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Bullpens shaky system-wide; M-Braves lose a crazy one on Saturday

Bullpens shaky system-wide; M-Braves lose a crazy one on Saturday

The Braves led the Marlins on Saturday night by 5-3 through five innings, only to lose 9-7. After a solid five innings, six hits and two earned runs allowed by starter Ian Anderson, Atlanta’s bullpen went on to allow six more runs from eight additional hits, spoiling what should’ve been a tight victory over Miami. It happens every now and then. The bullpen some times just doesn’t have it. However, last night it seemed like none of the bullpens in the Braves entire organization had it.

You’ll see what I mean…

Here’s a recap of all the minor league action from Saturday night.

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (6-11)

W, 10-8 (F/10) vs. Jacksonville 

(P) Kyle Muller – 4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K

(P) Jesús Cruz – 1 ⅔ IP, H, ER, 3 K, HR

(3B) Phil Gosselin – 1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB

(DH) Ronald Acuña Jr. – 2 for 3, RBI, R, 3 BB

(1B) Ryan Casteel – 2 for 5, HR, RBI, 2 R

(SS) Pat Valaika – 1 for 6, 2B, R

Gwinnett won an exciting one in extra-innings on Saturday night, finally snapping a six-game losing streak. There was plenty of offense in the contest, as both teams combined to tally 18 runs from 24 hits overall.

Fast-forward to the sixth inning, with the game knotted at three. Following another RBI by outfielder Justin Dean (who knocked in a run with a sac-fly in the second), a rehabbing Ronald Acuña Jr. gave the Stripers a one-run lead when he turned on a breaking ball and slapped it out to left field.

Unfortunately, though, that two-run sixth wasn’t enough. With Gwinnett’s Brandyn Sittinger on the mound, the Jumbo Shrimp quickly tallied four singles in a row, with the final base-hit knocking in two runs to give Jacksonville a 5-4 lead. For Sittinger, it was the first time he’d allowed a run in an appearance since back on April 9, a stretch of six-straight scoreless frames for the reliever. Jesús Cruz came in for relief and managed to get the Stripers out of the jam, though not before allowing another run due to a wild pitch. Then, Jacksonville proceeded to score a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings, but Gwinnett also added a score in that span when Ryan Casteel went deep in the latter frame.

Down 8-5 to start the ninth, the Stripers offense got busy. First, RAJ walked to lead off the frame, then Phil Gosselin destroyed a pitch to left for a two-run homer to put Gwinnett within one.

The Stripers would go on to add another run three batters later, when Yariel Gonzalez knocked in Pat Valaika on a sac-fly to center. At 8-8, Gwinnett just needed to hold Jacksonville where they were, which they did, as Brad Brach pitched around a harmless one-out single in the bottom-half of the ninth.

The Stripers scored rather quickly in the tenth. With Casteel starting the frame at second, he crossed home during the first AB when Dean struck out swinging on a ball that got by the catcher, and then was mishandled. Two batters later Gwinnett added an insurance run, thanks to a sac-fly by Gosselin. Grant Dayton took care of the Jumbo Shrimp in the bottom-half of the tenth, setting down all three batters in order.

This was a big win for Gwinnett, even though it certainly has some bullpen issues right now. It may have been forgotten due to all the offense throughout the game, but prospect Kyle Muller started Saturday’s contest. And though it wasn’t his best outing of the year, the southpaw struck out a season-high eight batters in the no-decision. The four walks really held him back from going deep in the start, but so far, Muller sports a 3.66 ERA through four outings in 2022 – a solid start to the year for a guy the Braves may wind up needing at some point. The 3-RBI performance for Gosselin last night was a season-best for the infielder.

AA – Mississippi Braves (4-10)

L, 18-11 vs. Chattanooga 

(P) Alan Rangel – 2 ⅔ IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 5 K, 2 HR

(P) Indigo Diaz – 2 IP, BB, 3 K

(RF) Jesse Franklin V – 3 for 4, HR, 3B, 4 RBI, 2 R

(CF) Michael Harris II – 2 for 5, 2B, RBI, R, BB

(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 2 for 4, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB

(SS) Luke Waddell – 4 for 5, 2B, RBI, R, SB

(3B) CJ Alexander – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI, R

While Gwinnett’s game last night wound up becoming an offensive outburst for both teams, the M-Braves-Chattanooga contest on Saturday was even more of an explosion. Between both Mississippi and the Lookouts, 11 different players finished the night with a multi-hit performance, and for the former team, that group was led by shortstop Luke Waddell (4 hits) and outfielder Jesse Franklin V (3 hits / HR / 4 RBI).

I’m not even going to try and recap this entire game, but it is important to know that the M-Braves actually led this thing 11-10 heading into the final inning on Saturday night. It was nuts: first Chattanooga jumped out to a 10-1 lead through the first-half of the fourth, then the M-Braves scored ten unanswered runs to take the lead after seven, only to lose it, when, in the ninth, facing Mississippi’s Jake Higginbotham (and later Trey Riley), the Lookouts sent a whopping 14 batters to the plate, coming away with eight runs. Wow.

