The Braves minor league system had a whopping eight games to get through yesterday, although the busy day was worth it considering all but one resulted in a win. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s dive into Thursday’s action…
(25-32) Gwinnett Stripers
W, 7-2 vs. Nashville
W, 6-0 vs. Nashville
- SP, T. Touissant – (W), 6 IP, 2 H, BB, 11 K
- SP, K. Wright – (W), 7 IP, H, BB, 6 K
- CF, C. Pache – 4 for 6, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB
- LF, D. Waters – 3 for 8, HR, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 3 R
It doesn’t get much better for Gwinnett in terms of team-wide performance for a single day’s work. The Stripers outscored the Sounds 13-2 in its doubleheader, thanks to a much-needed breakout by the offense and a pair of incredible starts by both Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright.
Touki was all over Twitter on Thursday after he absolutely dominated Nashville in his third rehab start with six scoreless innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, including a season-high 11 strikeouts. Touki set down the first six batters he faced via strikeout, then pitched around a pair of singles in the third and fourth. The righty’s fifth frame featured a one-out walk, but that’s all the Sounds could muster as Toussaint returned for the sixth and worked the minimum. In all, the 25-year-old needed 81 pitches (49 strikes) to complete his outing, and he’ll either return to the majors or make a fourth rehab start with Gwinnett, where he has a 5.06 ERA.
Game 1’s offensive MVP should probably go to prospect Drew Waters, who doubled, tripled and picked up his 15th stolen base of the season. Although, both Jason Kipnis and Sean Kazmar homered, and Cristian Pache added a pair of RBI with a huge double to push Gwinnett’s lead to 3-0 in the third.
Game 2 was more of the same as Gwinnett dominated on both sides of the ball. However, this time it was Wright’s turn to fly through Nashville’s lineup. For the first time in his professional career, Wright tossed a complete-game shutout (even if it was a seven-inning affair). The 25-year-old, and former first-round pick, allowed just one hit (a double in the second), and following an error in the third inning, Wright set down 14 of his final 15 batters as he walked the lead-off batter in the fifth. Now with a 3.51 ERA in the minors this season, Wright was in need of a start like this. Hopefully, he can put together a few like this back-to-back.
As a follower of Braves prospects, this is exactly what you want to see in a game. Both Pache and Waters homered in Game 2 as they finished a combined 3 for 7 in the win, helping Gwinnett out-hit Nashville by a margin of 10-1. The three RBI for Waters is his second three-RBI performance in his last six games, and in his last seven games the 22-year-old is hitting .357 with seven XBH. We haven’t seen many games featuring both Pache and Waters doing well at the plate, so hopefully, this will continue.
(35-22) Mississippi Braves
W, 4-3 vs. Pensacola
W, 9-5 vs. Pensacola
- SP, H. Deal – 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
- SP, O. Javier – 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
- RF, T. Harris – 4 for 7, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, BB
- 3B/SS, W. Rijo – 3 for 7, HR, RBI
- DH/LF, J. Ramos – 3 for 5, HR, 3B, 4 RBI
The minor league’s hottest team went on a tear yesterday, sweeping its doubleheader versus South rival Pensacola, and as a result, the M-Braves picked up a two-game lead over the Blue Wahoos in the division. Mississippi’s 35-22 record is its best of the year so far at 13 games over .500.
The M-Braves and Blue Wahoos started off by finishing Wednesday’s suspended game, picking up in the bottom of fifth after a 27-hour delay. And following a game-tying sac-fly by Pensacola in the fifth, prospect Braden Shewmake provided Mississippi with the go-ahead run when he slapped an RBI single to center, making it 4-3.
Relievers Sean McLaughlin and Will Latchman teamed up to pitch the four remaining innings required for Game 1 yesterday, both combining for just two hits allowed, no runs and two strikeouts.
Game 2’s seven-inning contest started with two runs for Pensacola in the first inning, however, Wendell Rijo stayed hot with a home run in the second to put Mississippi within one.
Both teams traded runs in the third and the Blue Wahoos added another in the fourth to make it 4-2 Pensacola. But in the fifth, prospect Shea Langeliers came through with his 14th homer of the season to make it 4-3.
Seemingly everyone in the lineup contributed for Mississippi in Thursday’s doubleheader, and since June 6 (a span of 24 games), Shewmake is now hitting .333 with 13 XBH. Rijo is also scorching hot, having slugged six homers in his last 11 games, including 11 RBI and a .375 AVG.
Odalvi Javier started Game 2 last night, and though it wasn’t his best outing, the righty still owns a solid 3.10 ERA with the M-Braves this season.
(31-25) Rome Braves
W, 2-1 vs. Bowling Green
L, 7-0 vs. Bowling Green
- SP, C. Huntley – 5 IP, H, ER, BB, 5 K
- SP, M. Stallings – (L), 4 ⅓ IP, 10 H, 6 ER, BB, 2 K, 4 HR
- RF/LF, J. Franklin – 1 for 6, HR, 2 RBI
- RF, A. Moritz – 1 for 2
- RP, I. Diaz – IP, 2 K
I was in town for Rome’s doubleheader versus Bowling Green on Thursday, and boy was it a snoozefest overall. However, the R-Braves managed to provide some theatrics in the final inning of Game 1 as outfielder Jesse Franklin blasted a walk-off homer to win, despite his long ball being the team’s only hit of the contest.
