June 18, 2021
– Clint Manry
Braves Country enters this morning in much better spirits as Charlie Morton and the big league team finally gave the fanbase something to cheer about last night in the team’s victory over the Cardinals. Winning is so much better than losing.
And speaking of winning, the Braves organization currently has a Double-A affiliate some 375 miles westward doing a whole lot of that lately.
Here’s a recap of Thursday’s Braves minor league action…
(20-19) Gwinnett Stripers
L, 3-2 vs. Nashville
SP, K. Wright – 5 IP, 6 H, ER, 4 BB, 5 K
CF, C. Pache – 1 for 4, 2B, R
SS, O. Arcia – 1 for 3, RBI
Gwinnett ran into some strong pitching by Nashville last night as the Sounds combined to strike out 13 Stripers. And despite Terrance Gore getting himself to third with just one out in the final inning (as the tying run), Johan Camargo couldn’t push him in, instead grounding out into a double-play to end the game.
A lead-off double by Cristian Pache to begin the game in the 1st got the offense rolling for Gwinnett. And following a sac-bunt by Ryan Goins to move Pache to third, Orlando Arcia knocked in the prospect outfielder when he popped a sac-fly to center. Three consecutive hits in the 2nd — including another sac-fly, this time by Jonathan Morales — concluded the scoring for the Stripers as the Sounds pitchers quickly settled in.
Although Gwinnett was held to just four hits as a team, the defense stepped up when needed. In the 5th, Philip Ervin and Goins hooked up with a perfect relay to gun down a Nashville base runner attempting to score, at the time allowing the Stripers to maintain its 2-1 lead.
Unfortunately, though, reliever Jesse Biddle ran into some trouble in the 7th, and thanks to a double followed by a throwing error by Pache in center, the Sounds pushed across the tying run. Biddle’s struggles continued in the 8th when surrendered the go-ahead run.
This was a typical Kyle Wright outing in which the 25-year-old allowed a ton of contact and struggled mightily with his control. Given his four walks, Wright actually managed well with just the one run allowed, and because of all the balls out of the zone he needed 87 pitches just to get through his five innings. Wright’s splits in Gwinnett this season are weird in that so far he has pitched better once the stress increases. Entering last night’s outing, the righty had allowed a .354 AVG and .986 OPS when the bases are empty (76 PA), compared to a .232 AVG and .711 OPS when runners are on (97 PA). Explain that…
Again… no Drew Waters in this one. Also, Arcia’s 1 for 3 performance on Thursday gives him 11-straight games in which he’s reached base safely.
(22-17) Mississippi Braves
W, 7-1 vs. Birmingham
SP, J. Rodriguez – (W), 5 ⅔ IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 8 K
DH, J. Ramos – 3 for 4, HR, 4 RBI
CF, J. Dean – 4 for 4, RBI, R
This is now officially the best team in the organization as Mississippi pushed to five games above .500 for the season following last night’s victory. There are so many little nuggets to discuss with this team that I really should write a separate article, but here’s just a few.
▪︎ After hitting just .071 last month, outfielder Jefrey Ramos is currently up to a .286 AVG in June, and on Thursday he destroyed a hanging breaking ball for his third homer of the season.
▪︎ Justin Dean is on fire! Like Ramos, the 24-year-old Dean couldn’t seem to get going in May (.203 AVG) but now is one of the most dangerous hitters in the M-Braves lineup. The former 17th round pick finished last night 4 for 4 — the second time in five games that he’s tallied that many knocks. Dean is up to a .266 AVG as Mississippi’s part-time lead-off hitter.
▪︎ Julio who? Yup, righty Julio Rodriguez needs to become a name you’re familiar with, because for the fourth consecutive start he lasted at least five innings, struck out five or more batters AND allowed three runs or less (I call it the minor league quality-start). That’s a helluva stretch of pitching for a guy in Double-A who isn’t even looked at as a prospect.
But that’s not all. Greyson Jenista continued his quest for redemption too last night as he hit his fifth homer of the season. And Braden Shewmake also tallied a hit, to go with a pair of walks.
The M-Braves pitching was just as impressive as its hitting, though. Rodriguez, combined with both relievers — Brooks Wilson and Chris Nunn — all collectively set down 21 of 22 Birmingham batters from the 2nd inning on. That’s total domination right there, folks.
(20-19) Rome Braves
L, 2-0 vs. Bowling Green
SP, A. Rangel – (L), 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K, 2 HR
2B, C. Milligan – 1 for 4, 2B
RP, M. Stallings – 3 IP, H, 4 K
Until this past Sunday, Rome had gone all season without being shutout, although last night they were held to zero runs for the second time in five days. And it wasn’t just any old shutout loss either as the R-Braves only managed two hits in the game.
The scoreless performance wasn’t for a lack of contact, though. Rome put plenty of batted-balls in play on Thursday (13 groundouts & one flyout) but they just didn’t find any holes. Cody Milligan’s double and Andrew Moritz’s single was all the R-Braves could muster.
And for the second consecutive outing, Rome starter Alan Rangel was able to rack up exactly eight strikeouts, however this time his efforts were to no avail as a pair of homers by Bowling Green spoiled what should’ve been a strong start. Rangel has been inconsistent this season, primarily due to a rough ending to the month of May and the fact that, weirdly, same-handed batters have crushed him to the tune of a .839 OPS entering last night’s showing (compared to a .490 OPS by lefty-batters).
Relievers Mitch Stallings and Marrick Clouse also worked this game and pitched extremely well, combining for six strikeouts in the final four innings, including just three hits allowed and no walks.
(18-21) Augusta GreenJackets
SP, T. Gordon – (L), 2 ⅔ IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 K
DH, B. Horne – 2 for 4, HR, 2B, RBI
1B, L. Stephens – 2 for 4, HR, RBI
An 11-6 advantage in the hit column last night wasn’t enough for Augusta as the GreenJackets went just 2 for 10 with RISP and left seven runners on the basepaths. In what’s a rare feat for this club, the offense managed five XBH (including two homers) and still couldn’t pull out the W against Columbia.
Tanner Gordon got the start for Augusta on Thursday and was sharp in his first pair of frames. Although, as he worked with a 1-0 lead entering the 3rd inning… all hell broke loose for the 23-year-old righty. Nine Fireflies batters came to the plate, to go with four earned runs against Gordon, before he was finally given the hook. Reliever Estarlin Rodriguez had to put out the fire by getting the final out of the inning, but by then Columbia was up 4-1.
A homer by Landon Stephens in the 6th and a two-run double by Vaughn Grissom in the 7th put the GreenJackets within just one run, but the offense squandered a prime opportunity in the 8th with runners on second and third, when Mitch Calandra struck out swinging to end the inning and eventually the game.
Three Augusta relievers appeared following Gordon’s exit, but it was Gabriel Rodriguez that really stood out. The former 31st round pick struck out six batters in two frames, in what was a solid showing by the bullpen. Altogether, the trio of relief arms allowed just one run from three hits in the final 5 ⅓ innings, though the damage done in that four-run 3rd by Columbia was just too much for the GreenJackets offense to overcome.
On tap for today, MiLB.com has announced the following probables: Jasseel De La Cruz for Gwinnett, Nolan Kingham for Mississippi and Spencer Strider for Rome.