BOWIE - With 23 games left to play in this minor league season, a playoff push is on at Double-A Bowie, where the Baysox picked up a huge 8-6 win over Erie last night when right fielder Kyle Stowers hit his second homer of the game to break a 6-6 tie in the last of the eighth.
When he hit homers No. 19 and 20 Thursday night, Stowers, the Orioles’ No. 71 overall draft pick in 2019 out of Stanford, helped the Baysox improve to 19 games over .500 and hang onto the second-best record in the 12-team Double-A Northeast. When the 120-game regular season ends Sept. 19, two teams will advance to a five-game championship series. So just two teams, no matter their division standing, will make the postseason this year and right now four are battling at the top of the league standings.
.612 - Akron (60-38)
.598 - Bowie (58-39)
.592 - Somerset (58-40)
.573 - Portland (55-41)
“It’s definitely nice to have something to play for this time of the year,” manager Buck Britton said this afternoon at Prince George’s Stadium. “It’s been great. We’ve had a lot of turnover, just like all the other teams in our organization have. But these guys that have come up have done a really nice job to help continue what the guys that were here before kind of built.
“It’s exciting. Obviously, player development is No. 1, but I feel like and have said it before, I still feel winning is important. It’s not the No. 1. But a direct result of these guys playing good baseball is why we win. When players learn how to win, that’s kind of a tool, right? In the minor leagues, if you never focus on any sort of winning, you think when the lights go on at Yankee Stadium, all the sudden that a guy is going to figure out what he has to do to help the team win? It’s not at that (major league) level, I get it. But it definitely helps to play these type of games.”
The Baysox have three games remaining this week with Erie, then host Somerset for six and will play seven-game series the final two weeks at Harrisburg and home versus Altoona,
The Baysox are also chasing the best record in club history. The 1994 and 2008 Bowie teams went 84-58, playing .592 baseball.
When Stowers connected twice last night, he took over the O’s organization homer lead with 20 between high Single-A Aberdeen, where he played 36 games, and Bowie, where he has played 57. Stowers’ 20 homers are one more than catcher Adley Rutschman, with Patrick Dorrian and Zach Watson next with 17 home runs.
Stowers is batting .280/.388/.522/.910 and ranks second among O’s minor leaguers in RBIs (66), slugging and OPS.
He talked about his big homers last night during an interview this afternoon.
“It was super fun,” Stowers said. “It was nice to rally and get a win last night. Obviously, in the playoff race now, every win counts, and we are starting to come down to the final stretch of the season.”
Stowers batted in the eighth with two down and Dorrian on first after a one-out single.
“Just trying to hit the ball hard,” Stowers said. “I was trying to get selective and picky, and knew they were trying to be smart and they threw more off-speed. I saw his changeup a few times and the last one with two strikes just stayed on it well enough. Trying to get the run in any way I can and that was just trying to zone in on a spot.
“That is the process and trusting the process. We work hard every single day to get better and have moments like that where you see that type of progress in a moment, that’s fun.”
Stowers is rated as the Orioles’ No. 11 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 17 by Baseball America.
Pitching here on a rehab assignment, lefty Zac Lowther threw four innings last night, allowing five hits and two unearned runs with one walk and four strikeouts on 74 pitches. On the injured list strained left shoulder, he had already pitched once in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and once for Aberdeen on the comeback trail.
“The stuff from 2019, I think was there, it’s just getting the consistency of commanding it a little better,” Britton said of Lowther’s outing. “But he came out of the game healthy and he did a nice job. There were some opportunities there where they put some traffic on the bases and he pitched around it. So that was good to see.”
Lowther is expected to return now to Triple-A Norfolk.
It’s cloudy late this afternoon in Bowie, but gametime here is 7:05 p.m. with right-hander Gray Fenter (4-2, 6.21 ERA) set to make the start.
Baysox fall to Erie: Bowie falls to 1-3 in this series this week with a 6-3 loss to Erie tonight. The Baysox are 58-40 and never led tonight after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first.
Losing pitcher Gray Fenter lasted just 2 2/3 innings, and gave up three hits and two runs with five walks and four strikeouts. He falls to 4-3 with a 6.23 ERA.
Stowers’ sac fly in the first tied the game 1-1 and produced his 67th RBI of the year between two teams. Johnny Rizer’s two-run single pulled Bowie within 5-3 in the last of the sixth. But the Baysox were held to six hits and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
On Saturday night, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (5-1, 2.92 ERA), baseball’s highest-ranked pitching prospect, will get the start for the Baysox at Prince George’s Stadium.