It’s one of those cliche TV lines: “I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?” We will go with the better game first as we talk about the results of Tampa Bay Rays affiliates in the minor league postseason, but feel free to start with the second game if finishing on a high note will help your state of mind.
High-A Florida State League Postseason: Charlotte Stone Crabs 14, Palm Beach Cardinals 1
The prospects received a boost from the rehabbing Steven Souza Jr. on their way to a blowout win. Souza certainly looked healthy in this one, going 3 for 5 with a homer, 3 RBI, 3 runs scored, and even a stolen base in 5 trips to the plate. He didn’t even strike out! It turned out to be nice situation for everyone on the Rays side that Souza’s rehab has taken him to Charlotte–Souza gets a few more at-bats before he returns to the majors while the Stone Crabs get a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Every Stone Crabs hitter recorded at least 1 hit and reached base at least twice. Casey Gillaspie, Granden Goetzman, and Justin Williams joined Souza in delivering 3-hit games while Braxton Lee, Mike Marjama, Hector Guevara, and Pat Blair came through with 2 hits each. Lee, Marjama, and Guevara all drove in 2 runs as well. The Stone Crabs went 8 for 14 (.571) with runners in scoring position and left only 8 runners on base. Their offense was surging.
The most encouraging game of all came from Gillaspie, who finished 3 for 6 with a double, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. Gillaspie hit just .138 in his 8 games with Charlotte after returning from his wrist injury just before the end of the season, and the Rays would love to see him dominate opposing pitchers at the High-A level like they believe he can. Maybe this game can be the start of that.
On the mound, meanwhile, Brent Honeywell was given a big lead and made sure that this game never got close. He continued his spectacular season by tossing 7 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. Add this game to Honeywell’s 2.21 ERA and 48-13 strikeout to walk ratio in his last 10 starts, and he sure looks ready to start next season at Double-A (Gillaspie is a better question). Steve Ascher and Josh Kimborowicz then finished the game in shutout fashion, working around a hit each.
Advanced Rookie Appalachian League Championship Series: Greeneville Astros 8, Princeton Rays 7 (Astros Win Series 2-1)
This one was rough. The P-Rays blew a 5-run lead in Game 2, and they couldn’t hold a 6-5 advantage after 4 innings in this one. Eduar Lopez had a rough start, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits in 4 innings, before Alberto Casanas gave up 3 runs in a disastrous relief frame. Ruben Paredes and Armando Bastardo then did everything they could to keep this game close, combining for 4 shutout innings in which they worked around 2 hits and a walk while striking out 5, but Paredes did let an inherited runner score on a wild pitch and that proved to be the difference in the game.
Landon Cray hit only 2 home runs in 57 regular season games for Princeton, but he was superhuman when it mattered most. He equaled his regular-season homer total by going 3 for 4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI, but he was the only P-Rays hitter with multiple hits–they scored 7 runs on just 6 hits. Peter Maris also drilled a solo shot, giving up 2 postseason homers compared to 1 regular season blast, while Jonathan Popadics went 1 for 3 with an RBI. However, Princeton came up just short and will settle for a championship series appearance and not a title in their finest season since becoming affiliated with the Rays.
The Princeton Rays are out, but the Charlotte Stone Crabs and Montgomery Biscuits will provide Tampa Bay Rays fans with more playoff baseball in the coming days and hopefully a while beyond that.