The Atlanta Braves had a day off on Thursday, and that made their minor league system the center of attention for the day. Unfortunately that turned into a frustrating evening as the system got swept thanks to some unexciting offensive performances.
(2-9) Gwinnett Stripers 0, (7-5) Memphis Redbirds 3
- Braden Shewmake, SS: 2-4, .214/.233/.333
- Hoy Park, 3B: 2-4, .273/.360/.270
- Nolan Kingham, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 4.91 ERA
- Yacksel Rios, RP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
It’s been a rough season for the Gwinnett Stripers, and with Vaughn Grissom expected to hold down shortstop in Atlanta for the time being it could be getting worse. The Striper offense has made a habit of not showing up for games, and despite a 2-4 performance from Braden Shewmake as he begins to turn his season around they were shut out. Gwinnett has the second-worst team OPS in the International League along with having the lowest slugging percentage and fewest extra base hits. Today they managed to get enough runners on base with nine hits and a walk but couldn’t come through in the clutch. Gwinnett went 1-6 with five strikeouts with runners in scoring position and the lone hit was a single off of the glove of the shortstop that failed to advance the runner from second base.
Pitching has been equally to blame for Gwinnett’s struggles as they have the second worst ERA in the International League, but today it’s hard to blame the pitching staff. Nolan Kingham was especially effective, getting the start in the game and giving the Stripers six innings of one run ball. Kingham filled up the strike zone with 52 strikes on 77 pitches and after three hits in the first inning allowed just one more over his final five. The bullpen was not friendly to Kingham’s cause, as the first man out of it was Grant Holmes who walked the bases loaded before being pulled with two outs in the seventh inning. Jon Olczak stranded all of those runners with a strikeout of Masyn Winn, but in the eighth inning he got into trouble of his own and allowed a two-run double that broke the game open. Yacksel Rios has been Gwinnett’s best reliever and he continued his dominance with three strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning. Gwinnett will have Jared Shuster on the mound next, who is trying to snap the Stripers’s seven-game losing streak.
n(3-3) Mississippi Braves 3, (3-3) Chattanooga Lookouts 8
- Drew Lugbauer, 1B: 2-4, HR, 3 RBI, .250/.333/.688
- Cal Conley, 2B: 0-3, BB, .136/.296/.182
- Javier Valdes, C: 1-3, BB, .083/.313/.083
- Alan Rangel, SP: 5 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 9.00 ERA
- Victor Vodnik, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0.00 ERA
You will find no solace in Mississippi, who got behind early in the game and never really made a huge push to get back into things. The lone scoring play for the Braves came in the seventh inning when Drew Lugbauer demolished his second home run of the season to make it a 6-3 game. Lugbauer has been Mississippi’s second-most productive bat by OPS, but that has nearly all come from the long ball as he has nine strikeouts in 18 plate appearances. Cal Conley has struggled at the plate as his strikeout rates have soared early in the season, carrying over from what was a difficult spring in big league camp. Luke Waddell (Mississippi’s best hitter thus far) had the day off, which could be simple rest but given context is more likely a promotion to Gwinnett to replace Grissom.
Alan Rangel brought the strikeouts to Chattanooga, but unfortunately the trees in the outfield were also on the lookout as he gave up three home runs and five runs. Rangel breezed past the first five hitters while striking out three before allowing back-to-back home runs in the second inning. Rangel then retired four straight hitters before the real trouble began in the fourth inning. Rangel allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach base before a three-run home run put Mississippi into a deficit they could not recover from. Mississippi’s bullpen was not much better with Jose Montilla allowing a run in the sixth inning and Alex Segal giving two of Lugbauer’s back in the bottom of the seventh inning. Victor Vodnik gave us the best performance of the day, dominating the eighth inning with two strikeouts.
(2-3) Rome Braves 2, (4-0) Bowling Green Hot Rods 3
- Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., CF: 1-5, .316/.458/.368
- Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-4, BB, .294/.478/.353
- Bryson Horne, 1B: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, .125/.125/.313
- Ian Mejia, SP: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2.70 ERA
- Brent Burgess, RP: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4.50 ERA
Rome played the most exciting game out of the bunch, but unfortunately came up short in the end as the offense struggled to produce. Rome’s problems were built by the strikeout as they suffered 15 of them including eight with runners in scoring position. Bryson Horne gave the Braves a lift in the fourth inning on a two run home run, putting Rome up 2-1. Ian Mejia gave that run back in the bottom of the inning and the ineptitude with runners in scoring position set in after that. In total Rome went 1-10 with runners in scoring position with the home run providing the lone bright moment. Nacho Alvarez was unsurprisingly on the base paths quite a bit and scored on the Horne home run. He has a .478 on base percentage, a walk rate over 20%, and a strikeout rate below 10% this season, but just hasn’t hit the ball very hard in the early going.
Ian Mejia had a solid day on the mound, but it was unfortunately not enough in the end to get the win. Mejia retired seven straight batters to start the game, but had a control blip in the third inning that led to him walking two straight batters. He finished the inning with two strikeouts, but not before allowing a double which scored one of those runners. Mejia lost favor with the BABIP gods in the next inning as two chopping ground balls found holes in the defense for base hits and Mejia ultimately allowed the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Mejia bounced back with a clean fifth to finish out a solid start and a career high in strikeouts. The Rome bullpen did well and backed Mejia up with two scoreless innings before Brent Burgess cracked in the eighth inning and allowed a solo home run which ultimately sunk the Braves.