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Rays down on the farm July 27: Ciuffo hits first professional home run

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And he wasn't the only Rays catching prospect to go deep

Not only has Nick Ciuffo been surging at the plate, he's succeeding behind it too
Not only has Nick Ciuffo been surging at the plate, he's succeeding behind it too
Jim Donten

Nick Ciuffo has had a tough start to his pro career, but his last 10 games have to be his most encouraging yet.  He's batting .324/.419/.432 with six strikeouts and six walks.  He has also caught 19 out of 29 attempted base stealers this year with at least one pickoff, so there are clearly some positives there.

If you want to see a pretty wild benches clearing incident, check out this video from last night's Albuquerque Isotopes and Reno Aces game.  Apparently the Aces did not enjoy the bold flavors of mesquite-grilled onions, jalapeno relish and mango-lime salsa like people do in Albuquerque.

Triple-A Durham Bulls (56-50)

Durham's offense was a no show in their 5-0 loss to ToledoEnny Romero pitched well through the first six innings, but trying to stretch him through another proved to be no good.  He didn't retire any of three batters he faced, and he finished with three runs allowed in 6+ innings on nine hits with three strikeouts and no walks.  All five Bulls hits were singles by different players.

Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (19-17)

Montgomery's offense was equally productive in their 1-0 loss to Jacksonville.  That run came two batters into the game on a solo home run against Mike Colla.  He allowed just that run on four hits and two walks in 6.1 innings with four strikeouts, and it's his third straight start giving up one or fewer runs.  Jeff Malm had three of Montgomery's four hits, and they struck out 12 times to just one walk.

Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs (14-21)

Justin O'Conner went deep again in Charlotte's 6-1 win over Dunedin.  Already up 2-0 in the sixth, O'Conner's two run shot doubled the lead, and gave him his fourth home run in his last five games.  Maxx Tissenbaum's two run double in the eighth added a couple insurance runs on, but they ended up being unnecessary.  O'Conner, Leonardo Reginatto and Patrick Leonard had two hit games.

Joel Peralta made his first rehab appearance from his illness.  He did allow a hit and stolen base in one inning, but he also struck out a batter.  Jordan Harrison came on to take his turn in the rotation and pitched well.  He allowed Dunedin's only run, a solo home run, and he finished with that run allowed on four hits and a walk in six innings with six strikeouts.

Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods (14-20)

Back to back four run innings sunk Bowling Green in their 9-2 loss to Quad Cities.  D.J. Slaton got through the first four innings pretty easily, but a pair of two run homers in the fifth gave the River Bandits a lead they wouldn't let go.  Three straight hits to open the sixth scored another run and knocked Slaton out of the game, and Josh Kimborowicz allowed an inherited runner to score.  Slaton's final line was seven runs allowed (five earned) on eight hits and a walk in five innings with three strikeouts.

In addition to their seven hits, the Hot Rods drew eight walks, but the deficit was just too big.  They took a 1-0 lead in the first when Oscar Hernandez walked with two outs, moved up to third on a passed ball and wild pitch and scored on Ty Young's single.  Hernandez drove in their second run with a fifth inning sac fly.  Julian Ridings reached base three times.

Short-Season Hudson Valley Renegades (29-13)

If you take out the eight run first inning for Lowell, Hudson Valley won, but you can't do that, so they lost 9-5.  After Jose Alonzo generally breezed through the Appy League this year, his first New York-Penn League start did not go as planned.  With one out, he allowed a two run home run, and eventually, his night ended with two outs after allowing a bases clearing triple.  He was charged with eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits and a walk in .2 innings with a strikeout.

Brian Miller was outstanding in long relief, a role he's filled before to great acclaim.  He struck out five and walked none while only allowing one hit in 4.1 scoreless innings, and the offense actually threatened to make it a closer game.  Jace Conrad's first professional home run, a two run shot in the fourth, capped a three run Renegade inning, and they scored two more in the sixth on a Hunter Lockwood double.  Bralin Jackson had three hits and was a homer shy of the cycle, and Conrad had two.

Rookie Princeton Rays (18-17)

There weren't quite as many runs scored as Friday's game in Princeton's 2-1 loss to Pulaski.  The Rays' only run came in the fourth on Nick Ciuffo's solo home run, the first of his professional career.  Unfortunately, his double play with two on and one out two innings later short-circuited what was one of their better scoring opportunities of the night.  Ciuffo, Nic Wilson and Manny Sanchez had two hit games.

