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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap: Riley knocks 4 hits, Alex Jackson homers

A strong performance from the middle of the Fire Frogs order was not enough. Gwinnett won in walk off fashion and Rio Ruiz reached base 3 times

Austin Riley
Austin Riley had his first career 4 hit game Wednesday

(8-5) Gwinnett Braves 7, (7-5) Rochester Red Wings 6

Box Score

Rio Ruiz, 3B: 2-4, BB, .222/.276/.296

Ozzie Albies, 2B: 1-5, 2B, .288/.313/.458

Lane Adams., RF: 2-5, 3 RBI, .341/.349/.659

Matt Wisler, SP: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 3.50 ERA

Gwinnett took a lead and blew it twice in this one, including giving up 4 runs over the last 2 innings to give up a 5-2 advantage. The offense was able to come through each time, culminating in a bases-loaded walkoff single for Lane Adams. Adams now leads the International League with 15 RBIs. Ozzie Albies led off the bottom of the first with a double to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, and came around to score the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly from Matt Kemp. Kemp went 1-3 in the game in addition to that SAC Fly. Rio Ruiz had come into this game hitting 2-24 with 11 strikeouts over his previous week, but broke the slump by reaching base 3 times in the game. One of his hits came off of a left handed pitcher. Ruiz also made a diving play to start a double play in the 3rd inning.

Matt Wisler had a solid performance in his 7 innings of work, holding down a Red Wings offense that leads the International League with a .818 team OPS. Wisler threw 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes and was able to use his defense to get through a quality start and leave the GBraves with a 3 run lead. Unfortunately, both of Wisler’s runs allowed came off of solo home runs, which is not something we were hoping to see from Wisler. Hopefully this is the blip on the radar, as he was able to avoid giving up home runs in his first 2 games. Jason Hursh allowed his first (and second) run of the season for Gwinnett, allowing 3 hits and 1 walk. All of the hits Hursh allowed were single, which is just going to happen sometimes for a guy with his ground-ball-heavy, pitch-to-contact profile. David Hernandez gave up 2 runs (1 earned) to blow the save for Gwinnett before they were able to fight back and give him the win.

Next Game: 4/20 vs (7-5) Rochester Red Wings @ 12:05 PM ET

Probable Starters

GWN: Lucas Sims (1-0, 4.66 ERA)

ROC: Nick Tepesch (1-0, 2.77 ERA)

The Red Wings are a team that doesn’t strike out a ton and is able to work the count. This could be a huge test for Sims and a very tough matchup. Still, Sims is 4th in the league in K/9 so he should still get his share of strikeouts. Offensively, the Gwinnett Braves lead the league in strikeouts by a wide margin, so the opportunity to face a pitcher in Nick Tepesch who isn’t adept at getting swings and misses should play well for them. I’d expect a big day from Ruiz once again.

(7-6) Mississippi Braves 1, (5-8) Mobile Baybears 5

Box Score

Travis Demeritte, 2B: 1-4, .255/.352/.426

Connor Lien, CF: 0-4, .204/.278/.408

Carlos Franco, 3B: 3-4, 2B, .310/.370/.619

Matt Withrow, SP: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 3.52 ERA

Where to start with this offense...well, they actually didn’t perform that terribly today. The MBraves managed 10 hits and 2 walks but only scored 1 run and left Matt Withrow without support for a great start. After a perfect first 2 innings, the MBraves got at least one runner on base every inning but went 1-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 5 players in scoring position with 2 outs. Travis Demeritte had one hit on the day, but struck out twice. That was only his second multi-strikeout game of the season-in 2016 he had 8 multi strike out games and 23 Ks after game 13. Carlos Franco’s strong and partially BABIP-fueled run gave him 3 more hits in this contest but no runs produced to show for it. Most of the rest of the offense struggled, including another 0 hits performance for Dylan Moore who can’t possibly continue to hit this poorly right? Small samples and whatnot.

Now on to the bright spot in this afternoon’s game-the performance of Matt Withrow. While he was overlooked going into the season due to the sheer strength of the other 4 members of the rotation Withrow has held his own in his first 3 starts with 16 K/5 BB in 16 IP. While today’s game was Withrow’s worst in regards to his control, he was able to work around his self-imposed troubles and avoid giving up runs. The bullpen did not fair nearly as well in this game. Jesse Biddle had a poor inning of work, allowing 2 hits and 3 walks that lead to 2 runs for the Bay Bears. Wes Parsons allowed 7 hits in his 3 innings of work, most in a 3 run 9th inning that put the game out of reach for Mississippi. Parsons struck out 4 and walked none, and all 7 of the hits he allowed were singles.

Next Game: 4/20 vs (5-8) Mobile Bay Bears 8:00 PM ET

Probable Starters

MIS: Max Fried (0-1, 3.52 ERA)

MOB: Jordan Kipper (0-1, 4.09 ERA)

The Mobile Bay Bears are the second worst scoring team in the Southern League, but Max Fried can’t take it easy as they also lead the league in walks drawn. Fried has struggled a bit with his command early, much like he did last season, and he needs to rein it in or he could be out of this game early as walks run his pitch count up.

