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Braves Minor League Recap: Javier Valdes clubs two home runs

Valdes continues to rake and got his OPS over 1.000

COLLEGE BASEBALL: FEB 17 Jacksonville State at FIU
I am very excited to discover we actually have access to some pictures of Valdes from college didn’t expect that
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was a busy day on the Atlanta Braves farm system with five total games going, and the offenses were mostly clicking as there were 11 home runs. Jared Shuster and JR Ritchie were the most notable pitchers in action, and each had their struggles in the fourth inning of their starts.

(10-15) Gwinnett Stripers 9, (10-15) Buffalo Bisons 6

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, SS: 2-4, RBI, .200/.300/.260
  • Braden Shewmake, 2B: 1-3, 2 BB, SB, .253/.292/.451
  • Nick Solak, LF: 3-5, HR, 3 RBI, .303/.303/.606
  • Jared Shuster, SP: 4 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 9.00 ERA
  • Grant Holmes, RP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1.38 ERA

Gwinnett’s offense was able to keep pace in this one before having a big late outburst to snatch a win. Yolmer Sanchez netted the Stripers an early cushion, with his first-inning three-run home run representing the biggest play in the early portion of the game. Buffalo put up a four spot in the fourth inning, and though Gwinnett continued to get runners aboard they didn’t capitalize through the middle innings with seven runners left on base in the second through sixth. The Bisons extended their lead with two more runs in the top of the seventh and Gwinnett was left needing some late game magic to win. They got one of those back in the bottom of the inning with Braden Shewmake getting the rally started on a base hit then scoring on one from his double play partner Luke Waddell. The eighth inning saw Gwinnett finally make their big move in the game and they quickly tied on back-to-back home runs from Joshua Fuentes and Hendrik Clementina on the first two pitches of the inning. After this Eli White and Forrest Wall reached base and Nick Solak gave the Stripers the lead and the game with a three-run home run. The Stripers rank second-to-last in the International League in home runs (20) as a team, but broke rode a season high four to this win.

Jared Shuster’s continued struggles to miss bats at the upper levels bit him in this game, as Buffalo finally managed to jump on him after making consistent contact throughout. While his changeup puts up ludicrous numbers, Shuster only got four swings-and-misses combined on 32 swings at his slider and fastball. The contact wasn’t weak as well, and according to Statcast (keep in mind Triple-A data is very inconsistent) the Bisons also put up an average exit velocity of 97.1 mph against those two pitches. Still, Shuster managed to skirt trouble for three innings with the help of his defense, with the biggest play from them coming on a double that a strong Eli White throw and Shewmake relay turned into an out on the bases. Unfortunately all good things must end and in the fourth the Bisons jumped on Shuster for two home runs, two doubles, and four runs to take a lead. This ended Shuster’s day on the mound and began Joe Harvey’s, who threw two scoreless innings to bridge the middle of the game. Danny Young put up a stinker with two runs allowed in the seventh inning, the first of which came on a double from Stripers legend Jordan Luplow. Grant Holmes took the win in the game, and he did a lot to deserve it with two scoreless innings and two strikeouts while only allowing one hit.

(8-12) Mississippi Braves 7, (11-9) Biloxi Shuckers 6

Box Score

  • Javier Valdes, C: 3-5, 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, .231/.322/.288
  • Cade Bunnell, 2B: 2-5, 2 2B, .200/.294/.289
  • Domingo Robles, SP: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 2.57 ERA

Seven runs was narrowly enough for Mississippi to win this game, as the bullpen tried and failed to choke away big games from Domingo Robles and Javier Valdes. Valdes has been Mississippi’s offensive star over the past two weeks and two it to new heights in this game with two home runs and a double in five at bats. Valdes’s final home run was the all-important seventh run of the game and was part of two hit in the inning. The other came to lead off and was from Justin Dean who was recently sent back down to Double-A for his third straight season there. Most of Mississippi’s offense came in a five run sixth inning and one of Cade Bunnell’s two doubles in the game put him in scoring position as the go ahead run. Beau Philip singled to tie the game and then Drew Campbell lifted a sac fly which scored Bunnell and gave the Braves a lead. Then a single and a passed ball put two runners in scoring position where an Andrew Moritz single would cap off the scoring.

Domingo Robles made his third start for Mississippi and each time he has gone out there he has improved his results. Robles struck out a season-high eight batters in this game and showed by far his best control so far with one walk and 66% of his pitches going for strikes. Unfortunately for he and the rest of the Braves pitching staff the Mississippi defense wasn’t prepared to provide much support as they committed four errors and allowed a passed ball which all totaled up to two unearned runs. After Robles finished his night Hayden Deal came in to protect a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning and immediately made it a critical situation as he walked the first two batters. He fortunately got a double play to put him a play away from escaping, but a throwing error allowed a run to score which thankfully did not turn into more. Domingo Gonzalez was horrendous in the eighth inning, allowing two walks and two hits, which were compounded by a fielding error from Cal Conley on the one play that could have recorded an out. This brought in two runs to score and left the bases loaded with no outs for Jake McSteen. McSteen provided significant relief, getting mediocre contact which led to only one run scoring on a sacrifice fly before he got of things with a 7-6 lead still intact. McSteen made a bit of trouble for himself with a hit and a walk in the ninth inning, but no one hit the ball particularly hard against him and he lowered his ERA to 2.70 on the season.

