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Another farm-wide sweep: Drew Waters homers for Rome, while Luke Waddell picks up 5 hits for M-Braves

Another farm-wide sweep: Drew Waters homers for Rome, while Luke Waddell picks up 5 hits for M-Braves

The big league Braves suffered a 3-1 loss to the Rangers on Saturday night, thanks to only three hits overall from the Atlanta offense (who knew Dan Dunning was so dominant!). However, down on the Braves farm it was a 4 for 4 night in terms of wins, as all of Gwinnett, Mississippi, Rome and Augusta won their respective games, giving us two-straight farm sweeps, coming after Friday’s org-wide sweep.

Here’s a recap of all the minor league action from Saturday. And be on the lookout later today as I’ll be putting out a post featuring the top farm performers from the month of April…

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (10-13)

W, 5-0 vs. Norfolk 

(P) Nolan Kingham – 4 IP, H, BB, 2 K

(C) Ryan Casteel – 1 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI

(1B) Hernán Pérez – 2 for 3, HR, RBI, SB

(SS) Ryan Goins – 2 for 4, 2B

(RF) Greyson Jenista – 3 for 4, RBI, R

The scoreless streak for Gwinnett’s pitchers extends to 18 1/3 innings, as on Saturday the Stripers once again shutout the Tides. Righty Nolan Kingham got the start, and while he didn’t miss many bats, the 25-year-old was super efficient, needing just 42 pitches to get through four frames yesterday. Kingham also received some help from the defense, as shortstop Ryan Goins made a nice play in foul territory in the third.

What was really impressive, though, was the performance by recently-signed Hernán Pérez, who literally just got to Gwinnett on Saturday. The 31-year-old started at first and hit cleanup for the Stripers, going on to finish with two hits – one of those being a solo home run in the fifth to put Gwinnett up for good, 5-0. We’ll probably be seeing a lot more of that from the minor league journeyman.

Overall it was a nice game for Gwinnett’s offense, of which five players combined to tally nine hits for the team, featuring a three-hit performance for Greyson Jenista and multi-hit games for both Pérez and Goins.

Although, plenty of credit should be given to the Stripers group of pitchers. On Saturday, Gwinnett went with four different relievers in the win, using Thomas Burrows for the fifth and sixth, Brandyn Sittinger for the seventh, Dylan Lee for the eighth and Michael Tonkin for the ninth. That quartet of arms combined to pitch five more scoreless frames, to go with five strikeouts, no walks and just five hits allowed. What was a weakness to begin the 2022 season, the Gwinnett bullpen is as consistent as its ever been this year.

AA – Mississippi Braves (7-13)

W, 10-9 vs. Montgomery

(P) Freddy Tarnok – 4 ⅓ IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR

(P) Victor Vodnik – IP, 2 K

(P) Justin Maese – (S), IP, 2 K

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

(CF) Michael Harris II – 3 for 5, 2B, RBI, 2 R, SB

(3B) Riley Delgado – 3 for 5, 2 RBI, 2 R

(2B) Yariel Gonzalez – 1 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI

(DH) CJ Alexander – 2 for 4, R, BB

The M-Braves keep finding themselves in crazy games this season, and that trend continued on Saturday as Mississippi blew a five-run lead and trailed by two heading into the final inning – only to come back and win, thanks to a perfectly placed two-out, go-ahead RBI single by Riley Delgado in the ninth.

Mississippi’s offense came to the park ready to hit yesterday. After trading zeroes in the first frame, the M-Braves broke out for four runs in the second. all coming with two outs, as Delgado (single), Andrew Moritz (RBI double), Michael Harris II (RBI double) and Luke Waddell (RBI single) all reached base consecutively. The RBI double from Moritz was his first hit/RBI at the Double-A level, since getting promoted from Rome back on Friday.

