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Braves Minor League Recap: Cade Kuehler leads combined no-hitter

Augusta has gotten two combined no-hitters this season.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s been a bit of a long season for the Augusta GreenJackets, but they have had their share of fun and a second no-hitter, this time from a top Atlanta Braves draft pick, certainly adds to the entertainment. Elsewhere Michael Soroka made another solid start for Gwinnett and Luis De Avila dominated though he didn’t receive the support of his offense.

(56-68) Gwinnett Stripers 7, (63-66) Memphis RedBirds 3

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, 2B-SS: 1-6, RBI, .327/.414/.497
  • Chadwick Tromp, C: 2-5, HR, .208/.343/.401
  • Michael Soroka, SP: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3.41 ERA

It was Michael Soroka day in Memphis, and he continued a hot stretch on the mound as the Gwinnett bats ultimately led the team to an extra innings win. Memphis struck early in the game, but the third inning belong to Justin Dean and his legs. He led off with a base hit, then stole second and third base where he was in position to score on Vaughn Grissom’s RBI ground out. Both sides stayed locked at a run until the sixth inning when Chadwick Tromp went deep for the tenth time this season, giving the Stripers a one run lead. One run would turn into two in the top of the eighth inning, when singles from Grissom and Joe Dunand set up Magneuris Sierra for an RBI single to provide the Gwinnett bullpen some insurance runs. Of note, Braden Shewmake was hit by a pitch in the top of the fourth inning that bounced off of his shin/ankle area, and after staying in the game to run and play an inning of defense was pulled.

Soroka has been limited to 81 or fewer pitches in four of his last five starts, the number being 75 last night, but he has still made the most of his time with a strong stretch. Counting this start over his last five games he has a 2.77 ERA (2.63 FIP) and 34 strikeouts to eight walks in 26 innings. Soroka’s struggles in this game came with settling in early. He walked two of the first three batters he faced, allowed a single to load the bases, and then allowed a sacrifice fly to score a run but was locked down the rest of his outing. Following that single he retired 11 of the next 12 batters, including striking out the side in the second inning, to take the game into the fifth inning. Soroka allowed a double to lead off the fifth inning, then struck out Gwinnett Stripers legend Kramer Robertson to end his day. Dereck Rodriguz was able to close out that inning and pitch a scoreless sixth inning, and when Ben Heller struck out the side in the seventh the Stripers were left with two innings to go and a two run lead.

The Braves picked up Adam Kolarek prior to this game and added him to Gwinnett’s roster, and he had the assignment of holding a close game in his debut. He did not. A two-run home run from Chad Pinder tied the game up, and after Kolarek issued his second and third walks of the inning he was pulled in favor of Grant Holmes. Holmes kept the game scoreless through the next inning and sent it to extra innings where Vaughn Grissom started on second base. Two straight hits from Dunand and Drew Lugbauer scored the go-ahead run, but Gwinnett was not done in the inning. A wild pitch scored Dunand and then two consecutive walks loaded the bases with one out in the inning. Yolmer Sanchez popped out for the second out, but Justin Dean beat out a soft grounder to third base which scored a run. The final run came on a walk to Dalton Guthrie and Mike Morin had no trouble closing out a four run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning.

(53-69) Mississippi Braves 1, (56-67) Rocket City Trash Pandas 2

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, SS: 2-3, BB, .292/.387/.418
  • Drew Campbell, LF: 0-2, BB, .242/.301/.398
  • Luis De Avila, SP: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 3.49 ERA
  • Hayden Harris, RP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2.32 ERA

Pitching was the premium performer for Mississippi and Rocket City, and both starters had absolute masterpieces to show on Thursday evening. Braves starter Luis De Avila has had a fantastic season for Mississippi this year, and he put up his best performance by going eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts. De Avila faced only one batter above the minimum through five innings, as he had a double play and a pickoff on his register, with the only player that got past first base coming on a first inning double. Finally in the sixth inning a one out walk and ground out advanced another runner to second for the Trash Pandas, but it was no sweat for De Avila to work around that as well. After eight inning Kyle Wilcox pitched a scoreless ninth, but unfortunately for the Braves Rocket City’s starter had an even better day.

Brett Kerry got the nod for the Trash Pandas, and he faced only one obstacle as he matched De Avila with eight scoreless innings. Luke Waddell had the only two Braves hits of the game, and the second of those would be the scoring threat Mississippi desperately needed. Waddell singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing up Jesse Franklin and the middle of the Braves order. Franklin got a first pitch to hit, but he got under it and popped it for a lazy fly out for out number two. Waddell stole second base and then advanced to third on a throwing error, the furthest any player got in the game in the first nine innings, but was stranded when Cade Bunnell struck out. Drew Campbell drew a ninth inning walk but was caught stealing. In extra innings Hayden Harris was tasked with shutting down Rocket City, but couldn’t get the job done. Harris jammed the first batter on a fastball, but he was able to fight it off to right field just out of the reach of a diving Cody Milligan. With runners now on second and third Harris got a strikeout, but a single and a sacrifice bunt scored two runs to give the Trash Pandas a lead. A balk and a sacrifice fly scored Cal Conley in the tenth inning, but Cade Bunnell’s two out walk could not turn into the tying run.

