Rays down on the farm April 18: Kelly continues strong start

Merrill Kelly has picked up where he left off last year since rejoining the rotation - Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Durham got back in the win column and didn't need a backup catcher to pitch

Richie Shaffer hit his third home run of the season. It took until the 12th game last year for him to hit his first home run.

Triple-A Durham Bulls (11-4)

Merrill Kelly's strong season continued in Durham's 3-2 win over Norfolk. Making his second start since injuries reshuffled the Rays and Bulls, Kelly settled in after a rough second inning to dominate the Tides. In that inning, a two run single by Alexi Casilla tied the game at two, but in his remaining four innings, Kelly would face just the minimum and finish with two runs allowed on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings. Those were Norfolk's only two hits of the game.

Durham first got on the board with a first inning hit parade. Three straight singles opened the inning, and after a Wilson Betemit strikeout, a Jerry Sands single drove in two runs to give the Bulls the early lead. In the sixth inning, Sands started a two out rally by drawing a walk and scored what proved to be the decisive run on a Norfolk error. Juan Carlos Oviedo struck out one in a perfect inning of relief and now has seven strikeouts and no walks in six innings with Durham.

Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (8-6)

Mike Colla dominated Pensacola in a slightly rain-shortened 3-2 Montgomery win. Unlike earlier in the series when Victor Mateo recorded a 5.1 inning complete game, the Biscuits and Blue Wahoos got through eight and a half innings before the game was called. In seven innings of work, Colla scattered seven hits and a walk while striking out eight and really only running into trouble in the two run Pensacola fourth.

At that point, Montgomery was already up 3-0. Richie Shaffer got the scoring started with a second inning solo home run, his third of the season. In the top of the fourth, just before Pensacola mounted their only threat of the game, Luke Maile hit a two out, two run single to put the Biscuits up by three. Jeff Malm had a two hit game, and former Rays farmhand Shane Dyer recorded two outs for Pensacola.

Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs (5-9)

Charlotte beat Palm Beach 5-3 in a game I can't boil down to a simple narrative. Starter Bruedlin Suero allowed all three Cardinal runs in the fourth inning, right after Charlotte had just taken a 3-0 lead. After the Stone Crabs recorded the second out on a sac fly that made it a 3-2 game, Suero allowed back to back doubles that tied the game up. Suero allowed the three runs on four hits and a walk in five innings of work with three strikeouts. Kevin Brandt threw three scoreless innings in relief.

Charlotte scored all five of their runs between the third and fifth innings. With two outs in the top of the fifth after Palm Beach had just tied the game, Charlotte retook the lead on a Patrick Leonard single, and he came home to score on a Kes Carter double. Leonard and Carter each had two hits, and Leonardo Reginatto had three.

Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods (2-11)

A five run Clinton sixth inning sunk Bowling Green in their 7-4 loss. A half inning after a Pat Blair squeeze bunt gave the Hot Rods a 2-1 lead, the LumberKings' first two batters of the inning reached against starter Jordan Harrison who was promptly removed for Stone Speer. He was greeted by a three run homer by Tyler O'Neill, and two more runs were charged to Speer when a double knocked in a pair of runners he walked. In 5+ innings, Harrison was charged with three runs on three hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Three Hot Rod pitchers combined to walk 10 batters.

Bowling Green got their runs with four individual one run innings. In the seventh, Granden Goetzman hit an inside the park home run to cut the Clinton lead to 6-3. Johnny Field continued to produce a lot of offense from the top of the Bowling Green lineup with three hits, including three doubles. Juniel Querecuto and James Harris each had two hits. Every Hot Rod hitter struck out at least once.

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Star of the day-Kelly and Colla combined to give the upper level affiliates two good starts Thursday.

Goat of the day- Speer really let Bowling Green's game get out of hand.

Today's games (probables courtesy of milb.com)

Durham @ Norfolk 7:05 PM (MiLB.TV, radio stream)
Nathan Karns (1-1, 8.76) v. Suk-min Yoon (0-2, 16.20)

Montgomery @ Pensacola 7:30 PM (MiLB.TV, radio stream)
Grayson Garvin (0-1, 1.50) v. Michael Lorenzen (2-0, 1.32)

Charlotte @ Palm Beach 6:35 PM (Radio stream)
Austin Pruitt (0-1, 7.88) v. Kyle Hald (2-0, 2.13)

Bowling Green v. Clinton 8:05 PM (Radio stream)
Chris Kirsch (0-2, 7.00) v. TBA

*Listed as TBA on milb.com

Scouting the opposition

Norfolk Tides (Baltimore)
4-10 (4th in IL South)
Offense: 47 R (10th) .664 OPS (10th)
Pitching: 4.65 ERA (14th) 1.49 WHIP (13th)
Top 30 Prospects: RHP Kevin Gausman (2), DH Henry Urrutia (7), RHP Mike Wright (8), LHP Chris Jones (27)

Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Cincinnati)
7-7 (3rd in SL South)
Offense: 47 R (7th) .693 OPS (4th)
Pitching: 3.20 ERA (6th) 1.18 WHIP (3rd)
Top 30 Prospects: RHP Robert Stephenson (1), OF Yorman Rodriguez (5), RHP Michael Lorenzen (6), RHP Carlos Contreras (7), RHP Daniel Corcino (13), OF Donald Lutz (16), RHP Jon Moscot (23)

Palm Beach Cardinals
6-8 (T-4th in FSL South)
Offense: 55 R (T-6th) .639 OPS (8th)
Pitching: 3.09 ERA (6th) 1.23 WHIP (5th)
Top 30 Prospects: LHP Marco Gonzales (5), OF Charlie Tilson (12), 2B Jacob Wilson (29)

Clinton LumberKings (Seattle)
6-7 (7th in MWL West)
Offense: 61 R (6th) .701 OPS (6th)
Pitching: 3.20 ERA (5th) 1.37 WHIP (11th)
Top 30 Prospects: RHP Edwin Diaz (5), OF Austin Wilson (6), OF Tyler O'Neill (18), SS Jack Reinheimer (26), RHP Lars Huijer (28)

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