I’ll share a few clips from the game, but I given there are just so many things that happened, I suggest you just visit the Mississippi Braves twitter page, as the team does a great job of providing video of all the action.

Regardless, it was great to see prospect Michael Harris II back providing key hits, as he slapped an RBI double in the third.

Drew Lugbauer and Franklin provided the M-Braves with its two home runs on Saturday. Lugabuer blasted his in the fourth inning…

And Franklin’s three-run long ball was the hit that gave Mississippi the lead in the seventh…

In the end, though, it had to of been a deflating loss for the M-Braves, given how hard the team fought to come back. For starting pitcher Alan Rangel, last night really had to hurt. In his second opportunity at the Double-A level, Rangel hasn’t started off the season very well, and after last night, his 2022 ERA rises up to 10.57. In three starts thus far, the 24-year-old righty has failed to make it past the fourth inning. One bright side, though, Rangel’s five strikeouts versus Chattanooga is currently a season-best for him.

The 4 for 5 performance last night for Waddell was desperately needed. The former fifth-round pick entered Saturday with just one hit in his last 15 tries, giving him a .114 AVG overall in 2022. The four knocks on Saturday raised his season AVG by 86 points (.200).

A+ – Rome Braves (9-5)

L, 6-2 vs. Bowling Green 

(P) Luis De Avila – 6 IP, 2 H, 5 K

(C) Tyler Tolve – 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBI

(3B) Vaughn Grissom – 1 for 4, BB

(2B) Cody Milligan – 1 for 5, SB

(RF) Willie Carter – 3 for 4

(SS) Cade Bunnell – 1 for 2, 2 BB

Perhaps the hottest team in the Braves minor league system, Rome also lost a game it should’ve won on Saturday. With a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom-half of the seventh, Bowling Green pushed across six runs against the R-Braves bullpen, coming away with the comeback win.

It was a solid start by Luis De Avila, who tossed a 69-pitch, two-hitter on Saturday. Avila was efficient and struck out five in six innings, to go with a whopping 11 groundouts, compared to just two flyouts. The 20-year-old lefty definitely deserved to earn the win, which would’ve been his first of the season. So far, in three outings (his first few starts at the High-A level), De Avila owns a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings.

Both starting pitchers held strong during their respective outings, as neither De Avila nor the Hot Rods Mason Montgomery allowed a run. But in the sixth, Rome finally broke through, when catcher Tyler Tolve crushed a two-run home run to right.

The way the night had went, you would’ve though that a 2-0 advantage would’ve been enough for Rome. However, in the seventh, with Davis Schwab on the mound, Bowling Green got within one thanks to three batters reaching base with two outs (single, walk, wild pitch, walk). Then, of course, the aforementioned eighth happened, and the Hot Rods came out on top.

Last night was Tolve’s first homer of the 2022 season, a campaign in which he’s started red hot. So far, in eight games with Rome, the 21-year-old is slashing .310/.355/.586, and he’s currently on a five-game hitting streak. For a former 17th-round pick (2021), and one out of a smaller school (Kennesaw State), this kid already appears to be quite a talented pro hitter.

A – Augusta GreenJackets (6-8)

L, 6-2 vs. Fayetteville 

(P) Landon Leach – 6 IP, H, BB, 8 K

(1B) Mahki Backstrom – 1 for 4, 3B, RBI, BB

(2B) Geraldo Quintero – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 BB

(SS) Cal Conley – 1 for 5, R, SB

(CF) Brandol Mezquita – 1 for 3, RBI, R, 2 BB

This was yet another lead given up by a Braves farm team on Saturday. Following the best start of his season so far for Augusta’s Landon Leach, the GreenJackets offense went up 1-0 in the fifth, when prospect Brandol Mezquita scored Cal Conley on a ground ball out. However, with Leach already in the showers and Estarlin Rodriguez on the mound in his place, the Woodpeckers rallied in the seventh, as Rodriguez allowed a one-out walk, then a single, a three-run home run, another single and another walk. The five consecutive Fayetteville batters reaching base in the seventh resulted in a three-run inning and a two-run lead for the Woodpeckers.

Augusta would get one run back in the bottom-half of the inning, when a hot-hitting Mahki Backstrom slapped an RBI triple, but one was as close as the GreenJackets could get before Fayetteville tacked on three more runs in the final frame.

It’s disappointing, but after Leach tossed a one-hitter over six scoreless innings, a two-man bullpen (Rodriguez and Peyton Williams) went on to combine for six earned runs from eight hits in just a matter of three innings. Although, as I wrote about on Saturday prior to the game, the Augusta ‘pen is pretty banged up at the moment, with at least two of its key arms currently on the injured list, to go with starter Adam Shoemaker’s early exit on Friday due to an injury.

On a more positive note, I’ve been super impressed with Mezquita’s play. This is a kid still getting his footing in full-season ball, and so far, the 20-year-old is hitting a strong .370 with a double and nine RBI in 12 games in 2022. He has speed too, so I expect him to start stealing some bags soon. I’m glad to see that, after spending the last three seasons in rookie ball, Single-A isn’t too much for him.

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