(6-4) Gwinnett Braves 8, (7-3) Durham Bulls 6
Rio Ruiz, 3B: 1-4, 2B, 3 RBI, .238/.289/.333
Ozzie Albies, 2B: 2-5, 2B, SB, RBI, .298/.306/.447
Mel Rojas Jr., RF: 2-4, 2B BB, RBI, .222/.245/.333
Andrew Albers, SP: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1.42 ERA
The GBraves opened the season with a 1-4 start, but have bounced back to win 5 in a row while averaging 7.6 runs per game. A 6 run 4th inning did it for Gwinnett in this one, with the big blow coming off the bat of Rio Ruiz in the form of a bases loaded double that pushed the lead to 7-1. Ozzie Albies extended his hitting streak to 9 games with his 2 hits today, and now leads the International League with 5 stolen bases and is tied for the league lead with 5 doubles. The final run of the day was provided by Xavier Avery’s home run in the 8th. Avery leads the IL in runs scored, 1 above Albies, and has screamed out of the gate with a .385/.429/.615 line, but be warned he has struck out 11 times in 28 plate appearances and carries a .643 BABIP. Small sample sizes are still fun though.
The Braves made the interesting decision to stretch out Luke Jackson, only to have him make one start with Gwinnett before they decided they needed him in the major league bullpen, and that left the GBraves with a hole in their rotation. Enter Andrew Albers, who you may remember from the World Baseball Classic as the guy who pitched terribly for Team Canada against the United States right after Ryan Dempster pitched even more terribly. Anyways, Albers filled in quite well in this one and was able to keep the Braves ahead in the early going. Rhiner Cruz followed with 2 innings before David Peterson pitched 1.1 innings and struck out a career-high 2 batters (joke). Kevin Chapman “closed it out” by allowing 4 runs in the 9th inning, but that didn’t really matter at that point and the GBraves took home a win.
Next Game: 4/16 @ (7-3) Durham Bulls @ 5:05 PM ET
GWN: Aaron Blair (1-1, 7.88 ERA)
DUR: Jacob Faria (1-0, 3.86 ERA)
(5-4) Mississippi Braves 2, (4-5) Tennessee Smokies 3 (Game 1) F/9
Travis Demeritte, 2B: 0-4, .273/.385/.515
Connor Lien, CF: 0-3, .222/.302/.444
Luis Valenzuela, SS: 1-4, SB .324/.361/.529
Max Fried, SP: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 3.52 ERA
(6-4) Mississippi Braves 3, (4-6) Tennessee Smokies 1 (Game 2)
Travis Demeritte, 2B: 1-3, RBI, .278/.381/.500
Connor Lien, CF: 1-3, 3B, .231/.302/.487
Luis Valenzuela, 3B: 1-3, .324/.359/.514
Mike Soroka, SP: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.77 ERA
Apparently playing double headers to avoid having to play on Easter Sunday is a thing in Tennessee, and the Smokies decided they loved playing baseball so much that 14 innings weren’t enough and they were gonna force extra innings. In game 1, the MBraves jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 6th after Carlos Franco and Joey Meneses homered, but the Smokies added a run each in the 6th and 7th to send it to extras and tacked on the walk off in the 9th to win. Then, Mike Soroka exacted his revenge and crushed the Smokies offense. Travis Demeritte knocked in the first run in the first, and then 2 more in the 2nd gave the MBraves a lead they would not surrender. Travis Demeritte only had one hit in the double header, but didn’t strike out giving him 42 plate appearances this season and only 6 strikeouts. Luis Valenzuela has continued his punishment of AA pitching, as did Carlos Franco who is now only 1 short of his home run total for all of 2016. Franco leads the Southern League in RBIs and is 5th in OPS. He also sports a .467 BABIP, so take from that what you will. Avoid Dylan Moore’s player page for a few days until his numbers normalize.
Max Fried made his return from the back injury in his first start, and quickly put to rest the concerns about any long-term affect. He struggled a bit with his control (<60% strikes) but was able to get quick outs (71 pitches in 6 IP), lots of ground balls (8 ground ball outs), and shut the Smokies offense down for much of the game. His game score of 69 was his highest regular season number since his 75 on June 29 of last season. Mike Soroka followed his Mississippi debut with another masterpiece, pitching 6 ⅔ innings of scoreless ball with only 2 base runners allowed, before a home run ended his bid for the first shutout of the Southern League season. Soroka has not allowed a walk in his 11 ⅔ IP this season, with 14 strikeouts and only 5 hits allowed.