(59-64) Rome Braves 0, (59-59) Winston-Salem Dash 5

Box Score

  • Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., CF: 1-4, .222/.329/.325
  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-4, .285/.394/.397
  • Jhancarlos Lara, SP: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 5.79 ERA

Rome’s offense was not able to figure out the Winston-Salem pitching staff, and by the time they made any headway it was far too late in the game. Rome didn’t have a hit through the first five innings, only breaking through in the sixth inning when Stephen Paolini hit a soft liner that bounced off of the glove of a leaping second baseman. The Braves did not further damage until Kevin Kilpatrick Jr. led off in the ninth inning with a base hit. Nacho Alvarez also followed with a single to put a couple of runners on, but a strikeout netted the Dash their first out. David McCabe smacked a hard line drive to center, but it was caught and so too was Kilpatrick at second who made a mistake in breaking to third base on contact.

Jhancarlos Lara had good and bad aspect to his start, with the bad primarily centering on the two home runs he allowed. This hurt an otherwise solid Lara, who seemed to have the Dash off-balance for most of his start. Lara got 17 whiffs across his 4 23 innings, and ended his August with six strikeouts. Across two levels this month Lara made five starts and struck out 35 batters in 26 innings. He’s crossed the 100 strikeout threshold to 102 on the season and his 31.3% K rate ranks sixth in the minor leagues among pitchers age 20 or younger (min. 70 IP). Tyree Thompson struggled in relief, allowing an inherited runner from Lara and one of his own to score in a three-run fifth inning in which he walked three batters. Rolddy Munoz and Jared Johnson each contributed a scoreless inning of relief and a strikeout.

(56-65) Augusta GreenJackets 1, (53-66) Salem Red Sox 0

Box Score

  • Ambioris Tavarez, SS: 2-3, .208/.307/.329
  • Will Verdung, 2B: 1-2, BB, .246/.320/.246
  • Cade Kuehler, SP: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 0.00 ERA

(57-65) Augusta GreenJackets 7, (53-67) Salem Red Sox 5

Box Score

  • Kade Kern, CF: 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, .250/.344/.357
  • Will Verdung, 2B: 2-4 RBI, .261/.329/.261
  • Riley Frey, SP: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 7.07 ERA

Debuts don’t get much more fun than Cade Kuehler’s as he led the GreenJackets to their second no-hitter of the season. Kuehler got the ball for his Braves debut in game one, and despite struggling with his control was able to carve through Salem’s lineup. Kuehler allowed three walks, but struck out three batters and got whiffs on 11 of his 40 pitches thrown. After going 40 pitches and 2 13 innings he turned the ball over to Chad Bryant, who covered most of the game himself. Bryant had no strikeouts, but relied on his defensive to go 3 23 scoreless innings to send it to Zack Austin in the seventh to close it out. Austin struck out the first batter then got two ground outs to close the no-hitter up. Ambioris Tavarez had two of the GreenJackets three hits, but he was not responsible for their lone run. That was Will Verdung and the Salem outfield who had that honor. Verdung got the only other hit of the game in the fourth inning when he ripped a line drive into left field, and with two outs found himself standing on second base after advancing on a ground out. Pier Olivier Boucher popped a 2-2 pitch into right field which should have ended the inning, but a miscommunication led to the second baseman and right fielder bumping gloves and dropping the ball to score Verdung. That was the single play that won Augusta their no-hitter. This game took one hour and 29 minutes to complete.

There was a lot more offensive action in game two, and it mostly came from the second inning and the Augusta lineup. Trailing 3-0 the GreenJackets needed to get the offense going, and Kade Kern delivered with his first home run, a two-run shot. EJ Exposito followed with a hit and Jeremy Celedonio a walk, setting up Jacob Godman’s go-ahead three-run home run to make it 5-3. We are not done, however. Ambioris Tavarez took one of his two walks on the day, stole second base, then advanced in to score on a passed ball and a wild pitch. Will Verdung finished off the scoring by driving in Cam Magee with a two out single, and a 7-3 lead was enough for Augusta to close out the game. Riley Frey’s troubles for Augusta continued, and in his 3 13 innings he allowed three runs to raise his ERA to 7.07. Frey continued to put up good strikeout numbers and now has 18 in 14 innings pitched, but his .409 BABIP against has done a lot of work. Landon Harper ultimately cooled things off, covering 2 23 innings of scoreless ball in relief. Harper has been Augusta’s workhorse reliever, with 69 13 innings in 29 appearances all in relief. Harper’s consistency has been key as he moved to 6-3 with a 3.50 ERA on the year. The game got adventurous for Elison Joseph in the ninth inning as he allowed two runs, one earned, but he was able to get the final three hitters of the game out to keep the tying run from ever reaching base.

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