Saturday, June 19, 2021
Hey! The big league team has outscored its opponent by a tally of 13-1 during its first two games of the current series, resulting in back-to-back wins and a chance to win the four-game set tonight. That’s a MUCH better situation than just a few days ago. So while we’re all in a great mood, let’s dive into the Braves minor league action from Friday night…
(21-19) Gwinnett Stripers
W, 8-7 (F/10) vs. Nashville
SP, J. De La Cruz – 3 ⅓ IP, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR
SS, O. Arcia – 3 for 5, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI
CF, C. Pache – 1 for 5, 2 R, SB
Friday the Stripers won in walk-off fashion for the third time this season, though this time it happened after trailing by a whopping six runs entering the 4th inning. And it was none other than shortstop Orlando Arcia who scored the winning run in the bottom of the 10th, advancing all the way from second when the Sounds Keston Hiura made an errant throw to first during a double-play attempt. The most impressive aspect of that final play, though, was probably how Jonathan Lucroy was somehow able to put the bat to the ball on a pitch that appeared to have (or nearly) bounced at the plate.
As has usually been the case this season, Arcia was heavily involved in Gwinnett’s win, and Lucroy never would’ve had the opportunity to knock in the winning run in the 10th if it wasn’t for the former’s RBI double to tie the game two batters prior. Arcia also tallied his 11th home run of 2021 back in the 4th when he demolished a hanging breaking ball over the left-center wall. I swear… his homers just seem to travel 20-30 feet further than everyone else’s.
For example (though it was hit on a line to dead-center), Travis Snider’s homer in the 6th was far less spectacular, even if it put Gwinnett within two.
I came into last night’s game hoping this was the start that would begin Jasseel De La Cruz’s turnaround. But for the third consecutive outing the 23-year-old allowed four or more runs. De La Cruz was greeted with a lead-off home run to begin the game, and though he settled down to pitch a strong 2nd frame, Nashville jumped all over him in the 3rd with five runs from five hits, including another long ball (which happened to be a grand-slam). Friday was the first time this season De La Cruz surrendered two homers in a start, and he’ll enter his next outing with a 6.28 ERA for the year.
Following De La Cruz’s exit with one out in the 4th, the Stripers sent its relievers out in droves and all but completely shut down the Sounds. Dylan Lee, Mitch Horacek, Ty Tice, Jesse Chavez and Yoan Lopez all combined to work the final 6 ⅔ innings in scoreless fashion, including just four hits allowed and 10 strikeouts. Half of those punch outs by the bullpen came from Chavez alone who pitched both the 8th and 9th.
(23-17) Mississippi Braves
W, 8-4 vs. Birmingham
SP, N. Kingham – (W), 6 IP, 3 H, 6 K
SS, B. Shewmake – 3 for 4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI
RF, T. Neslony – 1 for 3, RBI, R
Make it 15 wins in their last 20 games as Mississippi’s big 2nd inning resulted in yet another victory last night. I was able to catch a few innings of this one, and I just so happened to tune in right as that fruitful 2nd got started. The M-Braves sent nine batters to the plate and came away with five runs, highlighted by an RBI double by prospect Braden Shewmake, who had a huge game.
Mississippi tacked on a run apiece in both the 3rd and 4th as well, and perhaps no run was more important than the one that came from Shewmake’s bat. The struggling shortstop belted his first long ball at Trustmark Park this season and fourth of 2021 overall to put his team up 6-0. To me, that it was an oppo-shot just shows how well he’s seeing the ball right now.
Justin Dean, Wendell Rijo and Tyler Neslony all each provided an RBI as well last night.
But one of my biggest takeaways from the game was starter Nolan Kingham and his gem on the mound. This was the third outing in a row in which the righty went at least six innings, not to mention his fourth time doing so in his last six starts. Kingham also hasn’t allowed a run in his last 14 ⅔ frames.
Kingham has been more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher so far in 2021, but last night he displayed some of his swing-and-miss stuff as he tied a season-high in strikeouts with six.
Prospect reliever Daysbel Hernandez got in some work Friday, though he allowed a pair of runs from four hits in the 9th. That’s twice in his last three appearances he’s allowed multiple runs, so hopefully he bounces back next time around.
(20-20) Rome Braves
L, 7-5 (F/11) vs. Bowling Green
SP, S. Strider – 6 IP, H, ER, BB, 12 K, HR
RF, J. Franklin – 3 for 4, 2B, RBI
CF, M. Harris – 2 for 6, 2B, R
Man it’s a shame Rome couldn’t give Spencer Strider the win last night as the 22-year-old righty racked up a dozen more strikeouts for the season, giving him a ridiculous 56 punch outs through his first 30 innings between both Augusta and Rome.
The Hot Rods didn’t record a hit against Strider until the 4th and it was a solo homer, but by then the R-Braves had built up a 3-1 lead. In fact, following Bowling Green’s half of the 4th, Rome added a fourth run when Logan Brown slapped an RBI single, and with the way Strider was pitching, you would’ve thought the three-run advantage would hold.
However, in the 8th, against the R-Braves Gabriel Noguera, Bowling Green pushed across three runs to tie it, resulting in extra-innings. I’m sure Rome’s kicking themselves for not just leaving reliever Indigo Diaz in for the 11th on Friday, because following his hitless 10th inning, Tyler Ferguson served up a double to the first batter he faced in that final frame, allowing the Hot Rods to take a 5-4 lead. A two-run homer two batters later gave Bowling Green three runs in the inning and it was all but over. However, Rome did manage a run in its half as Cody Milligan knocked in Beau Philip with an RBI single… but that was all the offense could muster.
Regardless, outfielders Jesse Franklin V and Michael Harris both deserve a round of applause as they combined to go 5 for 10 at the plate last night. Franklin has now hit safely in nine-straight and is on track to push his AVG to (or above) .300 in the next game or two (which is crazy considering he entered June hitting just .200).
(18-22) Augusta GreenJackets
L, 5-0 vs. Columbia
SP, J. Johnson – (L), 3 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K
2B, C. Shepherd – 1 for 3
LF, B. Parker – 1 for 3
The GreenJackets lost its third-straight contest on Friday, this time in shutout fashion as the offense was held to just three hits altogether. Fireflies starter Ben Hernandez (the 24th ranked prospect in the Royals system) was sharp in this one, striking out seven and walking only one in his five-inning two-hitter. Then Columbia’s bullpen piled on by punching out an additional five Augusta batters over the next four frames, including just one hit allowed.
A single by Cam Shepherd in the 3rd, a base-hit by Ricardo Rodriguez in the 5th and a line drive single by Brandon Parker in the 7th was all the GreenJackets could manage last night.
20-year-old righty Jared Johnson got the start for Augusta on Friday, just his second of the 2021 season. A stressful opening inning that featured three singles and a run caused Johnson to rack up 54 pitches in three frames. But overall he did well with limiting big hits from Columbia. Johnson gave way to reliever Zach Seipel and Chad Bryant, and both gave up runs in their respective appearances, making it a 5-0 game by the time Benjamin Dum entered for the 8th. Dum then immediately got the GreenJackets out of the inning as he induced a double-play and a flyout to give Augusta’s offense one more chance to come back in the 9th… but as we know… it didn’t happen.
As of late Friday night, so far tonight’s slate is set to be Hayden Deal on the mound for Mississippi and Bryce Elder for Rome.