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Braves Minor League Recap: Ambioris Tavarez leaves game after hit by pitch

Tavarez was hit in the face/head area and immediately left the game

Credit: Garrett Spain - Battery Power

It’s hard to say anything about this day on the Atlanta Braves farm system other than a hearty “ew”. Five of six affiliates took losses, with four being of the one run variety, and Ambioris Tavarez left the game in Augusta with a scary injury. This is one to file away in our “never look back at this again” cabinet and we can look forward to better days tomorrow.

(33-41) Gwinnett Stripers 3, (31-42) Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 1

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 2-4, 3B, .319/.380/.473
  • Braden Shewmake, 2B: 1-3, 2B, .220/.293/.383
  • Justus Sheffield, SP: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 7.82 ERA

Gwinnett jumped out to an early lead and relied on pitching to take home a win, and it’s a good thing they did as it was the only win in the system on Saturday. Gwinnett’s success peaked with a big second inning, led off by a double from Braden Shewmake. Shewmake would end up scoring the game’s first run on an RBI single from Joshua Fuentes, and Magneuris Sierra made it two by doubling home Fuentes. Vaughn Grissom added a bit of insurance in the third inning when he cracked a sinking line drive the snuck past the left fielder’s diving effort and went all the way around to third for a triple. Grissom would score on a sacrifice fly on the next play and Gwinnett’s offense would be a non-factor from that point on.

2023 has been unkind to Justus Sheffield thus far, but he’ll hope that this outing was a turning point as it was his best work to date. Sheffield put up a phenomenal stat line through four innings, striking out five batters and allowing only one baserunner on a first inning walk. He was utilizing his slider to its best ability, but the leadoff hitter in the next inning became the first of the game to really square him up and singled into left field. The trouble continued as a bloop single put two runners on, but Sheffield didn’t let things unravel and got a fly out and critical double play to end the Jacksonville threat. Sheffield issues a leadoff walk in the sixth inning but would retire the next three to preserve his shutout through his final line. The Gwinnett bullpen followed up with fantastic work as well, starting with a perfect seventh inning from Beau Burrows. Jacksonville only got a run on a leadoff home run from Paul McIntosh in the eighth inning but otherwise had no hits against the Stripers relievers.

(33-34) Mississippi Braves 1, (24-44) Birmingham Barons 2

Box Score

  • Jesse Franklin, LF: 1-4, .221/.281/.410
  • Tyler Tolve, C: 2-3, RBI, .247/.324/.351
  • Tanner Gordon, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 3.09 ERA

Offense was in low supply for the Braves and they couldn’t manage to hold a lead in this game despite good pitching. The first 13 Mississippi batters went to the plate and came back empty-handed until Tyler Tolve finally broke through with a one out hit in the fifth inning. Hudson Potts would make it a rally with a two out walk, but Beau Philip struck out to end the Braves first threat. The next hit came from Jesse Franklin in the seventh inning, and after a stolen base and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt he was standing at third base for the middle of the lineup. Tolve tied the game up on a sacrifice fly, and Cade Bunnell followed with a double that would give Mississippi a chance at a lead. None of Mississippi’s hits came with runners in scoring position and a fly out would end this opportunity swiftly. Down to their final out in the ninth inning Tolve got his second hit of the game, but he was stranded there as the Braves never came through with a big hit.

Tanner Gordon has seemingly righted the ship since his demotion, posting his second straight good pitching outing. It was not without worry though, and he allowed doubles in each the first three innings. The second of those came around to score on a sacrifice fly, but Gordon never buckled and allowed multiple runners in an inning which kept Birmingham at bay. Domingo Gonzalez took the ball in the seventh inning to follow up Gordon, and he mowed down the next three batters by forcing a ground out and two strikeouts. Kyle Wilcox then got the ball in the eighth inning after Mississippi had tied the game up. He wasted no time in ensuring that the Braves wouldn’t be tied for long as the first batter of the eighth homered to put the Barons back on top. Alec Barger struck out three batters in a scoreless ninth inning, but wouldn’t benefit from a late rally.

(30-38) Rome Braves 3, (37-30) Jersey Shore BlueClaws 4

Box Score

  • Drake Baldwin, C: 1-4, .218/.342/.389
  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-4, BB, .270/.407/.336
  • Tyler Owens, SP: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2.27 ERA
  • Rolddy Munoz, RP: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2.31 ERA

One-run losses were in abundance on Saturday, and this is the first of three that ended due to a team’s final at-bat. Rome had no runs and a deficit following the first four innings of this game, but started to show some life in that fourth inning with Nacho Alvarez’s leadoff single. The fifth saw them finally crack into Jersey Shore’s starter, starting on a double from Adam Zebrowski. Zebrowski would score just one pitch later, with a Brandon Parker single and an error in left field being enough to allow him safe passage. Another error, this time on a poor throw from the first baseman to the covering pitcher, allowed Parker to score and give Rome a one run lead. Rome scored on another error in the sixth inning to retake the lead, and in total Jersey Shore committed five errors in this game. The Braves got the leadoff hitter on base in each of the final three innings, but never did anything with it which allowed the BlueClaws to climb back into the game.

