Gwinnett Braves 5, Columbus Clippers 4
- Sean Kazmar, 2B: 4-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB
- Blake Lalli, C: 2-3, 2 RBI, 2 RBI
- Tyrell Jenkins, SP: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), 4 BB, 3 K
In the first of three series clinchers for Braves’ affiliates, Gwinnett had to rally in the bottom of the 8th to get the winning run across after squandering a lead, but got the job done by a final score of 5-4. Tyrell Jenkins got the start in this one and pretty clearly didn’t have his best stuff as the walks started to rear their ugly head again. He also got a bit unlucky with some dribbling grounders that ended up being productive and an error that advanced a runner. Overall, a solid effort from Jenkins despite all of that. Steve Janas did give up the tying run and gave up 3 hits in 2.1 innings of relief before handing the ball over to Madison Younginer and Brad Roney who came in and secured the win.
On offense, this was in many ways a group effort by the heart of the order as Ronnier Mustelier, Blake Lalli, and Sean Kazmar went a combined 9-12 with 4 RBIs and 3 walks. It was ultimately Lalli’s sac fly in the bottom of the eighth inning that provided the winning run for Gwinnett, but those three guys were raking all night. One guy that was not raking was Rio Ruiz, who did reach base with a walk against a pair of strikeouts. Ruiz did not record a hit in the entire series, so he will look to get back on track in the International League Championship Series against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders which starts Tuesday.
Mississippi Braves 4, Pensacola Blue Wahoos 2
- Mallex Smith, CF: 2-5, 1 RBI
- Kade Scivicque, C: 3-4
- Lucas Sims, SP: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Oh look, another series clincher. The weather did its best to deny Mississippi a chance at a championship, but the Braves’ lead would hold after the rain delay due to some great work by the bullpen as Mississippi moves on with a 4-2 win. Lucas Sims pitched an excellent game with 5 innings and giving up just 2 runs and 2 walks against 6 strikeouts. After reportedly leaving his last start with a bit of a stomach bug, it was nice to seem go out and put together a strong game in a high leverage spot. After Lucas’ exit, Evan Phillips, Caleb Dirks, and AJ Minter went into full lock down mode and other than a couple hits given up by Dirks, their performance was impeccable. Fun fact: AJ Minter has appeared in 31 games this year (34.2 innings) and has given up earned runs in exactly two of them while striking out 47 batters and walking 11.
The offense did things the old fashioned way via small ball as Mississippi recorded just one extra-base hit on the night. Now, that hit was an RBI double from Carlos Franco and that was great, but the biggest knock of the night was a 2-run single from Connor Lien in the bottom of the first that staked Mississippi to an early lead that they would never relinquish. After struggling a bit at the plate since joining the Braves, Kade Scivicque terrorized Pensacola for two straight games, recording 7 hits and generally causing mayhem. Oh yeah, and some guy named Mallex Smith had a pair of hits and the other RBI on the evening for Mississippi while stealing a base. He seems good and fast.
Rome Braves 4, Charleston RiverDogs 1
- Austin Riley, 3B: 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI, run
- Ronald Acuna, CF: 1-5, 3B, 3 K
- Max Fried, SP: 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
We have arguably saved the best clincher for last as Rome won the winner-takes-all against Charleston 4-1. After battling blisters for a chunk of this season and throwing a 3.26 ERA up in the second half (almost a full run better than in the first half albeit with a small sample size), Max Fried made the most of his first playoff game as a member of the Braves organization as he was absolutely dominant. Over almost 8 innings, he gave up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run while striking out 11 (!) batters while throwing a career-high 108 pitches. The blisters Fried experienced could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Rome as Fried is likely on some sort of innings/pitches limit due to his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Those games missed makes it more likely that we will see Fried at least once more this season depending on how the championship series goes.
As for the offense, this is Austin Riley’s world and we just inhabit it. After a power surge of epic proportions in the second half, especially when you consider this is the Sally League, Riley just keeps hitting and producing in the heart of Rome’s lineup. There are exactly two players in the entire league that have more home runs than Austin (Jose Pujols and Chase Gittens) and both of those guys have worse slugging percentages, batting averages, and strikeout rates despite Austin being significantly younger than both Pujols and Gittens. He may prove to consistently start slow at each level and then figure things out, but its clear that his success in rookie ball was not a fluke as he drove in 3 of Rome’s runs on this night. Ray-Patrick Didder did some Didder-ing as he was hit by two pitches in the series decider and scored both times, but was held hitless beyond that. Rome advances to face the Lakewood BlueClaws who, like Rome, rallied in the second half after a poor first half showing. This series could begin some fun rivalries down the road as the BlueClaws are the Phillies low-A affiliate, so some of these guys will see each a lot in the coming years.