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An org-wide sweep on Tuesday; Cal Conley and Pat Valaika provide walk-off hits

An org-wide sweep on Tuesday; Cal Conley and Pat Valaika provide walk-off hits

There was absolutely no shortage of offense down on the Braves farm on Tuesday. And not only did Atlanta win its series opener versus the Cubs, but all four affiliates won its respective games as well, giving us (I believe) our first organization-wide sweep of the 2022 season.

Here’s a recap of all the action…

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (7-12)

W, 7-6 vs. Norfolk

(P) Jasseel De La Cruz – 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB

(Bullpen) – 8 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, BB, 12 K, 3 HR

(LF) Preston Tucker – 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB

(CF) Delino DeShields – 1 for 4, 2 RBI

(DH) Greyson Jenista – 1 for 4, 2B

(1B) Phil Gosselin – 2 for 5, 2B, R

The Stripers picked up its first walk-off win of the season on Tuesday, thanks to a couple of clutch hits in the ninth. Tied 6-6, Phil Gosselin led off the final frame with a double but advanced to third when Norfolk’s center fielder misplayed the ball. Following a Braden Shewmake strikeout, veteran Pat Valaika ended the game with a perfectly-placed line drive to left-center, plenty deep enough to score Gosselin and cause a Gwinnett celebration in the infield.

This Stripers offense did well to score three runs off six hits against touted Tides prospect pitcher – and former 11th-overall pick – Grayson Rodriguez. The 22-year-old righty got his strikeouts (five on the day), but the Gwinnett lineup came out swinging and put up three runs in the opening inning, highlighted by a two-run double from Preston Tucker and an RBI single by William Contreras. Along with the game-winner by Valaika in the ninth, the Stripers also scored three in the fifth, when Delino DeShields cued a softly-hit single to left, pushing across a pair of runs, followed by a passed-ball a batter later, allowing Contreras to cross home.

Through six, Gwinnett led 6-4, but the Stripers bullpen surrendered a pair of solo home runs in each of the seventh and ninth innings, coming off Conner Johnstone and Michael Tonkin, respectively. Those long balls hurt, but you have to give Gwinnett’s group of relievers some credit given they were tasked with covering 8 2/3 innings yesterday. A six-man crew that included Nolan Kingham, Brandon Brennan, Nick Vincent, Johnstone, Thomas Burrows and Tonkin helped limit the damage in the win. I don’t know what the team is going to do for remainder of the series, but a Stripers starter will need to step it up and go deep. I’m not even going to say anything about Jasseel De La Cruz – I’ve said enough about the topic. It appears Ronald Acuña Jr. was given a day off on Tuesday.

MLB callup news: I wrote a little newsy piece after it happened, but on Tuesday the Braves recalled prospect righty William Woods, as he’ll replace outfielder Eddie Rosario on the big league roster. Woods is ranked 20th on my 2022 Offseason Braves Prospect List, and despite a shaky start to the season, has been lights out as a bullpen piece for Gwinnett. The kid was once a highly touted prospect in the system, but a ton of missed time has really impacted his stock. I’m happy he’s headed to Atlanta, and hopefully he gets a opportunity to make his MLB debut this week.

AA – Mississippi Braves (5-11)

W, 6-3 vs. Montgomery

(P) A.J. Puckett – 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K

(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 3 for 4, HR, 2B, RBI, 3 R

(LF) Jefrey Ramos – 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI

(2B) Yariel Gonzalez – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI, R

Once again the M-Braves were forced to make a comeback, as the Biscuits jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on Tuesday. Overall last night, Mississippi’s starter, A.J. Puckett, was solid, but he ran into trouble in the opening frame. After walking the lead-off batter, the righty surrendered back-to-back hits with two outs – an RBI triple and RBI single – and just like that Montgomery had the advantage.

But it wouldn’t take long for the M-Braves offense to get going. In the fourth, outfielder Jefrey Ramos crushed a line drive to the left field wall to push across two runs, quickly tying the game. While the hit by Ramos was scored a double, the prospect advanced to third on a bobble by the Biscuits.

Mississippi took a 3-2 lead in the sixth, as the man they call SLUGbauer barreled a fastball over 400 feet to right-center for a lead-off, solo-home run, giving the first baseman five dingers already this season.

But again, the game was quickly tied. In the bottom-half of the sixth, Montgomery belted a long ball of its own, when the Biscuits Jordan Qsar went yard against M-Braves reliever Troy Bacon. Although, that would go down as the final run for Montgomery. Following a pair of innings from Bacon, the Mississippi bullpen – featuring Tyler Ferguson, Victor Vodnik (hey!) and Indigo Diaz – went on to toss the remaining three frames in scoreless fashion, while combining to strike out five and walk just one. The M-Braves lineup added a run in the seventh to take a 4-3 lead, thanks to a sac-fly by Jacob Pearson that scored Michael Harris II.

Mississippi even tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth. Following a one-out double by Lugbauer, Yariel Gonzalez put the M-Braves up by two when he slapped an RBI ground-rule double. And then two batters later, Ramos gave us our final score when he reached base on a throwing error by Montgomery, which allowed Gonzalez to cross home.