(4-6) Florida Fire Frogs 5, (5-5) St. Lucie Mets 9
- Jonathan Morales, C: 2-4, HR 3 RBI, .267/.290/.367
- Austin Riley, 3B: 0-4, .211/.268/.368
- Alex Jackson, DH: 0-3, HBP, .289/.325/.579
- Touki Toussaint, SP: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 4.50 ERA
A strong 9th inning was not enough for the Fire Frogs to hop back into this one, having already fallen down by 7 runs at that point. Ronald Acuna sat his 2nd straight game out. Jonathan Morales hit his first home run of the season as part of a 2 hit performance, which was also his first extra base hit of what has been a tough season so far for he and the rest of the Fire Frog offense. Alex Jackson saw his 8 game hitting streak end with his 0-3 night, but reached base with a hit by pitch to extend his on base streak to 9 straight games. Austin Riley has struggled in the early going this season, but has only a .240 BABIP and is striking out at a lower rate than he was at this point last season (an equal rate to his overall 2016 season at 26.8%-he was over 40% last season at this point). Tyler Neslony came up just a triple short of the cycle, going 3-3 with a walk and an RBI in place of Acuna.
How you view Touki Toussaint’s start is likely all in how you view him as a player. There was a huge positive in him striking out 8 batters and not walking any over 5 innings pitched (73% strikes), but he allowed 2 home runs that plated 3 runs and was leaving a lot of pitches over the plate. Touki has shown he can miss bats even when he struggles with his control, and his willingness to attack was the key to him keeping his walk rates down in this one. Still, he made mistake and Mets hitters were able to capitalize on them, something that will become more and more of a theme as he moves up the ladder if he can’t begin to turn that attacking mode into less of a “throw it down the middle and hope they can’t hit you” and more of a “throw it for strikes, mix your pitches well, and know they can’t hit your best”. The transition is in place, and Touki will never have that much command so his ability to miss bats will be tested if continues to be unable to make those mistakes stay in the lower part of the zone. Jacob Webb pitched 2 scoreless innings, and then the game was put out of reach when Sean McLaughlin allowed 4 runs in his innings of work.
4/16 vs (5-5) St. Lucie Mets 1:00 PM ET
FLO: Luiz Gohara (0-0, 2.00 ERA)
STL: Joe Shaw (0-0, 7.20 ERA)
(7-3) Rome Braves 2, (7-3) Charleston Riverdogs 4
Randy Ventura, RF: 3-5, RBI, SB, .438/.486/.469
Tanner Murphy, DH: 0-4, BB, .238/.393/.333
Juan Yepez, 3B: 1-4, 2B .342/.359/.553
Joey Wentz, SP: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 5.00 ERA
The Rome Braves ran wild and racked up 4 stolen bases, but went 2-12 with RISP and left 6 men in scoring position in the game, ultimately taking a 4-2 loss. The good news is that Randy Ventura has continued to Dykstra his way to an above .400 average, has recorded 7 stolen bases, and has consistently put himself in position to impact the game. Ventura is in the middle of an 8 game hitting streak dating back to the second game of the season, this being his first 3 hit game of the season and 5th multi hit game in 9 total appearances. He has reached base at least once in every single game this season, and at least twice in all but 2 of them. On the other hand Lucas Herbert struggled today with 3 strikeouts, 3 stolen bases allowed (Joey Wentz could use some work holding runners), and a passed ball. Kurt Hoekstra reached base in all 4 plate appearances with 2 singles, a walk, and a hit by pitch.
Joey Wentz pitched 5 solid innings for the Braves, leaving them with a 2-1 lead. He only walked 2 in the game and threw 44 of his 68 pitches for a strike, but had 3 wild pitches. He struck out 5, but interestingly his velocity was reported in the high 80s only touching 91, a far cry from his amateur numbers and a bit concerning early in the season and with his history of arm troubles. Tucker Davidson pitched in relief and allowed the first runs of his season, blowing Rome’s lead but striking out 2 and walking none in 2 innings of work. Bladimir Matos allowed 3 baserunners in his 2 innings of work but only one of them scored, that on a home run.
Next Game: 4/16 Rome Braves vs Charleston RiverDogs 2:00 PM ET
ROM: Ryan Lawlor (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
CSC: Nick Nelson (0-0, 6.75 ERA)