(6-8) Florida Fire Frogs 3, (5-9) Fort Meyers Miracle 10

Box Score

  • Ronald Acuna, RF: 0-5, .209/.261/.349
  • Austin Riley, 3B: 4-5, 2B, .250/.311/.393
  • Alex Jackson, DH: 2-5, HR, 3 RBI, .308/.333/.577
  • Ricardo Sanchez, SP: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 7.36 ERA

Alex Jackson and Austin Riley were extremely good in today’s game, unfortunately there are 8 other players playing at any given time and the rest of those didn’t quite carry their weight. Jackson hit another bomb in this one, because that’s just what he does now, and that was his 4th of the season. Jackson is tied for the league lead in home runs and RBIs, leads the league in total bases, and is 4th in slugging percentage. Austin Riley’s 4-hit game was the first 4-hit game of his professional career, and he is tied with Jackson for the league lead in RBIs. Ronald Acuna has really struggled with strikeouts early in the season, which is both concerning and not at the same time. It’s definitely the worst span of his career, but he also tends to go on strikeout binges and is only 19, so historically there’s reason to believe he turns around in the next game or so. He has great bat-to-ball skills, but with him swinging as hard as he does and with the way he loads (along with age-typical bat plane and load inconsistencies) there are going to be times he will run into issues with his timing. It’s a fixable problem, but for the near future we’ll just have to live with these streaks.

It’s been strongly hinted (I asked one time) that I have to talk about pitchers in every single recap so unfortunately you’ll just have to sit through this one. Ricardo Sanchez was not good yet again and is simply avoiding contact or walks at all. He allowed 8 baserunners and wasn’t able to complete 4 innings before allowing 5 runs, and now carries a 7.36 ERA on the season. Josh Graham, Chase Johnson-Mullins, and Corbin Clouse combined to finish the game and allowed 5 more runs (4 earned). In total Fire Frogs pitchers allowed 13 hits and 6 walks and only struck out 3 batters. On the season the team has a 4.98 ERA, second worst in the league and has allowed more walks than any team in the league. Ah, the marvels of youth with the second youngest team in the league (the youngest is the only team with a higher team ERA).

Next Game: 4/20 @ (5-9) Fort Myers Miracle 6:35 PM ET

Probable Starters

FLO: Touki Toussaint (1-1, 4.50 ERA)

FTM: David Fischer (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Toussaint is facing a Fort Myers team that doesn’t draw very many walks (usually), but also limits their strikeouts effectively. Basically it’s Touki Toussaint vs the offensive opposite of Touki Toussaint so who knows what’s gonna happen tomorrow. Toussaint is a tough matchup for any team, but he’s going to have to rely on his defense more than usual, a defense that has struggled in the early going. Fischer, 27, is a relatively easy assignment for Florida. He’s pitching in affiliated ball for the first time since 2014, and could help spark a Fire Frogs team that has struggled in the early going. Of course, now that I said that which means he’s probably going to throw 7 shutout innings.

(9-5) Rome Braves 2, (9-5) Columbia Fireflies 3

Box Score

  • Randy Ventura, RF: 0-4, .372/.426/.395
  • Cristian Pache, CF: 0-4, .222/.255/.267
  • Juan Yepez, 3B: 2-4, 2B, SB, .346/.370/.538
  • Ian Anderson, SP: 4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 1.98 ERA

There was not all that much good for the Rome Braves offense in this one, as they couldn’t string together many hits and left with only 2 runs scored. Once again, Juan Yepez was the offensive backbone of the team with the only multi hit game and the only extra base hit. Yepez has hit safely in each of the last 8 games. And for the love of Freddie Freeman and all other good in this world can someone on this team draw a walk. Anthony Concepcion drew 3 in the first game against Columbia and the entire rest of the team has 3 walks in 3 games, with just one in the last 2 games.

If given the choice of which starter in the Rome rotation would struggled with his control, Ian Anderson would not have been my pick. It’s really early, but the 8 walks in less than 14 innings is not what we were expecting. The good thing is, nobody can actually hit Anderson so it’s not really hurt him so far this season. Anderson struck out 7 again today, is second in the Appalachian League with 23 strikeouts, and is 7th in the minor leagues in K/9. Matt Custred looked strong in his relief appearance, striking out 3 and not allowing a hit. He had his curveball working well, and when he can get both his double plus fastball and his curveball working in the same game he’s impossible for Low A hitters to square up. The entire Rome Braves staff racked up strikeouts in this one with 15 total, and they are second in the league in ERA as a team.

Next Game: 4/20 @ Greenville Drive 7:05 PM ET

Probable Starters

ROM: Joey Wentz (0-1, 5.00 ERA)

GVL: Robbie Sexton (0-0, 5.23 ERA)

The Braves will make the trip to Greenville and be greeted by Robbie Sexton, who in his career has allowed only 4 walks in 30 innings. Fantastic news, that. Offensively, Greenville is a middle-of-the-road team all around, but have been somewhat hard on left handed starters so far with 14 runs scored in 17.1 innings.

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