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Braves minor league recap: AJ Smith-Shawver fans nine

Smith-Shawver defended his title as the best prospect in the system by dominating Hudson Valley

AJ Smith-Shawver delivers a pitch for the Augusta GreenJackets Image Credit: CRSA Photography

There was much to be excited about down on the Atlanta Braves farm system, and the biggest positive came from the right arm of top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver. Gwinnett won their fifth straight game behind the bat of a streaking Braden Shewmake and Mississippi won an extra inning thriller to finally snap their losing streak.

(7-12) Gwinnett Stripers 5, (7-11) Omaha Storm Chasers 2

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, SS: 0-5, .226/.297/.258
  • Braden Shewmake, 2B: 2-4, 2B, BB, 2 SB, .265/.296/.485
  • Justin Dean, CF: 1-3, BB, .174/.344/.283
  • Dylan Dodd, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1.54 ERA
  • Yacksel Rios, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0.00 ERA

Gwinnett is rolling along in style and had no issue overcoming an early deficit to finish off their fifth straight win. After getting a 2-0 lead in the first inning Omaha’s starter decided walking the first two batters of the next inning was a wise strategy. The Stripers made a dent in that deficit on a sacrifice fly from Charlie Culberson that scored Braden Shewmake. In inning number four the Stripers got it back even, but it could have been a much bigger inning. Nick Solak, Shewmake, and Yolmer Sanchez each had hits to load the bases with no outs which brought up Culberson. Culberson got the run home but it was at the expense of two outs and the Stripers only managed one run from the rally. Gwinnett’s pitching staff continued to hold down the fort for them and in the sixth inning the Stripers finally took hold of a lead and never looked back. Again Shewmake was in the thick of things, leading off the inning with a double and then stealing third base. Yolmer Sanchez also drew a walk and advanced on a ground out to set up a two run single from Joe Hudson to give Gwinnett the 4-2 lead. Solak tacked on a run in the ninth with his second home run since joining the organization and that was the final of the game.

Dylan Dodd struggled to find the strike zone in this game and what resulted was an ugly line that still proved good enough to hold Omaha to two runs. Both of those came on a two run home run in the first inning and from there Dodd shut down the Storm Chasers and earned the win. It certainly wasn’t easy going as Dodd allowed four walks in the game, but the important factor was the weak ground ball contact he forced which allowed him to get the benefit of three double plays. Also an important note for this game is that if you are a baseball savant user I would advise you to disregard the results of the game. The calibration for Statcast in this one must have been off as Dodd was one of multiple pitchers who came in two mph or more below velocity norms. Grant Holmes has been a solid contributor for the Stripers bullpen this season and he gave them two perfect innings of relief to hold the lead. This gave Yacksel Rios a chance to earn the save and he once again closed out beautifully and maintained his 0.00 ERA for the season.

(3-10) Mississippi Braves 0, (10-3) Montgomery Biscuits 2

Box Score

  • Cal Conley, SS: 1-3, .222/.314/.289
  • Cody Milligan, CF: 1-3, .341/.482/.545
  • Scott Blewett, SP: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 2.70 ERA

(4-10) Mississippi Braves 6, (10-4) Montgomery Biscuits 2

Box Score

Cal Conley, SS: 1-3, BB, .229/.327/.292

Cody Milligan, CF-2B: 1-4, RBI, .333/.467/.521

Jacob Pearson, CF: 1-1, Grand Slam, .083/.083/.333

Luis De Avila, SP: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2.53 ERA

Victor Vodnik, RP: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7.36 ERA

Mississippi got off to a rough start in their quest to end their long losing streak but finally got the big hit to cap off the night with a win. Game one of their double started with the Braves behind early, as Montgomery struck first with a triple and a sacrifice fly to go up 1-0. Cal Conley got a single and stole second base to give Mississippi a little life in the bottom of the inning, but a line drive off of the bat of Landon Stephens found the glove of the first baseman and the small break to third by Conley was enough for him to be doubled off. In the fourth, sixth, and seventh innings Mississippi was able to get a runner into scoring position, but they never came through with a hit in that situation and so got shut out in the game. The Braves pitching staff did fantastic basically from that leadoff triple onward, not faltering again until Domingo Gonzalez threw a ball away on a grounder back to him to allow an insurance run to score in the top of the 7th inning.

