Monday, June 28, 2021
The highlight of Sunday had to be the incredible start by prospect Kyle Muller as he spun five one-hit innings for the big league team and struck out nine batters. Luckily the Atlanta bullpen didn’t spoil Muller’s gem, and we could properly celebrate the 23-year-old’s second MLB start.
Down on the farm, though, only Rome was able to come out victorious… and it took a comeback to do so.
Here’s a recap of Sunday’s Braves minor league action…
(22-25) Gwinnett Stripers
L, 4-2 vs. Norfolk
SP, J. Rodriguez – (L), 2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, HR
SS, O. Arcia – 3 for 4
RF, D. Waters – 1 for 4, R
For the fifth time in their last six games the Stripers lost to the Tides on Sunday, finishing the contest 0 for 8 with RISP. Surprisingly, given how poor Norfolk had played leading up to this past week, Gwinnett was outscored 30-17 during the six-game series as the team falls three games below .500.
The tweet above was actually posted before the Stripers game yesterday, but the team’s main contributor was still Orlando Arcia, who tallied three more hits on Sunday. For the weekend, the veteran shortstop went 5 for 11 (.454 AVG) at the plate, and yesterday gave Arcia 16 multi-hit performances so far with Gwinnett this season.
Prospect Drew Waters was who provided the Stripers its first run of the game when he stole home following a strikeout by Johan Camargo in the 1st. Waters had gotten on in the opening frame by leading off the game with a ground-ball single to right. He also added a walk later in the game. Gwinnett’s second and final run came in the 4th when Camargo crossed home after a line-out by Ryan Casteel. Other than base-hits by Johan, Sean Kazmar and Jonathan Morales… the Stripers didn’t add much else on offense.
Making his second start of the week, righty Julio Rodriguez once again didn’t find ANY success versus Norfolk yesterday. Of his 52 pitches, only 29 were called a strike, and after working around a walk in the 1st he quickly ran into trouble when he hit the first Tides lead-off batter in the 2nd. Following the hit-by-pitch, seven more Norfolk batters came to the plate during the frame and featured a three-run homer to go with an RBI double, giving Rodriguez 12 earned runs in his first 2 ⅔ innings with the Stripers (spanning two outings) since returning from Mississippi.
Once Rodriguez exited, Gwinnett deployed a four-man rotation of relievers to pitch the rest of the game, and the quartet actually did very well. Connor Johnstone, Chasen Bradford, Trevor Kelley and Jacob Webb collectively worked six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits, although the Stripers offense just couldn’t get anything going. Former seventh-round pick, and Norfolk’s starter yesterday, Kevin Smith, struck out six Gwinnett batters in 4 ⅔ innings.
(29-19) Mississippi Braves
L, 2-1 vs. Tennessee
SP, A. Puckett – (L), 5 ⅔ IP, 5 H, BB, 6 K
LF, T. Neslony – 1 for 3, 2B, BB
DH, S. Langeliers – 1 for 3, RBI, BB
Coming into Sunday having outscored Tennessee by a tally of 18-5 during its four-game winning streak at home, Mississippi couldn’t make it five in a row as a 5th-inning RBI single by the Smokies made all the difference.
The M-Braves actually got the scoring started in the opening inning when both Justin Dean (single) and CJ Alexander (HBP) reached base, followed by an RBI single by DH Shea Langeliers. However, the Smokies answered in the 2nd with an RBI double, before scoring the go-ahead run three frames later.
Similar to its setup from Friday, the Mississippi lineup featured several of its backup players as both prospect shortstop Braden Shewmake and first baseman Drew Lugbauer had the day off. All but three batters in the M-Braves lineup recorded at least one hit, but a double by Tyler Neslony was the only XBH as the team finished 1 for 10 with RISP.
What’s been a strong month of June for righty A.J. Puckett, the lack of run support spoiled his sixth consecutive start with two or fewer runs allowed. The 26-year-old tied his season-high for pitches (87) in this one, and ironically, both runs he allowed yesterday came immediately after he made an errant pick-off throw. Puckett will head into his next outing with a still-strong 2.10 ERA for the season.
Reliever Troy Bacon finished the 6th in relief of Puckett and worked the entire 7th in scoreless fashion while striking out three. And making his 15th appearance this season, Brandon White pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th, allowing one hit with a pair of strikeouts.
(24-22) Rome Braves
W, 8-4 vs. Aberdeen
SP, M. Stallings – 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
1B, B. Ball – 1 for 3, HR, 3 RBI
CF, M. Harris – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI
Rome finished Week 8 with a nice comeback win yesterday against Aberdeen, in which the team entered the 5th down 3-0. An IronBirds error in that 5th inning allowed Andrew Moritz to score from third to make it a two-run game.
Fast-forward to the 8th, with Aberdeen still up 3-1, and Moritz led off the frame with a single. After a strikeout by Garrett Saunders and a flyout by Riley Delgado, prospect Michael Harris kept the rally going with a two-out base-hit, giving slugger Bryce Ball an opportunity with runners on first and second. Ball didn’t miss, and his three-run homer (his fifth of 2021) put Rome up 4-3.
Thanks to a bases-loaded walk by Saunders, a sac-fly by Delgado, and a two-run double by Harris, the R-Braves tacked on four more runs in the final frame to pull away and eventually win.
The long ball by Ball was his second in his last three games as he’s trying to catch a hot streak. The lumbering first baseman enters Monday’s off day with just a .198 AVG and .709 OPS in 40 games this season.
In his first start since May 29, Mitch Stallings pitched respectably for Rome, except for that three-run 2nd inning by Aberdeen, which featured a pair of walks and a wild pitch by the 25-year-old lefty. In 2019, Stallings looked like a potential prospect starter after he posted a solid 2.04 ERA in 75 innings across Danville and Rome. However in 2021 he hasn’t been able to consistently shut down right-handed batters as they’re currently posting a .961 OPS against him, compared to just a .404 OPS for same-handed batters.
R-Braves relievers Coleman Huntley, Zach Daniels, Trey Riley and Kasey Kalich finished the final seven innings and collectively allowed just one run from six hits, including seven strikeouts and three walks. Riley earned the win and Kalich converted the six-out save.
(20-27) Augusta GreenJackets
L, 3-0 vs. Charleston
SP, J. Estes – (L), 5 ⅓ IP, 6 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K, HR
LF, J. Bermudez – 2 for 3, SB
RP, J. Yeager – 1 ⅓ IP, H, 2 K
It was a rough week for Augusta as they lost all but one versus Charleston and now fall seven games under .500 for the season. On Sunday, the GreenJackets managed just four hits altogether and finished 0 for 9 with RISP as the offense continues to mostly struggle.
Regardless, it was still a solid start by righty Joey Estes, who tallied a season-high 81 pitches yesterday. An RBI groundout in the 1st, a solo-homer in the 2nd and a sac-fly in the 3rd was really all the Charleston offense could muster against the 19-year-old Estes, and he’ll enter his 10th start of the 2021 season this week with a 2.85 ERA in 41 innings, to go with 11.4 strikeouts per nine and only 2 BB/9.
First baseman Landon Stephens, center fielder Stephen Paolini and left fielder Jose Bermudez were the only Augusta batters to record a hit yesterday as three different GreenJackets finished with two or more strikeouts. The offense collectively struck out 10 times.
Monday is an off day for all four full-season affiliates, although today the FCL Braves start its 2021 season with a game versus the FCL Red Sox at CoolToday Park. I’ll have a recap of the rookie Braves opener for Tuesday morning.