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Braves Minor League recap: Chad Pinder homers in Gwinnett debut

Recent waiver pickups Pinder and Dereck Rodriguez each played their first games in the organization

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves affiliates had a pretty big day as they won three of their four games including an extra-inning affair in Gwinnett. Chad Pinder delivered the big hit in that game, smacking a two-run, go-ahead home run in the eleventh inning. Seth Keller continued his strong work in Augusta with one run allowed over four innings.

(18-23) Gwinnett Stripers 4, (24-18) Memphis Redbirds 3

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, 2B: 2-5, 2B, BB, .227/.361/.289
  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 2-5, BB, .363/.463/.588
  • Chad Pinder, RF: 4-6, HR, 2 RBI, .262/.338/.393
  • Beau Burrows, SP: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 5.18 ERA

Gwinnett kicked off the action on Thursday with an 11 AM start, and though they had to grind it through extra innings they eventually took the mid-afternoon win. The Stripers had hits in each of the first four innings but ended up going through that scoreless which let Memphis take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. The top of the order was able to respond in the top of the fifth inning, with Forrest Wall leading off the inning with a double. Vaughn Grissom followed with a hit that moved Wall to third, and Chadwick Tromp brought home Gwinnett’s first run with a ground out. Both sides held steady from there, and the Stripers came to bat in the top of the ninth needing to get a run to extend their chances. They got a good start to that with Grissom and Tromp each drawing a walk to lead off the inning, and Nick Solak delivered the game-tying hit with one out. A hit batter loaded the bases with one out in the inning but a force out at home and routine fly out to right kept the game tied. Neither side came up with the run in the tenth inning, and Gwinnett had first crack at taking their first lead of the game in the eleventh. Chad Pinder made sure to leave little question, drilling an opposite field home run to cap off a 4-6 Gwinnett debut.

Gwinnett rolled out a slew of pitchers to get through this game, starting with Beau Burrows at the top. Burrows tip-toed around four hits and a walk to throw three scoreless innings, but after loading the bases with two outs in the fourth inning he was pulled from the game. Nolan Kingham needed to just get one out to preserve the shutout, but allowed a ground ball which found the hole in a shifted infield to score two runs. Burrows was the only Gwinnett pitcher to be charged an earned run as the bullpen stepped up to provide fantastic work. Dereck Rodriguez threw a scoreless fifth inning in his debut with the organization, allowing one hit. Nick Margevicius took up the bulk of the rest of the game as he threw three scoreless innings before turning the ball over to Yacksel Rios. Rios made no sweat of the ninth inning, but after getting an easy first out in the bottom of the tenth he allowed consecutive walks to load the bases. His response to this was to strike out the next two batters to send the game to the eleventh. Danny Young had the task of closing out the win in the tenth inning and he did not make it easy. Young allowed a one out hit to put the tying run on base, then the next batter cranked one into the right field corner. Fortunately for Young and the Stripers it hopped over the wall for a ground rule double which prevented the run on first from scoring. Young followed with a critical strikeout for the second out then closed the game on a ground out to escape disaster.

(16-19) Mississippi Braves 8, (18-18) Montgomery Biscuits 0

Box Score

  • Javier Valdes, C: 2-3, HR, 2 BB, RBI, .303/.440/.591
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B: 2-5, HR, 4 RBI, .209/.339/.516
  • Jose Montilla, SP: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 5.51 ERA
  • Victor Vodnik, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 5.29 ERA

Mississippi gave us a bit of relief from close games, blowing the Biscuits off of the field with a dominant pitching performance. Javier Valdes put the Braves on top in the first inning with a solo home run, his fifth of the season. Valdes reached base four times in this game and among Southern League hitters with 60 or more plate appearances he leads in OPS (1.031) and wRC+ (183). Valdes has as many walks as strikeouts this season and given that he is already 24 years old shouldn’t be far from a promotion to Triple-A. Drew Lugbauer had a huge day at the plate as well and in the fourth inning extended the Braves lead with a two run double to make it 3-0. Lugbauer also had a two-run home run in the seventh inning, which paired up with Justin Dean’s two-run shot earlier in the same inning.

Jose Montilla hasn’t had a particularly good season for Mississippi, but he was outstanding in this one as he retired all nine batters he faced. Only one ball left the infield, and Montilla only had to use 37 pitches. Hayden Deal allowed a lead off double in the fifth inning which ensured Mississippi wouldn’t get a no hitter, but he threw two scoreless innings and struck out four batters. Domingo Gonzalez struck out the side in the sixth inning and totaled four across two scoreless innings. Mississippi didn’t get into any trouble until the bottom of the eighth inning, at which point they already lead 8-0. Jake McSteen allowed a leadoff walk in the eighth and for the first time Montgomery got two men on in the same inning when Erik Ostberg doubled with one out. On that play Drew Campbell in left field tracked the roller all the way to the wall in left center and a strong relay between him and Cal Conley would cut down the runner trying to score and preserve a shutout. Victor Vodnik tacked on a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts to close out a big win for the Braves.

