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Drew Waters stays hot with four-hit game for Gwinnett while Wendell Rijo walks if off for M-Braves

Drew Waters stays hot with four-hit game for Gwinnett while Wendell Rijo walks if off for M-Braves

Saturday, July 10, 2021

-Clint Manry

Yesterday featured a traditional five-game slate down on the farm, but there was still plenty of excitement. Here’s a recap of Friday’s games…

(25-33) Gwinnett Stripers
L, 3-1 vs. Nashville
  • SP, K. Muller – (L), 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 11 K
  • LF, D. Waters – 4 for 4, 2B, RBI
  • RF, T. Snider – 2 for 4, 2B

For the second time this season, prospect Drew Waters tallied four hits in a game, and for the second day in a row, a Gwinnett starter finished with 11 strikeouts as Kyle Muller looked strong in his return to the Triple-A ranks on Friday. However, following a two-run fourth-inning by Nashville’s offense and four innings of scoreless pitching by the Sounds’ bullpen, the Stripers couldn’t produce any runs following Waters’ RBI single in the fifth. 

Nashville’s starting pitcher yesterday, former second-round pick Josh Lindblom, was solid as well as he allowed one run from six hits and struck out five in five innings of work. A pitcher in the KBO for five seasons, Lindblom is sporting a stingy 1.04 ERA in Triple-A this season. 

Gwinnett’s lineup finished with nine hits overall but was just 2 for 11 with RISP in the loss. A single by Waters in the eighth, plus a pair of base-hits by Cristian Pache and Travis Snider in the ninth, was all the Stripers offense could manufacture in the final four frames. 

The trio of Tanner Roark, Yoan López and Dylan Lee pitched the final three innings for Gwinnett, in scoreless fashion, allowing four hits. 

Fun facts: per MiLB.com, Muller’s 11 punch outs on Friday were his most in a start since July of 2018; Johan Camargo, who finished 0 for 4 yesterday, snapped his 18-game on base streak; and Waters is now 14 for 32 (.438 AVG) with eight XBH in his last eight games. 

(36-22) Mississippi Braves
W, 5-4 vs. Pensacola
  • SP, V. Vodnik – 3 IP, H, ER, BB, 2 K
  • DH, J. Ramos – 1 for 3, HR, RBI
  • CF, J. Dean – 2 for 3, R, 2 BB

Friday night was another night of celebration for the M-Braves as they walked it off for their fifth consecutive win. In the bottom of the ninth, following a strikeout by Greyson Jenista, speedy outfielder Justin Dean drew a walk and then stole second for his 17th stolen base of the year. Immediately after, Dean was pushed to third when Trey Harris grounded out to the shortstop. With two outs and the winning run just 90 feet away, the hot-hitting Wendell Rijo slapped a perfectly placed line-drive just over the infield… and just enough to score Dean for the win.

Last night was also notable as it marked the return of right-handed pitcher, and the Braves 13th-ranked prospect on my Summer Top 30, Victor Vodnik. After missing over a month due to an undisclosed injury, Vodnik started Friday’s game versus Pensacola, and though he wasn’t his usual, dominant self, the 21-year-old was sharp enough to keep the M-Braves in the game. Vodnik’s only real mistake was when he allowed a lead-off homer in the third, and the hard-throwing righty began his outing by setting down the first six batters he faced, as well as 12 of the first 13.

Other than Rijo’s walk-off RBI single, there were two other big hits in Friday’s win. The first came in the fourth when Jefrey Ramos absolutely crushed a solo-homer to left, a ball that traveled nearly 450 feet. That big long ball tied the game up at one apiece.

The next big hit was a clutch one from catcher Shea Langeliers in the seventh. With the M-Braves down 4-3, the former first-round pick hit a line drive back up the middle, and with Jalen Miller hustling all the way from first to home, Mississippi tied the game back up (which gave Rijo his chance in the final frame).

All-in-all, it was a great night for the M-Braves, who seem to always find a way to squeak out a win. The team was just 2 for 10 with RISP and Dean was the only batter with multiple hits, but as has been the case so many times this season, Mississippi was able to come up with the big hit when it mattered most. Prospect shortstop Braden Shewmake finished 1 for 4 with a run, as Friday was probably the first game in awhile that he hasn’t been in the center of the action.

Matt Withrow, Troy Bacon and Brandon White preserved the victory by tossing a three-hitter in the final six innings, with the latter of those three picking up the win. According to MiLB.com’s Chris Harris, the M-Braves are now 32-14 since May 19 — the best record in all of minor league baseball in that span.

