Saturday, March 19, 2022
The Braves played its second spring game today — this time a televised matchup versus the Rays. The two teams couldn’t decide it in nine innings, but we still were fortunate to see several prospects for Atlanta.
27-year-old righty Jackson Stephens got the start for Atlanta on Saturday. Stephens, who the team signed to a minor league deal back in January, pitched the first two innings of the contest, with a two-run homer by the Rays Mike Zunino being his only real mistake.
Following Stephens’ outing, the Braves then went with recently-acquired righty Brandon Brennan, who worked the third frame without a hitch. Atlanta’s offense threatened in the fourth, with a pair of walks and a single by Travis Demeritte, but ultimately they couldn’t push across a run.
The Braves did finally score in the fifth. Prospect outfielder Drew Waters led off the frame with an absolute rope of a single to right, and two batters later (following a walk by Braden Shewmake) Vaughn Grissom knocked Waters in with an RBI double, making it 2-1 Rays. Then the Braves proceeded to slug two more doubles, back-to-back, as John Nogowski and Michael Harris each barreled a pair of pitches to the outfield wall. Just like that… the Braves led 4-2.
Tampa Bay answered in the sixth, off Braves righty Brandon Sittinger (who I honestly had never heard of), with an RBI triple by Tristan Gray and a sac-fly by Grant Witherspoon. After allowing yet another hit in the inning, Tyler Ferguson came on to relieve Sittinger, and he proceeded to get out of the jam without surrendering the lead.
During the 7-9 innings, both teams traded zeroes as Ferguson, Trey Riley and Brandon White worked the final three frames of the game for Atlanta. For the Braves offense, Grissom added another single to make it two hits on the day, followed by a single by outfielder Jesse Franklin in the eighth. Neither team managed to record a hit in the final inning, ending regulation and the game with an unfortunate tie.
It’s nice to see Waters swinging a hot bat this spring. The 23-year-old outfielder is now 2 for 4 (.500 AVG) with a home run and a stolen base so far, and with Cristian Pache now out of the fold, this is his time to take the reigns as the next young Braves outfielder. Seeing the even younger Grissom put a couple of swings on the ball was fun to see too, especially after the incredible year he had in Single-A in 2021. A lot of excitement is headed Grissom’s way this coming season.
The Braves will go dark again on Sunday (not a televised game) as it faces the Phillies at home. First pitch is set for 12:05 PM (CT), and lefty Kyle Muller is expected to make his first start of the spring. Muller will go up against Philly’s Kyle Gibson.