Mississippi’s starter, Freddy Tarnok, gave up a harmless solo-homer in the bottom-half of the second, but the M-Braves offense added two more runs in the fourth – again, all with two outs. Following a pair of pop outs by both Delgado and Mortiz, both Harris and Waddell singled, then each stole third and second, respectively, on a double steal. With runners on second and third, Yariel Gonzalez blasted a pitch off the left-center wall for a two-run double, clearing the bases and putting the M-Braves up 6-1.

Again, though, Tarnok allowed a home run – this time of the two-run variety, given he walked the lead-off batter. Just like that it was a 6-3 ballgame through four.

Tarnok was replaced by Jake Higginbotham to begin the fifth, and that decision almost immediately came back to bite Mississippi, as Higginbotham quickly allowed five runs from a pair of hits, two walks and a fielding error by Delgado at third. Trailing by two, the M-Braves did answer back in the sixth, when Waddell slapped an RBI single to right, making it 8-7. But the Biscuits homered yet again in the bottom-half of the inning, putting the score at 9-7 (Montgomery’s lead) after six.

Neither team could manage any runs in the seventh and eighth, and Mississippi received some strong relief work from prospect Victor Vodnik in the former inning. But in the ninth, the M-Braves broke out for three runs to win a crazy, back-and-forth contest. Waddell led off with a single, then following back to back strikeouts, the Mississippi offense worked its two-out magic by putting the next four-straight batters on base, including Delgado’s game-winning knock. Justin Maese came in for the final frame and set down the Biscuits in order for his third save of the season.

Notably, Harris has now extended his league-leading on base streak to 20 games, which is literally every single game the M-Braves have played so far in 2022. The prospect’s three-hit night on Saturday is his third three-hit performance so far, giving him seven multi-hit games already this season. For Waddell, who finished 5 for 5 last night, he now has a five-hit performance, a four-hit one and a three-hit game so far in 2022, with all of them coming in his last seven games. During that stretch, the 23-year-old is 15 for 32 (.468 AVG) with three doubles and seven RBI, giving him a .284 AVG and .672 OPS for the season, which is pretty impressive considering as recently as April 20 he was sporting just a .125 AVG.

The two homers allowed by Tarnok is a season-high so far. In fact, the prospect righty hadn’t allowed a single long ball in 2022… until Saturday. It’s been a bit of rough start to the year for the former third-round pick, as he’s allowed multiple runs in three of his four outings so far this season, giving him a 5.17 ERA in 15 2/3 total innings. He’ll get it turned around.

A+ – Rome Braves (13-7)

W, 8-5 vs. Greensboro 

(P) Roddery Munoz – (W), 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

(P) Justin Yeager – (S), IP, 3 K

(CF) Drew Waters – 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBI, BB

(SS) Vaughn Grissom – 2 for 5, 2 RBI

(RF) Christian Robinson – 3 for 4, 2 2B, 3 RBI, R

(C) Javier Valdes – 1 for 4, 2B, R

One of the top teams in High-A’s South Atlantic League, Rome won its third consecutive game on Saturday, thanks to some strong starting pitching by 22-year-old Roddery Munoz – who picked up his first win at the High-A level – and another night of strong results from the offense.

Munoz ran into some trouble out of the gate, though. He allowed a pair of runs in the first, after allowing the first three Greensboro batters to reach base. However, the R-Braves offense countered. Both Drew Waters and Cody Milligan drew back to back walks, and then prospect Vaughn Grissom knocked Waters in with an RBI single to center to make it 2-1.

A perfect top-half of the second for Munoz was then followed up with a three-run bottom-half of the inning for Rome’s offense. All with two outs, Willie Carter singled to center, then stole second. And Christian Robinson slapped a ground ball base-hit to center to score Carter. With a runner on, Waters made the Grasshoppers pay, launching his first home run of the 2022 season when he went down and got a pitch low in the zone. The long ball gave the R-Braves a 4-2 lead.

