Kyle Wright may dominate our headlines as he made his first rehab start on Thursday, but it wasn’t the only big game to happen in the Atlanta Braves system. Drake Baldwin had a monster game for the Rome Braves in a win, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs. Jesse Franklin had a big day at the plate as well for Mississippi and extended his on base streak to 32 games. Then all the way down in Florida the Complex League Braves took down the Mets in their semifinal matchup to advance to the championship series.
(55-66) Gwinnett Stripers 2, (67-54) Nashville Sounds 3
- Hoy Park, 2B: 1-2, 3B, BB, .268/.385/.390
- Drew Lugbauer, DH: 0-4, .231/.231/.410
- Dylan Dodd, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 6.97 ERA
Gwinnett’s pitching faltered late and their offense had little in support in a 3-2 loss to the Sounds. Neither side had much working as the game drifted towards the middle innings, and going into the fifth Gwinnett had not managed a hit. Their only baserunner was a leadoff walk in the first inning from Forrest Wall, and he was promptly caught stealing. Finally Joe Dunand broke through with one out in the fifth inning, and not long after Hoy Park got Gwinnett a lead with an RBI triple. That would appear to be all Gwinnett would get as Magneuris Sierra grounded a ball weakly to second base with two outs. However, Sierra busted it down the line and when the second baseman double clutched on the throw Sierra was just able to beat it out for an infield single scoring Park. Gwinnett’s lead didn’t last long as Nashville got those runs back in the next half inning, and the rest of the game was akin to the first four innings for the offense.
Dylan Dodd got himself into early trouble as he walked the first two batters of the game, but after escaping that first inning he maintained a solid performance through most of his start. Nashville failed to make solid contact on him the first couple of times through the lineup and through five innings Dodd allowed only one hit. The sixth inning was unfortunately a different story as the Sounds hit Dodd much harder the third time through the lineup and Jahmai Jones capped off the inning with a two-run home run to tie the game. Jackson Stephens pitched two scoreless innings in relief to match the efforts of the Sounds staff, leaving it up to Grant Holmes in the ninth inning. A leadoff single snuck through the right side of the infield, and after the runner was advanced to second on a ground out Holmes allowed a go-ahead single which would end up being the game-winner.
(51-64) Mississippi Braves 8, (62-55) Montgomery Biscuits 9
- Jesse Franklin V, CF: 1-2, HR, 3 BB, .237/.323/.441
- Cody Milligan, LF: 2-6, 3B, .296/.395/.425
- Daniel Martinez, SP: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 6.23 ERA
An absolute collapse from the Braves bullpen ruined a phenomenal night for the offense, which was led by a strong performance from Jesse Franklin. Franklin put Mississippi on the board early in the game, slugging his 14th home run of the season in the first inning to score Cal Conley and Luke Waddell. The bats kept rolling in the inning with Cade Bunnell and Bryson Horne each getting a double, and for much of the game this four run lead was around where Mississippi would hang. Cody Milligan had a triple and scored on a Luke Waddell single in the second inning, and in the fourth inning Waddell made it two RBI as he doubled to score Conley. The now 6-2 lead hung around until Montgomery put up a two spot in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Mississippi immediately responded. Franklin and Bunnell each drew one out walks, and after pulling off a double steal they were in position for a late rally. Bryson Horne brought home Franklin with an RBI single, and Brandon Parker also dropped in a hit to extend the lead to 8-4. The Braves took this lead into the ninth inning, and it felt safe that they could close it out.
Daniel Martinez was freshly brought up from Rome for this game, and he had a solid outing although with its fair share of struggles. Martinez allowed a double to the first batter he faced, though he struck out the next two batters to put himself in position to escape unharmed. This would unfortunately not happen as he allowed a two out RBI single. Martinez allowed another run in the second inning, then over his final four innings allowed no more hits or runs with two runners reaching via walk. Kyle Wilcox replaced Martinez in the seventh inning, and almost immediately he allowed two runs and had a runner sitting on third base with the tying run at the plate. Fortunately Wilcox got two strikeouts to prevent any further damage and he struck out two more batters in the eighth inning before giving the ball to Ty Tice. Tice finished out the eighth inning and then had the task of closing out the win in the ninth. Tice allowed two base hits to open the inning, but it seemed to not be a huge deal as he followed it up with two strikeouts to get the Braves one out away from a win. Two walks in a row would put this result in much more jeopardy as the tying run sat on first base, and the struggles for Tice wouldn’t end there. Tice fell behind 3-1 to Erik Ostberg, and not wanting to walk in a run absolutely grooved a fastball which Ostberg crushed for a walk off grand slam.