This ball hit by Franklin — who, at this point, had hit four homers in his last seven games, by the way — was probably the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit in person, just in terms of how far and how fast it got out of the stadium. If you can follow the ball in the clip above, you’ll see that it clears the Suzuki sign beyond the right field wall, which stands 330 feet from home.
Anyways, starting pitcher Coleman Huntley was really the only other player worth mentioning from Game 1. This was just his second start of the season as he’s been primarily used as a reliever, however, Huntley pitched really well, allowing only an RBI groundout in the third before setting down seven batters in a row to finish up his outing. Reliever Gabriel Noguera worked the last pair of innings in hitless fashion.
The Hot Rods starter in Game 1, Rays’ 30th-ranked prospect John Doxakis, was impressive from the left side, and he pitched five no-hit innings with six strikeouts. Rome managed just one batted-ball out of the infield versus Doxakis as he worked quickly and efficiently.
Game 2 was excruciating, especially considering how hot it was at State Mutual Stadium. But this was a disaster start for Rome lefty Mitch Stallings, who allowed four homers in just 4 ⅓ innings, to go with six earned runs from 10 hits. Bowling Green seemed to square up everything Stallings threw at them as seven of his nine batted-ball outs were flyouts.
The R-Braves managed just one hit in Game 2, a little flare by no. 9 hitter Andrew Moritz. However, it was nice to see Bryce Ball in the lineup, and he walked twice and took some big hacks at the plate. Following Stallings exit, Marrick Crouse worked, and then Indigo Diaz pitched the final frame, striking out two.
(26-30) Augusta GreenJackets
W, 6-5 vs. Myrtle Beach
- SP, C. Bryant – 2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 K, HR
- C, R. Rodriguez – 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBI
- 1B, B. Horne – 2 for 4, HR, RBI
Augusta and Myrtle Beach had to wait nearly an hour and a half to get going yesterday, due to rain, but after a slow start, the GreenJackets wound up with the win over the Pelicans thanks to a four-run comeback.
Down 4-0, catcher Ricardo Rodriguez put Augusta on the board with a two-run homer in the second, and then following back-to-back hits by both Brandon Parker and Stephen Paolini, plus a walk by Cam Shepherd, Cade Bunnell added a third run in that same frame when he grounded into a bases-loaded forceout. Then, with Cody Birdsong at the plate, this craziness happened and just like that the game was tied…
The Pelicans pushed another run across in the third, but Bryson Horne tied the game again with a solo-homer for the GreenJackets. In the fourth, Shepherd provided the go-ahead run to go up 6-5 when he singled in Paolini. That lead would stick for the rest of the game. From the sixth on, Augusta’s bullpen held Myrtle Beach hitless as Alec Barger and Justin Yeager combined for five strikeouts in four frames. Ironically, the GreenJackets offense was also held hitless during that time frame.
Chad Bryant started Thursday’s game but wasn’t very sharp as he needed 49 pitches to get through two innings. Bryant has struggled all season, and in his four starts in 2021, only one has featured him reaching the fourth inning. He’ll enter Friday with a 8.25 ERA in 12 innings so far.
It took him 50 games into the season, but outfielder Willie Carter is finally hitting below .300. The 24-year-old finished last night 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts, cutting his season AVG to .297.
Augusta has won six of its eight games so far during its current homestand at PRC Park.
(3-2) FCL Braves
W, 9-7 vs. Pirates (Gold)
- SP, A. Samuelson – 4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 3 K, HR
- RF, B. Mezquita – 2 for 4, 3B, 2B, 3 RBI
- LF, E. Workinger – 2 for 3, HR, 3 RBI
- CF, K. Morton – 3 for 4, 2B, 2 R, BB, SB
- C, A. Barranca – 2 for 5, RBI, 2 R
- 2B, E. Stevens – 2 for 5, 2B, R
Hey! The FCL Braves played a complete nine-inning game… all in one day! This one was an offensive explosion for the Braves, who tallied 15 hits as a team, including five XBH.
Brandol Mezquita has done it all so far in 2021, and yesterday he, along with Ethan Workinger, knocked in three runs at the plate. Kadon Morton is another key piece in this lineup and finished with a three-hit day. In fact, every Braves batter, except Mahki Backstrom, tallied at least one hit in the win.
In regards to the Braves offensive leaders, through five games thus far, Mezquita is hitting .368 with four doubles and a triple, while Morton is also at a .368 AVG with three doubles. Catcher Antonio Barranca has played in three games and is currently 3 for 7 (.429 AVG) with a double and a pair of RBI.
Andy Samuelson — a former 12th round pick by the Braves — made his 2021 FCL Braves debut and started Thursday’s game. Samuelson ran into some trouble in the second, allowing a solo-homer and an RBI single. And then after a strong third, got chased in the fourth.
Workinger’s sixth-inning homer for the Braves was his first as a pro. The 19-year-old was an undrafted free agent signing by the Braves last July out of San Diego City College. At 6-3, 185, this could be a talented outfielder as he develops. He’s currently 2 for 11 (.182 AVG) in four games so far this season.