(8-10) Rome Braves 7, (12-7) Greensboro Grasshoppers 4

Box Score

  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-2, 2 BB, SB, .297/.451/.359
  • Kevin Kilpatrick, CF: 2-3, 2B, BB, .226/.395/.323
  • Adam Zebrowski, C: 3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, .385/.510/.821
  • Rolddy Munoz, SP: 4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 3.38 ERA

(8-11) Rome Braves 4, (13-7) Greensboro Grasshoppers 9

Box Score

  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-3, BB, 2 RBI, .299/.453/.358
  • Kevin Kilpatrick, CF: 1-4, .227/.388/.318
  • Brandol Mezquita, RF: 1-2, 2B, RBI, .184/.231/.367
  • Luis Vargas, SP: 3 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 12.79 ERA

We got a double shot of Rome Braves baseball and a split of the games after an atrocious pitching performance in game two. They opened with the more fun performance, and the biggest contributions came from the bat of Adam Zebrowski. Zebrowski clubbed a pair of home runs in the game, and in eleven games this season already has four home runs and a .436 isolated power. He wasn’t the only one to bring the lumber with Ignacio Alvarez extended his hitting streak to six games with a third inning single plating two runs as part of a four run inning. Kadon Morton homered for the first run in that inning. Getting the start was Rolddy Munoz, and he really struggled to find the zone in this game with five walks issued across four innings. Munoz created traffic in each inning with at least one free pass and ended up allowing three runs in his worst outing of the season. Daysbel Hernandez has struggled for Rome during his rehab stint, but this time put together a respectable outing with no runs or walks allowed in an inning of work. Armed with a 7-3 lead Hunter Riggins would take this one home, allowing a run over the final two innings to secure the win.

Luis Vargas threw the batting practice for game two as he allowed three home runs and eight runs over three innings to take the loss. The basepaths were a mess of runners throughout his outing, and a two run shot gave the Grasshoppers a lead in the first inning. The next inning Vargas allowed two hits before Tsung-Che Cheng broke the game open by smacking a three-run home run. Not all of the runs came via the long ball as a third inning triple brought one home, but most did and two batters later the final of them brought in two to make it 8-0 in favor of Greensboro. With no Zebrowski the Rome offense had much less success in this game, and their fourth inning run was more a gift than anything else. It took two walks, a catcher’s interference call, and a hit batter to get it done, but the Braves were finally on the board and they weren’t done. Alvarez knocked in two runs with a seventh inning single that also extended his hitting streak to seven games and put him third in the league with 19 RBI. Then more gifts as Bryson Horne got the second hit batter RBI of the game for the final run either side scored.

(7-11) Augusta GreenJackets 3, (11-8) Columbia Fireflies 5

Box Score

  • Ambioris Tavarez, SS: 0-4, 3 K, .169/.300/.203
  • EJ Exposito, 2B: 1-2, HR, BB, 2 RBI, .185/.303/.481
  • Justin Janas, 1B: 3-4, .326/.404/.413
  • JR Ritchie, SP: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 6.52 ERA
  • Jorge Bautista, RP: 4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 3.75 ERA

Augusta played a nasty little game, falling just short in a loss that ended with the tying run on base. The GreenJackets had to fight back from a deficit in the fourth inning, and EJ Exposito was the man with the wood dropping a two-run home run to tie it up. That didn’t last long, however as the Fireflies would get three more over the next two innings and Augusta had no answer on their end. Finally with the storm gathering strength in the eighth inning they took advantage of the nasty conditions. A one out walk and then base hit from Justin Janas brought the tying run to the plate in Dawson Dimon. Dimon chopped a ball to third base, but the fielder couldn’t handle the play and a run came in to score with Dimon standing on first and Janas on third. The Fireflies, not wanting the game to continue longer through the rain did their best job of wasting time and decided to make a pitching change. This tactic was enough for all sides to agree it was no longer safe to play and the game was delayed with one out and the tying run on first base. Eventually the game was called and Columbia escaped with a win.

I once again have JR Ritchie day on my plate, and it was quite a reflection of the first two games. For three innings Ritchie was all but untouchable, striking out five batters and walking none as he easily dispatched the Fireflies lineup. Columbia got a two out double in the first inning as their only trace of very solid contact, then bunted for a hit in the third which was the only other runner Ritchie allowed. Then we reached the fourth inning and like Ritchie’s last start things got away from him a bit. He allowed a leadoff walk, his first of the season, then a base hit to put him in a load of trouble. Ritchie then seemingly caught a break as he made an athletic play on a popped up bunt to get the out, but sailed the throw to center field when he tried to nab the runner off of second base. Then after the throw in from center Ambioris Tavarez tried to make a play at first and he too sailed a throw which allowed the run to score. Ritchie followed that up with another walk which ended his day on the mound. While stadium radars aren’t particularly reliable for true velocity readings, they’re typically consistent inning-to-inning and the broadcast gun showed Ritchie sitting 94-96 early in the game before trailing down to 92-94 in the fourth. Rob Griswold didn’t help Ritchie’s cause and allowed an inherited runner to score on a hit but did get out of the game with it still close. Jorge Bautista added to his solid strikeout numbers with seven of them across four innings, but ran into trouble as he allowed three runs on two home runs and ended up taking the loss in the game.

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