Game two was a tight battle as well and had a lot more action to go around, but Luis De Avila did a marvelous job of limiting the action that the Biscuits got. The only runner to reach against him in the first two innings came on an error, and when Montgomery did get a hit De Avila picked him off to erase the damage. De Avila then walked the next batter Evan Edwards and catcher Javier Valdes’s poor throwing came into play quickly. Edwards stole second base without a throw, then on a dropped third strike play was able to get to third base before Valdes let a ball through which scored the runner. It was a tough luck two unearned runs for De Avila, but Mississippi made sure it wouldn’t be the end. Andrew Moritz had three hits on the day and his third inning triple set the stage for a comeback inning. Cody Milligan snuck a ball into center field to score the first run of the game, then stole second base, advanced to third as the throw skipped off of him and then came around to score when it snuck under the glove of the center fielder.

Both sides kept it even from there, and in the bottom of the seventh inning Mississippi had a great opportunity to win the game. Hudson Potts led off the inning with a double and Moritz reached on a bunt hit which put the Braves 90 feet away from their first win in nine games. Mississippi could not come throught, striking out twice and popping out into foul territory to send the game to extra innings. Alec Barger had the assignment in the top of the eighth and he made sure to keep the game tied at two with a strikeout and pop out to open the inning before getting the final batter to fly out to right field. Landon Stephens would start the eighth inning on second base, but Drew Lugbauer failed to advance him when he struck out. It didn’t matter much as the next two batters walked to bring up Jacob Pearson. Pearson hadn’t had a hit in Mississippi this season, but was brought on as a late substitution and found himself in the most important at bat of the game. He delivered in the biggest way possible, smacking a grand slam to send Mississippi home with a win.

(5-8) Rome Braves 2, (9-5) Hudson Valley Renegades 3

Box Score

  • Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., CF: 0-4, HBP, .235/.381/.333
  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 0-5, .240/.387/.280
  • Drake Baldwin, DH: 0-2, 3 BB, RBI, .241/.436/.414
  • AJ Smith-Shawver, SP: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 0.00 ERA

AJ Smith-Shawver is firing on all cylinders and rolled through Hudson Valley prior to running out of steam late. This was important for the Braves as the offense was not present for this game and didn’t have their first hit until Bryson Horne broke through with one out in the seventh inning. Three of Rome’s four hits came consecutively in this inning and tied the game at one, but a close play at the plate ended the inning and kept the game tied. It headed into extra innings the same way and Rome found themselves in the bottom of the inning needing to get two runs to send it to the 11th. They didn’t manage to get anyone home, simply scoring the extra runner on a couple of ground outs before a pop out ended the game.

Smith-Shawver started his day off with a battle, and Spencer Jones won it by leading off the game with a single. Smith-Shawver then retired the next six batters in a row including striking the final four of those as left the Hudson Valley hitters unable to manage against his stuff. A walk in the third inning broke that streak of retired hitters up but Smith-Shawver just started a new one and retired seven in a row including five strikeouts. Finally the cracks began to show as he neared his pitch limit in the fifth inning and his outing ended on a double and a walk. Both of Smith-Shawver’s walks came to the same hitter and both were competitive plate appearances as he ran the counts to 3-2 before issuing the walk. Smith-Shawver overwhelmed with his fastball and slider, the latter of which he commanded much better than last season and was able to get whiffs on in any count. When his secondary pitches didn’t land he just threw fastballs by the Renegades bats and also mixed in a slow curveball that is new to his arsenal that got a called strikeout and a couple of whiffs. Smith-Shawver is going to be an incredibly tough matchup for any High-A team and we’re likely to see many more of these games pretty much any time he can command his slider. The bullpen did a decent job in relief of Smith-Shawver, but Daniel Martinez was playing with fire throughout his outing as he had trouble locating the strike zone. Eventually he cracked in the seventh, allowing a walk and two hits to put Hudson Valley on top. From there Jonathan Hughes retired the next five hitters, but after allowing two to reach in the ninth inning had to be rescued by Tyler Owens. Owens struggled to miss bats in the tenth inning and ended up allowing two runs on two hits and a hit batter to take the loss in the game.

(5-6) Augusta GreenJackets, (6-6) Myrtle Beach Pelicans PPD

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