There’s a lot to like about this win. Despite four walks, Puckett racked up a career-high eight strikeouts, giving him perhaps his best start of the season so far. Plus, the Mississippi bullpen pitched well. Even better, we were finally blessed with prospect Victor Vodnik’s presence, as Tuesday was his first appearance of 2022. The contributions from guys like Ramos and Gonzalez was also nice to see, as those guys haven’t been involved in the action on offense much. Those keeping tabs on Harris: while he wasn’t included in the stats above, the prospect outfielder did finish 1 for 5 with that aforementioned run scored. Luke Waddell also had a base-hit and a walk in four AB.

A+ – Rome Braves (10-6)

W, 17-1 vs. Greensboro

(P) Dylan Dodd – (W), 5 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K

(LF/1B) Landon Stephens – 1 for 5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB

(3B) Justyn-Henry Malloy – 3 for 3, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R

(CF) Drew Campbell – 3 for 6, 3 RBI, 2 R

(RF) Christian Robinson – 3 for 4, RBI, 3 R, BB

(2B) Cody Milligan – 2 for 4, 2 2B, 4 R

(C) Tyler Tolve – 2 for 5, 3B, RBI, 2 R

(SS-3B) Beau Philip – 2 for 3, 2 RBI, R, BB

Wowzers. Six different Rome batters came away with multi-hit performances (including three 3-hit performances) in a rout over Greensboro last night. The Grasshoppers scored in the first, as it took R-Braves starter Dylan Dodd just a bit to get in his groove – but through five innings, Rome’s offense had already put up 15 runs, giving the 2021 draftee an easy win. Although it must be known, Dodd did pitch rather well after that opening inning.

You can check out the play log from last night, but I’ll just touch on the highlights. Here was Landon Stephens’ two-run home run from Tuesday, giving him five on the year as he continues to crush High-A pitching.

As part of that six-run second (that featured ten Rome batters at the plate), catcher Tyler Tolve ripped an RBI triple to to center.

Now that is splitting the gap right there…

For Tolve, that’s now six-straight games in which he has recorded a hit – a stretch that has allowed him to go from a .250 AVG to his current .324 AVG. This kid can hit, folks.

There was also some strong defense from the R-Braves, as third baseman Justyn-Henry Malloy made a terrific play at the hot corner, diving for a ball and then popping up to throw out the runner at first.

Then later in the game, left fielder Andrew Mortitz ran about 50 yards to catch a line drive at the wall, which I’ll tell you from experience… is a very hard grab to make. Running full speed towards a wall is not fun, I promise.

Just another day for Moritz…

TLDR: Rome dominated on Tuesday, and the easy win has them easily sporting the best record in the Braves minor league system. A 17-hit night is always a great sign that the bats are hot, and holy moly these R-Braves bats are scorching.

While I’m sure it was just a traditional night off for the prospect, I didn’t see Vaughn Grissom in this one. We should see him on Wednesday, though.

Oh, and Rome’s bullpen was lights out last night as well. Alec Barger, Lisandro Santos and Austin Smith combined to toss four shutout innings to finish off the game after Dodd left. This could be a long series for Greenville, as this is certainly a bad time to have to play six games against Rome.

A – Augusta GreenJackets (8-8)

W, 3-1 vs. Delmarva

(P) Royber Salinas – 4 IP, 5 BB, 12 K

(SS) Cal Conley – 1 for 5, HR, 2 RBI

(LF) Brandol Mezquita – 1 for 3, 3B

(RF) Stephen Paolini – 1 for 3, 2B, BB

Tuesday’s series opener looked like it would become a starter’s duel, but as usual, Augusta’s Royber Salinas just pushed away, never allowing a single hit in his outing and racking up a dozen strikeouts(lol). It’s plain as day, this kid is on another level. And if he would’ve had better control yesterday, there’s no telling what Salinas could’ve done against a Delmarva lineup that had absolutely no answers. It was either a walk of a strikeout for the 21-year-old righty, so naturally his pitch count got up to 85 (45 strikes) on the day. Although, regardless, that’s now a ridiculous 43 punch outs in 18 2/3 total innings this season, which comes out to… wait for it… 20.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Holy smokes.

The GreenJackets offense didn’t get its first hit until the third, when Stephen Paolini led off the frame with a double. However, Augusta’s first run had to wait until the fifth, as the Shoebirds helped the GreenJackets out a bit. Cal Conley reached on an error to begin the inning, then with two outs, Brandol Mezquita slapped a line drive triple to center to score Conley and go up 1-0. Delmarva answered in the eighth, when a guy I mentioned in the preview on Monday – Davis Tavarez – slugged his second home run of the season. Surprisingly, the game-tying dinger came off J.J. Niekro, which gives Niekro his first earned run of 2022. The kid had went 11 1/3 consecutive innings without an earned run to begin this season. Oh well, it was bound to happen eventually. The 1-1 tie didn’t last long, though. In the bottom of the ninth, after Geraldo Quintero reached on another Shorebirds error, Conley slugged a two-run home run to walk it off for Augusta. The dinger was needed too, for the prospect infielder hadn’t hit one since way back on April 9 (the second game of the season), when he finished with two as part of a 5-RBI performance.

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