(56-61) Rome Braves 4, (62-52) Greensboro Grasshoppers 3
- Drake Baldwin, C: 3-3, 2 HR, BB, 3 RBI, .254/.381/.450
- David McCabe, DH: 1-4, RBI, .295/.405/.477
- Kyle Wright, SP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 0.00ERA
Kyle Wright is finally on the mound again, and he decided to show those other two affiliates what good pitching actually looks like in his rehab start at High-A. These games are never fair for the hitters, and Wright just carved through the Greenboro lineup as he needed only 26 pitches to get through three innings. Wright struck out four batters, as he allowed a infield hit to the first batter of the game after a comeback bounced out of his glove and then retired nine straight. The regular starter Jorge Bautista had less of an impactful outing as he allowed three runs over four innings of relief, with his biggest struggles coming due to three walks. Miguel Pena closed out a win with two scoreless innings.
The offense was the Drake Baldwin show on Thursday evening, as his two home run performance led the team to a win. Baldwin went 3-3 at the plate with a walk, providing most of the team’s five hits and accounting for three of the four runs on the board. Geraldo Quintero reached base three times out of the leadoff spot as well but only scored one run. Baldwin drove in both of the game’s first two runs, first hitting a home run in the first inning and then in the third raking an RBI single to score Stephen Paolini. David McCabe followed with another hit to extend the lead to 3-0, scoring Quintero who had previously reached on catcher interference. Greensboro finally got on the board with a run in the fifth inning, but Baldwin made sure to get that right back as he hit his second home run of the day and third over his past three games. Baldwin’s raw power is a huge part in projecting his bat long term, but this season it hasn’t shown up in games much as he has also had a high ground ball rate. This recent surge has fortunately boosted his numbers significantly as he now has a ,196 ISO on the season and 129 wRC+.
(54-62) Augusta GreenJackets 5, (59-58) Charleston RiverDogs 4
- Ambioris Tavarez, DH: 1-3, BB, 2 RBI, .203/.303/.329
- Jace Grady, RF: 1-3, 2B, BB .290/.366/.468
- Riley Frey, SP: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 6.75 ERA
Augusta tried to blow a late lead in this game, but would fortunately hold on to take a win. The offense was pretty brutal in seven of their eight trips to the plate, but they took advantage when they were hot and the RiverDogs gloves were not. Jace Grady led off in the fourth inning with a double, the first Augusta hit of the day, and two Charleston errors late he would score to tie the game. A walk then loaded the bases and Tyler Collins came through with a clutch two-run hit and error by the left fielder. Ambioris Tavarez then bounced a ball down the first base line for an infield hit, and on the diving attempt the first baseman knocked the ball down but was injured and the GreenJackets managed to bring two runs in. Overall it was a mess of an inning for Charleston and Augusta happened to have everyone in the right place at the right time.
Riley Frey looked the best he has for Augusta with this outing, getting through five innings of one run ball. Frey relied on his infield defense to do a lot of his work as he had seven ground ball outs and no fly ball outs in his start. Frey’s only major trouble came following a leadoff double in the third inning, but he got a pop out in foul ground and a strikeout to end up one out away from escaping. Charleston would come through with a two out hit, however, hanging the first run on the board against Frey. Giomar Diaz had a much rougher go of things on the mound, and after a scoreless sixth inning he allowed three runs in the top of the seventh. This brought the RiverDogs within a run and put pressure on Elison Joseph as he attempted to close out the final two innings. In the ninth Joseph allowed a leadoff walk and a one out single to put the tying run in scoring position. He then struck out the next batter and forced a foul pop out to close a tight win.
FCL Braves 7, FCL Rays 1
- Isaiah Drake, CF: 1-3, BB, 2 RBI
- Will King, C: 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI
- Davis Polo, SP: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0.00 ERA
Even in the complex league the Braves own the Mets, and they dominated this semifinal matchup behind a six-run fourth inning. After a horrible start to his career Isaiah Drake has quickly adjusted and become one of the FCL’s leaders, and he reached base twice in this game including playing a big role in that fourth inning. The Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the inning, and the Braves took advantage with a walk forcing home the first run and a Will King double extending the lead out to 3-0. Two strikeouts gave the Mets a chance to escape, but Drake came through in the clutch with a two run single. Drake used his legs to advance to second on that hit, then stole third base and scored the sixth run of the inning on a throwing error. Davis Polo led the pitching staff with four scoreless innings, and also got a strong outing from the bullpen as they went 4 1⁄3 innings with one run allowed. The Braves face off against the FCL Yankees tomorrow afternoon in a three-game set that will determine the FCL champions.