Freddy Alvarez really only made one big mistake, but it still wasn't a well-pitched game.  The Mariners scored both of their runs on a two run homer in the third inning, but Alvarez was in and out of trouble for his entire outing.  He finished with those two runs allowed on six hits and two walks in 4.2 innings with four strikeouts.

Rookie Gulf Coast League Rays (20-12)

Henry Centeno was effective again in the GCL Rays' 3-1 win over the GCL Orioles.  In seven starts, he hasn't allowed more than one earned run in a game, and Saturday morning, it came in the fourth inning after the Rays had just taken a 2-0 lead.  He finished with that run allowed on two hits and two walks in five innings with five strikeouts, and he now has three earned runs allowed in 34 innings with 36 strikeouts to six walks.

Chris Knott's two run single in the fourth proved to be the only runs the Rays needed, but they still added an insurance run late.  Knott led off the seventh with a triple, and he scored on a Josh Rapacz single.  Knott had two of the Rays' five hits, and he was also hit by a pitch.  David Rodriguez reached base twice.

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Star of the day- O'Conner has been on fire lately.

Goat of the day- Alonzo's first start with Hudson Valley could've been better.

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

Durham v. Toledo 5:05 PM (MiLB.TV, radio stream)
Matt Andriese (11-5, 3.30) v. Kyle Lobstein (7-10, 3.98)

Montgomery v. Jacksonville 6:35 PM (MiLB.TV, radio stream)
Dylan Floro (9-8, 3.48) v. Jay Rogers (5-2, 3.43)

Charlotte @ Dunedin 5 PM (Radio stream)
Austin Pruitt (7-4, 4.13) v. Kendall Graveman (8-4, 2.23)

Bowling Green v. Quad Cities 3:05 PM (Radio stream)
Jake Faria (6-5, 3.56) v. Edison Frias (6-5, 5.59)

Hudson Valley v. Vermont 5:05 PM (Radio stream)
Oscar Armenta* (3-1, 4.22) v. A.J. Burke (3-1, 3.29)

Princeton @ Pulaski 7 PM (Radio stream)
Hyrum Formo (1-0, 3.86) v. Taylor Byrd* (0-1, 4.29)

GCL Rays are off

*Listed as TBA on milb.com

Scouting the opposition

Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit)
54-55 (3rd in IL West)
Offense: 464 R (9th) .715 OPS (9th)
Pitching: 3.88 ERA (8th) 1.38 WHIP (8th)
Top 30 Prospects: LHP Robbie Ray (5), 2B Hernan Perez (9), C James McCann (11), RHP Drew VerHagen (12), RHP Jose Ortega (13), RHP Melvin Mercedes (16), LHP Casey Crosby (17), 1B Jordan Lennerton (19), OF Tyler Collins (20), OF Daniel Fields (22), LHP Kyle Lobstein (23)

Jacksonville Suns (Miami)
22-14 (T-1st in SL South)
Offense: 454 R (6th) .683 OPS (10th)
Pitching: 3.73 ERA (5th) 1.28 WHIP (3rd)
Top 30 Prospects: LHP Justin Nicolino (4), RHP Jose Urena (7), C J.T. Realmuto (10), RHP Nick Wittgren (18), OF Brent Keys (19), C Austin Barnes (20), RHP Tyler Higgins (25)

Dunedin Blue Jays
16-20 (4th in FSL North)
Offense: 462 R (4th) .702 OPS (6th)
Pitching: 3.10 ERA (1st) 1.22 WHIP (3rd)
Top 30 Prospects: LHP Daniel Norris (6), C Santiago Nessy (23), OF Dwight Smith Jr. (27)

Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston)
18-16 (T-5th in MWL West)
Offense: 489 R (3rd) .761 OPS (1st)
Pitching: 3.77 ERA (8th) 1.32 WHIP (9th)
Top 30 Prospects: RHP Michael Feliz (9), RHP Andrew Thurman (15), LHP Chris Lee (22), RHP Jandel Gustave (28), OF Brett Phillips (30)

Vermont Lake Monsters (Oakland)
16-26 (4th in Stedler)
Offense: 173 R (11th) .670 OPS (9th)
Pitching: 4.30 ERA (12th) 1.32 WHIP (9th)
Top 30 Prospects: None

Pulaski Mariners
19-16 (2nd in APP East)
Offense: 187 R (1st) .702 OPS (3rd)
Pitching: 3.85 ERA (7th) 1.33 WHIP (5th)
Top 30 Prospects: RHP Ugueth Urbina