Tyler Owens has continued to put up consistently strong starts for Rome, and while today was far from his most dominant he did enough to keep Jersey Shore down. Owens only faltered in the third inning, allowing a solo home run, and otherwise escaped any real drama before handing the ball over to Rolddy Munoz. Munoz has been good as well this season, but this was one of his wilder outings as he walked four batters and allowed two runs across four innings. It could have and perhaps should have been worse for Munoz, who stranded four runners in scoring position and never had a clean inning. In the eighth inning Munoz held tight to a one run lead, but with one out a double and a single would bring the tying run home to score. Munoz didn’t get out of the inning, needing Miguel Pena to clean up his mess. Pena himself struggled, and in the ninth inning allowed a walkoff single to send Jersey Shore home victorious.

(32-35) Augusta GreenJackets 3, (29-38) Delmarva Shorebirds 4

Box Score

  • Ambioris Tavarez, SS: 2-2, 2B, 3B, HBP, .206/.318/.317
  • Ethan Workinger, LF: 2-4, 2B, .288/.375/.509
  • Spencer Schwellenbach, SP: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2.76 ERA

Walkoff losses are always a tough pill to swallow, but the bigger concern from this game comes not in its outcome but in its injury report. Ambioris Tavarez, who has been notably better of late and off to a fantastic start in this game, appeared to be hit in the face in the fifth inning and left the game. The camera angle made it impossible to see if the ball glanced off of the bill of his helmet or he may have been able to get full contact on the helmet, but in either sense it was a scary injury for him to suffer at a time when he seemed to be putting up the best work of his career. Tavarez would end up quickly walking off under his own power and there didn’t appear to be any blood on his face, and the hope is that he just got his bell rung and there isn’t any concerns with a major concussion or fractures.

Tavarez was Augusta’s star in this one, starting the game with a hustle double on a ball he was able to drop down the line between the first baseman and right fielder. After Tyler Collins led off the third inning with a walk and then was caught stealing the lineup flipped back to Tavarez. On the next pitch Tavarez cranked a one hopper to the center field wall for a triple and scored the game’s first run on a single from Justin Janas. Augusta’s biggest opportunity came in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs, but while they did come out with two runs and a lead it still felt a bit empty. A wild pitch and sacrifice fly scored those two runs, but in a close games those stranded runners and key moment strikeouts hurt a bit worse and ultimately came back to burn Augusta. They had just one more hit the rest of the game — a double from Tyler Collins in the ninth inning that ended in no runs.

The final line for Spencer Schwellenbach is very good and indicative of the poor contact he was forcing. Schwellenbach has continued to get sharper and stronger through these games and has gone six innings in three of his past four starts. Delmarva netted just one run against him on two hits in the fourth inning, but he otherwise escaped the trouble he faced throughout the game. They knock for Schwellenbach has been the lack of strikeouts for him and he had just two in this game. He managed only eight swinging strikes on 42 swings, with three of those coming in one plate appearance in the sixth inning. Samuel Strickland had the task of being the first to try to hold on to that two run lead for Augusta, and he allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in the game. Strickland came back out for the eighth inning and gave up another run which tied the game. Strickland was able to pull out a scoreless ninth inning, but after he allowed a hit and a walk in the tenth inning the ball was given over to Elison Joseph. Joseph allowed a hit to the first batter he faced to let Delmarva walk the game off in extrfa innings.

(6-9) FCL Braves 1, (6-9) FCL Rays 2

Box Score

  • Douglas Glod, CF: 1-4, HR. 232/.343/.429
  • Diego Benitez, SS: 0-4, .204/.259/.370

Well this game was not a walkoff loss for the FCL Braves, but it was not much better as the Rays scored a run in the top of the tenth inning which the Braves failed to do in their half. The Braves had the players they wanted up in that spot, but got absolutely wiped out in that tenth inning with Douglas Glod, Diego Benitez, and Alexander Martinez striking out in order to end the game. Glod was the only player for the Braves to reach base in the entire game, with his seventh inning home run breaking up a perfect game and shutout in one swing. I bragged on Diego Benitez and his contact rate in the recap two days ago, and I guess I owe the man an apology as he has since struck out five times in nine plate appearances.

(4-11) DSL Braves 4, (15-0) DSL LAD Bautista 7

Box Score

  • Luis Guanipa, CF: 1-5, RBI, .296/.367/.519
  • John Estevez, LF: 1-4, BB, .268/.408/.411

The DSL Braves made their loss a bit less of a toss up, getting thoroughly handled by the still-undefeated Dodgers affiliate. Luis Guanipa has definitely slowed from his blistering start, though in the process he has been avoiding strikeouts lately with only one in his past four games. Guanipa has lived up to every bit of the hype so far, and it will be curious to see if the Braves decide to bring him stateside this summer or keep him in their Dominican complex. The Braves haven’t been putting up huge offensive numbers thanks in large part to a lack of power, but two players who had two hit games today have stood out for their contact numbers so far. 18 year old catcher Josnaider Orellana (signed 2022) went 2-4 with a walk and has thus far a .349 batting average and .417 on base percentage. Switch-hitting 17 year old middle infielder Carlos Cordero (signed 2023) also had two hits and a walk and thus far has as many walks as strikeouts and a .409 on base percentage.

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