Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Stone Crabs Clinch Title


They did it. It has been a rough season in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, with the big league club getting off to a great start before slipping from the top and then falling out of contention in the last couple of weeks. The Princeton Rays found themselves one win away from the Appalachian League championship before losing their final two contests to let it get away. But finally, a season filled with so much development on the prospect side and progress for several big leaguers has some hardware to show its worth. The Charlotte Stone Crabs are the champions of the Florida State League.

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High-A Florida State League Championship Series Game 4: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Daytona Tortugas (CIN) 2 (13 Innings; Charlotte Wins Series 3-1)

Like many things in this world, it is probably just random that the Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Tampa Bay Rays played 13-inning games yesterday, but it’s more amusing to read something into it. The story follows that next season for the Rays, which will begin in Port Charlotte for spring training next February, is primed to be something different, something better. The bad luck in extra-inning games will end, the injuries won’t stockpile, the late-inning relievers will be more reliable, and the Rays will complete a season where everything finally goes as planned. For now, though, let’s discuss the Stone Crabs’ victory.

Brent Honeywell gave Charlotte a nice start in the potential series clincher, tossing 6 innings giving up 2 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3. However, Cincinnati Reds top prospect Amir Garrett was just as good for Daytona, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits in his 6 innings, striking out 7 while walking 2. The Stone Crabs got off to a roaring beginning against him, receiving a Braxton Lee single and a Hector Guevara double before sac flies by Mike Marjama and Casey Gillaspie gave them a 2-0 lead, but Garrett settled in from there and the Tortugas were able to tie the game.

The Stone Crabs stranded runners at second base in the second, third, fifth, and eighth innings, but Jordan Harrison was able to escape a second-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh and Steve Ascher did the same in the ninth. The Tortugas once again got two runners on with one out in the 11th frame, but Granden Goetzman made a nice catch on a line drive to help Ascher work another scoreless frame. Ascher was incredible, tossing 4 shutout innings in which he worked around 6 hits with 5 strikeouts and 4 groundouts, and after Isaac Gil tossed a scoreless frame, the Charlotte offense finally came alive again.

With one out in the 13th, the Stone Crabs received consecutive singles from Maxx Tissenbaum and Goetzman. Then, with two outs, Pat Blair worked a walk and Kean Wong drew another as Charlotte won in walk-off fashion. The bases-loaded walk has been a double-edged sword for the Rays this season–they drew quite a few of them, especially at the beginning of the year, but have also lost on a walk-off walk as part of Brad Boxberger‘s rough year–but it worked in the Stone Crabs’ favor this time to finish off their title run.

Goetzman finished off his great postseason effort with a .500 average as he went 2 for 6 with his great catch. There were round numbers all around as Lee and Justin Williams each went 2 for 6 as well to finish with .400 averages. Hector Guevara finished at .296 after going 2 for 6 with 2 doubles and a run, but it was Wong, who finishes the playoffs hitting just .143, who wound up being the hero. He did have quite a final game, going 1 for 3 with 3 walks and that big RBI. The Stone Crabs’ number two hitter most of the season, Wong batted ninth in this game but certainly found a way to make his presence felt.

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The Stone Crabs faced a tough task in the postseason with so many of their leading hitters gone. Dayron Varona, Joey Rickard, Jake Bauers, Juniel Querecuto moved onto Montgomery, with Rickard later making it to Durham, while Willy Adames has been out with a sore elbow. Mike Marjama was the only one of Charlotte’s top six hitters per OPS minimum 70 appearances who was still with the team. However, the pitching staff was incredible despite the departures of Jacob Faria, Taylor Guerrieri, and Ryne Stanek, with Honeywell joining German Marquez and Hunter Wood to be a huge part of that, and a few clutch hits did the rest. Congrats to the 2015 Florida State League champions, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Double-A Southern League Postseason Game 3: Chattanooga Lookouts (MIN) 7, Montgomery Biscuits 3 (Chattanooga Leads 2-1)

We’ll be quick here to try to minimize the emotional letdown. Cameron Seitzer hit a three-run homer, but the Lookouts were able to get Austin Pruitt for 4 runs, 3 earned, in 6 innings before scoring 3 unearned runs against Stanek and Parker Markel. Bauers did go 1 for 3 with 2 walks in the loss while Daniel Robertson went 2 for 5. The Biscuits will send Guerrieri to the mound tonight at 8:05 PM as they hope to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Game 142: 3 Hits in 13 Innings Are Rarely Enough