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Braves Minor League Recap: Cal Conley has a big day for Mississippi

Glendale Desert Dogs v. Scottsdale Scorpions Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves minor league affiliates scuffled Tuesday night as they lost all five games they played and scored just one run in three of their games combined. None of the organization’s top prospects had strong days either to make matters even uglier.

(65-54) Nashville Sound 12, (55-64) Gwinnett Stripers 5

  • Jesus Aguilar 0-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • Hoy Park 1-3, 1 H, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
  • Dereck Rodriguez, SP, 2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 K

The Stipers were not bad offensively as they had 14 combined walks and hits and scratched across five runs. Drew Lugbauer and Hoy Park knocked in three runs in the fourth inning which brought Gwinnett to within one run. From a player performance standpoint, Drew Lugbauer’s play has been extremely encouraging as he is now hitting .281 in AAA with two home runs. Yolmer Sanchez also might be slowly starting to pick things up as this was his second consecutive multi hit game and fifth in his last ten games.

Rodriguez has almost exclusively been used this season in short stints as he has just five appearances in which he went more than three innings this season, three of which came in April. The result was not encouraging for him as it was the third time he has allowed three or more runs in his last four games. There is not exactly a whole lot of good to say about the Stripers pitching performance as they walked five batters, allowed 17 hits, yes 17, and then 12 runs on top of it. The first four pitchers to come in for the Stripers each allowed one or more runs and three or more base runners with none of them throwing more than two innings. Seth Elledge was the only Stripers pitcher that made an appearance who did not allow a run.

(61-54) Montgomery Biscuits 9, (50-63) Mississippi Braves 6

  • Cal Conley 3-5, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 R
  • Jesse Franklin V 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • Justus Sheffield, SP, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB

Offensively, the Braves did enough to come away with the victory. They picked up 10 hits, picked up four walks and only struck out eight times. Cal Conley had the best day among Mississippi hitters accounting for two of the team’s four extra base hits. Cade Bunnell and Luke Waddell each picked up two RBI’s with Bunnell’s coming via a two run shot in the fourth inning. If you were to complain about one thing in regards to this offense last night it was the fact that they did leave some runs on the board as they went just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. Had that number been a bit better, we might be discussing a Braves victory instead of a loss.

I am not really sure as to why Justus Sheffield went an inning only this one. It was his first start in nine days as he was activated from the Development List, but it is hard to see that being enough to limit him to just 11 pitches. Regardless though the pitchers that followed Sheffield didn’t strike fear into the Biscuits as they struck out just six batters compared to the eight runs they allowed in the final seven innings.

(62-50) Greensboro Grasshoppers 2, (54-61) Rome Braves 0

  • David McCabe 0-3, 1 K
  • Drake Baldwin 2-4, 2 K
  • J.J. Niekro, SP, 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Entering Tuesday’s game the Braves were building some momentum as they scored 29 runs in their prior five games. However, they were very clearly unable to carry that into their matchup with the Grasshoppers. Collectively they picked up four hits, two of which came off of the bat of Drake Baldwin and they couldn’t draw a single walk as a team. This isn’t exactly an offense that is rich with talent as McCabe is the only prospect in this lineup hitting above .261.

Pitching was certainly not the problem for the Braves as for as bad as their offense was, their pitching was arguably equally as good. They allowed just five hits and three walks and they were able to strike out ten batters. J.J. Niekro got the start and pitched potentially his best game of the season. After three consecutive starts in which he went 3 ⅓ or fewer innings and allowed three or more runs he threw five innings of two run ball. His seven strikeouts were the most he has had in a start this season, and it was just the second time in 2023 in which he has completed five innings. Patrick Halligan and Jonathan Hughes combined to throw the final four innings all of which were scoreless frames.

(59-56) Charleston RiverDogs 3, (52-62) Augusta GreenJackets 0

  • Ambioris Tavarez 1-4, 2 K
  • Jace Grady 2-3, 1 BB
  • Zack Austin, SP, 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Stop me if you have heard this before, but Ambioris Tavarez had another multi strikeout game. It was his ninth in the month of August and it extends his consecutive games with a strikeout to nearly two months. I know I mention it in just about every one of these articles, but the longer streaks of this nature go on for Tavarez, the harder and harder it is to envision him getting anywhere close to his ceiling as a player. Besides Tavarez, there is nearly nothing to talk about in what was another poor offensive showing for the GreenJackets.

Like the Rome Braves game, pitching was not the problem for the Braves affiliate. Vargas’ on season ERA of 5.86 is not exactly encouraging, but he does have four starts in which he has allowed a combined 28 earned runs. In his other 16 starts he has allowed 20 runs combined. Obviously you cannot just ignore those four starts, but the other 16 are extremely encouraging and he showed that again last night. He did force seven swinging strikes which is nice to see, but ideally that number would be a bit higher. Nolan Martinez, who pitched the final two innings, allowed the only other run in this ballgame which came via a Carlos Colmenarez RBI single.

(30-24) FCL Braves 1, (25-29) FCL Rays 11

Douglas Glod saw his miniature cold streak continue against the Rays as he has now gone hitless in four consecutive games and is 0 for his last 10. Noah Williams was able to knock in the Braves only run which came on a force out. Starting pitcher Genderson Almonte went only an inning in this one where he allowed three runs, two of which were earned and did not strikeout a single batter.

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