(31-26) Rome Braves
L, 9-5 vs. Bowling Green
  • SP, A. Puckett – (L), 3.1 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 4 K, HR
  • RF, S. Michel – 1 for 3, 3B, 2 RBI
  • C, L. Brown – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI

I was in the stands at State Mutual Stadium last night for Rome’s 7:00 PM matchup with Bowling Green, and similar to their doubleheader from Thursday, the R-Braves starting pitching was knocked around and the bats just couldn’t get anything going. The Hot Rods have now won three of five against the R-Braves this week, and Bowling Green’s division lead in the South division has grown to six over Rome.

Following a three-run second-inning for Bowling Green, catcher Logan Brown put Rome on the board when he squared up a 3-2 pitch and lined it to the left field wall for an opposite field double, scoring Jesse Franklin. Two batters latter Beau Philip singled but advanced to second on a throwing error, putting runners on second and third for Shean Michel, who did his job by popping up a sac-fly to right to make it 3-2. The very next batter, Andrew Moritz, tied things up when he slapped another opposite field line drive, this time for a single to score Brown.

Until the latter-innings, when it was basically garbage time, that was about all the offense Rome could muster as they tallied just two hits over the next five frames. Meanwhile, Bowling Green started rocking starter A.J. Puckett, who had just returned from a stint with the M-Braves. Following a first inning in which Puckett worked around just a single, the Hot Rods proceeded to tally eight more hits against the righty over the next three frames, and when Zach Daniels came in for relief, Bowling Green was already up 6-3. Immediately after Daniels entered the game, he surrendered another run, making it 7-3 Hot Rods.

Three hits combined in the eighth and ninth, including a two-out RBI triple by Michel, made it look like perhaps Rome could make the final score look a bit better, but following that three-bagger, Andrew Moritz flew out to left to end the game.

Moritz finished with three hits, and both Brown and Kevin Josephina tallied two knocks. The struggles continue for first baseman Bryce Ball, who finished 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout in Friday’s loss. Ball just seems out of sorts and not very aggressive at the plate and is now hitting just .189 so far this season. Josephina, now Rome’s primary no. 3 hitter, is inching closer and closer to .300 as his multi-hit game has him at a .298 AVG for 2021.

Prospect outfielder Michael Harris was off last night, and it appears that’ll be the case for the rest of the weekend, given he will be playing in the Futures Game this coming Monday.

(27-30) Augusta GreenJackets
W, 6-1 vs. Myrtle Beach
  • SP, J. Estes – (W), 7 IP, 2 H, BB, 7 K
  • SS, C. Bunnell – 4 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI, SB
  • 2B, B. Vasquez – 2 for 3, HR, RBI, 2 SB

Starter Joey Estes put together another strong outing for his first victory as pro pitcher and Augusta’s offense produced 10 hits to push the GreenJackets homestand record to 7-3. 

This game had it all, including a web gem by third baseman Cody Birdsong to prevent a hit in the fourth…

But best of all was Estes, who worked around a double in the second and then proceeded to set down 13 of the next 14 batters he faced. The prospect pitcher allowed a lead-off triple to start off the seventh, but then struck out the next three to put a bow on his best start of the season, in terms of Game Score (he also struck out 11 back on June 9). Estes’ seven innings on Friday was a season-high, and the 19-year-old has allowed just one run in his last 13 innings, good for a 2.33 ERA so far this season.

It was also a big game for lead-off hitter Cade Bunnell, who notched his first four-hit performance this season. Bunnell has helped lead this Augusta offense all year but has been hot of late, hitting .286 over his last nine games. Second baseman Braulio Vasquez also contributed with his fourth homer of the season as part of a two-hit game. Vasquez also finished with two stolen bases last night and is up to 30 steals for the year. Willie Carter and Landon Stephens also each added an RBI. 

(3-3) FCL Braves
L, 11-1 vs. Rays
  • SP, J. Bautista – (L), 3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
  • 1B, M. Berne – 1 for 4, RBI
  • CF, J. Palma – 1 for 2, 2 BB, SB

The FCL Rays beat up on the Braves yesterday for their seventh win in eight games so far this season. Rays outfielder Michael Gigliotti, who’s currently on a rehab assignment, had a helluva game, finishing 3 for 4 with a homer, two doubles, a stolen base and two RBI.

The Braves bats weren’t as fortunate, though. The offense tallied seven hits but all were singles, and the team finished 0 for 9 with RISP, stranding 11 base runners in all. Save for lead-off batter Geraldo Quintero and no. 9 batter Carlos Paraguate, the entire lineup did manage to tally a hit. First baseman Mason Berne provided the lone RBI. 

Jorge Bautista made the start for the Braves, but the first inning was really his only successful sequence as the Rays put runners on in each of his next two frames. A quartet of pitchers entered after Bautista (Kevin Solano, Wilker Cubillan, Cesari Moreno and Jordano Perez), although each of them allowed runs, save for Solano, who pitched a scoreless 1.2 innings and struck out one. 

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