Rome would go on to score three more in the fourth, and following a three-run seventh for Greensboro, the R-Braves tacked on one more in the eighth, when Grissom singled in a run to give us our final score, 8-5.

The solid hitting by Waters is great to see. Plus, in his first game off the IL he showed that his hamstring is doing just fine, as he ran the bases without any hiccups on Friday. For Grissom, yesterday’s two-hit performance gives him three consecutive games with two knocks – a stretch in which he has gone 6 for 14 (.428 AVG) with a home run, a double and a whopping nine RBI. The prospect shortstop is up to a .284 AVG and .763 OPS for the 2022 season, and so far he has been one of the best in the Braves system when it comes to line drive rate, which is another indicator that he’s seeing the ball well.

Prospect outfielder Christian Robinson, who usually bats last in this loaded Rome lineup, is also having a sneaky great year so far in High-A. Last year’s 15th-round pick is up to a .351 AVG and .894 OPS for 2022, thanks to a current nine-game hitting streak in which he has went 17 for 36 (.472 AVG) with two homers, five doubles and nine RBI. Robinson may get overshadowed by Grissom due to the latter’s name, but make no mistake, the former is an ultra-talented prospect in the Braves system (he’s unranked on my Braves Top 35, though that’s very likely to change when I update my list in a few months).

A – Augusta GreenJackets (11-9)

W, 8-2 vs. Delmarva 

(P) Samuel Strickland – 4 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 K

(P) Miguel Pena – (W), 2 IP, BB, 3 K

(C) Rusber Estrada – 2 for 4, 2 2B, 2 RBI 

(1B) Braulio Vasquez – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R, 2 SB

(LF) Connor Blair – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI, R

(3B) Caleb Durbin – 1 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, SB

(2B) Geraldo Quintero – 2 for 4, RBI, R, SB 

Last year’s 19th-round pick, lefty Samuel Strickland, made his first start of the 2022 season for Augusta on Saturday, and the 23-year-old pitched well, allowing just one run from four hits in his 59-pitch outing. A sac-fly in the first inning was how Delmarva got to Strickland for a run, along with a pair of hits in the frame, though after that the kid surrendered just two harmless base-hits in his final three innings of work.

The GreenJackets offense did a nice job of answering after the Shorebirds went up 1-0 in the first. In the bottom-half of the opening frame, Caleb Durbin drew a lead-off walk and stole second, setting up an easy RBI for Geraldo Quintero, who knocked Durbin in with a line drive single to center. Then, two batters later, catcher Rusber Estrada scored Paolini with a double to center, giving him his first hit of the year with Augusta and a 2-1 lead.

The GreenJackets would go on to score one run in each of the fourth and fifth innings, followed by a big rally in the sixth that featured four runs, thanks to a single by Kadon Morton, back to back doubles by Connor Blair and Durbin (with the later two-bagger scoring two), to go with a run-scoring wild pitch by the Delmarva pitcher. Augusta’s 8-1 advantage was cut to a six-run lead in the eighth, when the Shorebirds chipped a way with a bases-loaded walk, but ultimately it was an easy win for the GreenJackets.

Following Strickland’s four innings of work, a three-man relief group – featuring Miguel Pena, Juan Mateo and Benjamin Dum – pieced together the final five frames, collectively striking out four and allowing one run from just one hit, with Pena picking up the win.

For Estrada, the 26-year-old catcher had spent the first few weeks of the 2022 season with Rome, but after going just 1 for 10 (.100 AVG) in his first five games at the High-A level, he was sent down to the GreenJackets, where he’ll likely get plenty of playing time as either the team’s catcher or DH. For Durbin, who was taken in the 14th-round in last year’s draft, his two hits on Saturday night pushes his season AVG up to .344 as the 22-year-old has now hit safely in four-straight games, including six of seven, giving him 12 knocks in his last 31 tries (.387 AVG), to go with five doubles and nine RBI during that seven-game stretch.

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