 while walking none. Moss’ season ended in sorry fashion, but there is still reason for excitement after he finished the year with a 2.93 ERA and a 66-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 66.1 innings. He was a fascinating senior sign by the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and he lived up to the hype.
Justin McCalvin followed with 3 strikeouts in 1.2 perfect innings, although he did let an inherited runner score, before Brandon Koch got past a hit with 4 strikeouts in 2 shutout frames. Koch wraps up 2015 with a preposterous 47-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 32.1 innings as he will hope to get onto the fast-track to make the Rays’ bullpen.
Offensively, Manny Sanchez went 2 for 2, Jose Paez went 2 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base, Hector Montes went 2 for 4, and Garrett Whitley went 1 for 2 with a triple, but no one was able to cross home plate. Sanchez, just 19, will finish the year as the Renegades’ second-best hitter according to OPS despite being one of their youngest players. With one game left, Sanchez has a .273/.342/.426 line with 15 doubles, 5 homers, 22 RBI, and 5 stolen bases in 234 plate appearances.
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Low-A Midwest League: Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, Fort Wayne TinCaps (SDP) 2
In their second-to-last game of 2015, the Hot Rods came away with a nice win against the first-place TinCaps. Yonny Chirinos capped his breakout season with 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 9 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. After tossing shutout ball in a pair of spot appearances in Charlotte, Chirinos delivered a 0.60 ERA in 3 starts with the Renegades and then a 2.20 mark in 10 outings with the Hot Rods. He finishes with a 1.82 ERA and a 64-10 strikeout to walk ratio in 79.2 innings overall. Diego Castillo also used his high-90’s fastball effectively in the victory, forcing 5 groundouts as he gave up just 1 hit in 2 innings.
At the plate, Bralin Jackson had the best game, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored. His pure hitting, plate discipline, and defense have all looked good this season, and the next step will be for him to tap into his raw power and get better at stealing bases. Thomas Milone also went 3 for 5 with a triple and an RBI while Carter Burgess went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Finally, we have Nick Ciuffo, who went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run.
High-A Florida State League: Charlotte Stone Crabs 5, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 1
This was effectively a bullpen day for the Stone Crabs, possibly to help them save some of their starters’ innings for the postseason. Buddy Borden started and gave up 1 run in 2 innings before Hunter Wood tossed shutout ball in the third. If you’re keeping score at home, two usual starters tossed 3 innings combined. Then actual reliever Isaac Gil tossed 3 shutout innings before making way for Jordan Harrison, who got past 2 hits with 3 strikeouts in his 2 frames. Mike Franco wrapped things up with a hitless ninth, striking out 1 and walking 1 as well.
In terms of the run support, impressive games came up and down the Stone Crabs’ lineup. Mike Marjama went 2 for 5 with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored, Justin Williams went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and a run, and the quartet of Maxx Tissenbaum, Hector Guevara, Granden Goetzman, and Pat Blair delivered 2-hit games as well. Marjama still isn’t a prospect, but he will need to keep up his .302/.328/.473 line in the postseason for Charlotte to have a chance.
Double-A Southern League: Birmingham Barons (CHW) 5, Montgomery Biscuits 3
Taylor Guerrieri had an abbreviated outing, likely in anticipation of a playoff start or two, and it went quite well. Guerrieri tossed 3 no-hit innings allowing just a walk while striking out 3. He forced 5 more outs on the ground. This has basically been the dream scenario for Guerrieri in his first season back from Tommy John Surgery–between Charlotte and Montgomery, he pitched to a 1.85 ERA and a 72-19 strikeout to walk ratio in 78 innings pitched.
Ryne Stanek then looked fine behind him, giving up an unearned run on 2 hits in 3 innings, striking out 2 while walking 1. Unfortunately, Kyle McPherson then collapsed again, giving up 4 runs in 2 innings to put the Barons ahead. The Biscuits were unable to cling to the 1-0 lead that Juniel Querecuto gave them in the third inning on his solo homer, his first of the season in Montgomery in his 44th game.
Dayron Varona also made things interesting in the ninth by drilling a 2-run homer, his 10th. He has played pretty well in his 299 plate appearances in Montgomery, hitting to a .260/.308/.458 line with 10 doubles, 7 triples, and 10 homers. His power has looked better than expected since the Rays signed him out of Cuba. Jake DePew also had a nice game, going 1 for 3 with a double and picking a runner off second base.
Triple-A International League: Norfolk Tides (BAL) 8, Durham Bulls 4
Steven Souza Jr. went 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts in his second rehab game, but there were some other offensive highlights for the Bulls. Ryan Brett went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored, Jose Constanza went 3 for 4 with a stolen base, a double, and an RBI, and Cameron Seitzer went 1 for 4 but drove in 2 runs. Constanza is being looked at as a possible pinch-runner for the Rays this month, but the question at this point is whether they are in contention to a large enough extent to warrant paying his salary.
On the mound, Scott Diamond‘s season ended in unfortunate fashion as he gave up 8 runs, 4 earned, on 8 hits in 6 innings. At least the relievers did better. Kyle Bird, who spent all of 2015 in Bowling Green until this point, appeared for Durham and somehow managed to toss 1.2 shutout innings. It wasn’t pretty as he allowed a hit and 2 walks, but he also struck out 2. Andrew Bellatti stranded a pair of Bird’s baserunners as he tossed 1.1 hitless innings, striking out 1 while walking 1.