O'Brien, Ortiz hurl three-hit shutouts

Rays right-handers lead Stone Crabs to doubleheader sweep

Riley O'Brien improved his Florida State League ERA to 2.50 over 18 innings. (Buck Davidson/MiLB.com)

By Marisa Ingemi / MiLB.com | July 12, 2018 9:44 PM

Class A Advanced Charlotte featured a dual threat on the mound Thursday.

Right-handed Rays prospects Riley O'Brien and Willy Ortiz both tossed three-hit shutouts as the Stone Crabs recorded 6-0 and 4-0 victories to sweep the Mets at Charlotte Sports Park.

Gameday box score

"It's unusual and extremely exciting to see that unfold the way it did," said Stone Crabs pitching coach Steve "Doc" Watson. "In both games, after the sixth inning, the starters had exactly alike lines, they mimicked each other. Both had 82 pitches, both had two walks and had given up the three hits. Game 2 was a carbon copy of Game 1. It excites me and it also verifies that these kids do watch what the other team is doing."

In the opener, O'Brien (2-1) struck out five and walked two over seven innings. He threw 93 pitches, 64 for strikes.

The 23-year-old pitched a clean first inning before walking Jeremy Vasquez to start the second, but went on to retire the side in order.

Anthony Dimino singled to start off the third, but then O'Brien sat down the next seven batters. Mets No. 17 prospect Luis Carpio and 24th-ranked Ali Sanchez knocked back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth.

The College of Idaho product retired seven of the next eight batters, with a walk to Gene Cone in the sixth mixed in, and struck out Carpio to cap the ballgame.

"I had everything going -- the fastball, curveball, slider and changeup," said O'Brien. "The changeup was working pretty well, which is something I've been working on. It hasn't really been one of my main pitches, but today I was able to get some swings-and-misses and weak contact with it."

It marked the 2017 eighth-rounder's fourth start in the Florida State League after posting a 4-1 record with a 2.05 ERA over 48 1/3 innings for Class A Bowling Green. Thursday's contest felt like a turning point to O'Brien.

"I think with every outing, I've been improving," he said. "My approach to hitters has gotten better and my stuff has been good. I just hope to keep improving."

Rays No. 10 prospect Josh Lowe, Jermaine Palacios, and Rene Pinto notched two hits and an RBI for the Stone Crabs. Pinto and Palacios each scored once.

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The nightcap must have felt like deja vu. Ortiz (6-2) mirrored O'Brien nearly to a tee, walking three and punching out six over seven innings in the Stone Crabs' 4-0 win

"Willy was in the bullpen most of Game 1 and saw how Riley pitched," said Watson. "He went out and did a lot of the same things. He has a big fastball that allowed him to overpower some hitters in key counts. Riley has a good fastball that has a lot of life, but he did it by using his breaking ball more. Willy really used his fastball."

The 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic struck out the first two batters and retired five in a row to lead off the game before walking Mets No. 16 prospect Wuilmer Becerra and giving up a single to J.J. Franco in the second. He got out of the jam by striking out Dan Rizzie.

After pitching around Cone's single in the third and a walk to Michael Paez in the fourth, Ortiz got out of another jam in the fifth. Rizzie walked and took second on a wild pitch with two outs, but Cone struck out swinging.

"Because of his fastball, he does fall behind at time," said Watson. "He'll have walks just because he gets amped out. He's been up to 102 mph several times this year. He'll rely on that and lose command. To get into those counts with men on base and throttle his pitches, he had to back off and throw his fastball at 91. It was a big learning curve for him tonight to see he could locate his fastball when he needed to."

The near-identical performance was fun for O'Brien to watch as well.

"I was really happy for him," he said. "He pitched a great game. Both of us getting complete games, it saves our bullpen. I thought he pitched great and I was really happy to see that."

Rays No. 4 prospect Jesus Sanchez picked up two hits, drove in a run and scored once in the nightcap.

Marisa Ingemi is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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