(18-17) Rome Braves 4, (12-22) Hickory Crawdads 3

Box Score

  • Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., CF: 2-4, 3 RBI, .218/.357/.363
  • Nacho Alvarez, SS: 1-4, .284/.452/.333
  • Patrick Halligan, SP: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2.60 ERA
  • Luis Vargas, RP: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6.04 ERA

Early runs are the theme of the final two innings, with both being battles to see if the bullpen could hold leads. Rome had a good opportunity in the first inning of their game with Kevin Kilpatrick and Geraldo Quintero each reaching base, but in a play we can’t see due to there not being MiLB tv in Hickory, Kilpatrick was doubled off on a fly out from Nacho Alvarez and Quintero was caught stealing to end the inning. Rome got on the board first thanks to poor defense from Hickory, who allowed Kadon Morton to reach on an error, steal second base, advance to third on a throwing error, then score on a sacrifice fly from Kilpatrick. Rome came up with a big inning in the fourth as they small-balled their way to three runs. Rome had three walks and three singles in the inning, with a two run single from Kilpatrick being the biggest hit. The Braves wouldn’t score for the rest of the game. Nacho Alvarez had one hit, returning to the lineup after he was pulled from Sunday’s game early then missed the first two games this week.

Patrick Halligan has been superb for Rome as a long reliever, but his first start with the Braves organization was not his finest day. Halligan allowed only one hit across his first three innings, but Hickory made a lot of contact against him. Every egg must crack, and in the fourth the hits started to fall as Halligan allowed three singles to start the inning before being pulled for Luis Vargas. Vargas allowed a sacrifice fly and “soft line drive” single which each scored a run before he closed out the inning and kept Rome clinging to a 4-3 lead. Vargas was outstanding for Rome, and after allowing a one out hit in the next inning would not allow another as he went five scoreless innings to hold onto Rome’s lead. Rob Griswold pitched a perfect ninth inning to secure the win, and Rome has clawed their way above .500 making them the only affiliate (so far) with that record.

(17-18) Augusta GreenJackets 8, (17-18) Myrtle Beach Pelicans 10

Box Score

  • EJ Exposito, 2B: 2-5, RBI, .263/.345/.408
  • Tyler Collins, CF: 1-3, 2B, 2 BB, 3 RBI, .204/.276/.269
  • David McCabe, 3B: 1-2, 3 BB, .263/.386/.430
  • Seth Keller, RP: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1.17 ERA

We could have had a perfect day on the farm, and Augusta came close, but the offense didn’t get enough help late to overcome Myrtle Beach. This game started with an over hour long delay, and after that only one team came out ready to play. Myrtle Beach walked two batters and hit another in the first inning, which Augusta would cash into runs. David McCabe brought the first home with a base hit, and Tyler Collins gave Augusta breathing room on a two-run double with two outs. Again in the third inning Myrtle Beach hurt themselves as they walked the bases loaded to start the inning. EJ Exposito gave them another un on a base hit and a wild pitch and two sacrifice flies would extend Augusta’s lead to 7-0. Well a 7-0 lead quickly turned to a 9-7 deficit, and Augusta couldn’t really do anything when the Pelicans weren’t walking the world. In the sixth inning they again loaded the bases with no outs just on walks, and Augusta’s only run from that inning came with two outs when Tyler Collins also walked to force in a run and make it 9-8. Augusta just couldn’t help themselves, and scored eight runs in spite of only getting five hits.

Jhancarlos Lara started this game off well as he retired the first seven batters he faced, but he stayed in perhaps a bit too long as Myrtle Beach started to take advantage. He walked consecutive batters in the third inning then threw a wild pitch before balking home the Pelicans first run. With two outs Lara allowed three consecutive hits, scoring two runs and ending Lara’s day. Jason Franks put an end to that inning, but was the leader of Augusta’s nightmare fourth inning. Franks allowed three hits and three walks in the fourth inning, scoring three runs and leaving the bases loaded as he was pulled from the game with one out. Seth Keller has been Augusta’s best pitcher this year, but was unable to escape the jam and allowed a go-ahead two run single to the first batter he faced. One more run scored on an infield single before the inning mercifully ended as a second runner tried to score on the play and was out by 40 feet before being tracked down in the rundown. Keller pitched a good game on the mound, but his command really was not there. Keller only walked one batter over four innings, but hit three batters and it was two of those that ended his day in the eighth inning. Darling Florentino would allow one of those inherited runners to score as he closed out the eighth.

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