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Braves Minor League Recap: Jhancarlos Lara strikes out 12

Lara and Luis De Avila each had career days, striking out 12 and 11 batters, respectively

MLB: Houston Astros-Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The day was dominated by pitching for the Atlanta Braves system, but it wasn’t the big named and high bonus guys doing the work. Rather, it was a waiver wire pickup in Luis De Avila going six one-hit innings and a $10,000 signing in Jhancarlos Lara who put up eye-popping lines while leading their teams. For Lara this is his last start of the season, and as he has built hype to end the season he couldn’t have asked to finish stronger than a 12 strikeout day. For De Avila, a questionable call at first was the only thing standing between him and his third hitless outing this season.

(62-71) Gwinnett Stripers 5, (73-61) Worcester Red Sox 4

Box Score

  • Chadwick Tromp, C: 2-4, 2 2B, BB, RBI, .207/.339/.399
  • Braden Shewmake, SS: 2-3, 2B, 2 BB, .233/.300/.396
  • Jackson Stephens, SP: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3.28 ERA

Braden Shewmake had a fantastic day on the offensive side of the ball, and he was right in the middle of a key Stripers rally to win the game. These teams traded runs at various points throughout the game and Gwinnett had to cobble together their innings with primarily bullpen arms leading with Jackson Stephens. Stephens had a relatively successful outing as the only hit he allowed was an 112 mph tater off of the bat of Bobby Dalbec, but there were concerning signs with his arsenal. In recent appearances his velocity had seemed to be slowly coming back to form, but whether it be fatigue from a longer outing or another factor his fastball dipped to its lowest this season averaging just 90.1 mph. This also comes with the caveat of two of them - two at 89 and one at 88 - being misclassified as his secondaries.

Shewmake led off in the third inning with a walk, a welcome sign as his recent struggles have also coincided with significantly a reduced walk rate, and this led to the Stripers drawing even. Shewmake advanced to second when the pitcher stepped off the rubber one too many times and would score on a two-out single by Hoy Park. Dereck Rodriguez continued the game’s trend of Gwinnett only allowing runs on home runs, and in the fifth inning a solo shot put the Red Sox back in the lead but only briefly. Chadwick Tromp started a two-out rally in the bottom half with a double then following a walk to Park it was Yolmer Sanchez who put the Stripers on top for the first time. Sanchez lifted a line drive into left field that the Worcester left fielder misjudged, and as he bumbled around trying to backpedal into a catch it sailed over his head for a two-run double. Going into the eighth inning the game held at that point and Lucas Luetge was on the mound having retired all four batters he faced with two strikeouts. That changed in a hurry in the top of the eighth as he walked the first batter he faced then gave up a tank to Niko Kavadas to put Worcester on top 4-3. Gwinnett rolled into the ninth needing a rally to tie it and Shewmake got things started by lifting a fly ball off to the warning track in left field that fell between two defenders that both probably should have made the catch. This went down as a double and Gwinnett was truly in business when Tromp’s second double of the game tied it at four runs each. Justin Dean then came in to run for Tromp and he moved over to third on a catcher’s interference play. Yolmer Sanchez then put a fly ball plenty deep to score Dean from third and Gwinnett walked it off to win a tight battle.

(57-71) Mississippi Braves 0, (69-59) Tennessee Smokies 1

Box Score

  • Drake Baldwin, DH: 1-4, .211/.286/.211
  • Javier Valdes, 1B: 1-2, 3B, BB, .233/.382/.408
  • Luis De Avila, SP: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 3.32 ERA
  • Tyler Owens, RP: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3.28 ERA

There are few things in the sport of baseball that are so frustrating as this outcome for Mississippi, as the pitching did a marvelous job throughout the game but would lose a game in which they allowed one hit and zero earned runs. Luis De Avila’s season has mixed in a number of absolute gems, and though his control was a bit on the shaky side for Mississippi in this game his dominance was not and he went bananas. De Avila set his career-best mark with 11 strikeouts over six innings and there was no real threat from the Smokies to change that. He did get himself in trouble in the first inning with a hit batter and a walk, but with two runners in scoring position he struck out the last two batters and reeled off ten straight retired. In five innings no one could touch De Avila until finally in the sixth Owen Cassie rolled a ball to Cal Conley at second base that he “beat out” for a single though I, and first baseman Javier Valdes, are less sure of the umpire’s call. Regardless De Avila retired the next three batters with ease to end a breezy day on the mound.

Unfortunately for De Avila he had to battle with no run support through his entire start, but Mississippi just missed out by a poor hand at sequencing in the second inning. Drake Baldwin led off the inning by smacking a single into right field, but Cade Bunnell followed rolling over one to second base for a double play. Javier Valdes then bounced one off of the left field wall and raced around for a triple as it scooted away from the left fielder, but he was stranded on a ground out from Hendrik Clementina. Valdes walked and advanced to second base on a balk in the fifth inning, but again was left stranded. So too was Cody Milligan in the sixth inning, who led off with a single and stole second base with two outs, but strikeouts from Luke Waddell and Jesse Franklin left him out there. Domingo Gonzalez breezed through the seventh inning on the mound in immediate relief of De Avila, though the eighth inning was the trouble spot for him. Gonzalez allowed walks to the first two hitters of the inning, but got a line out to Franklin in left field and then a fly out to the power alley that died short of the track. With two outs Tyler Owens then jogged in from the bullpen and quickly got a ground ball to Conley at second base. Conley flipped to second for the out, but overshot the 5’7 Waddell who in leaping for the ball came off of the base. Waddell made an alert throw to third to get the runner caught in a rundown, but after the ball was relayed home Clementina inexplicably didn’t throw the ball back to third base and the runner was able to get home safely. This set of defensive mishaps was the undoing of this inning, but Owens also had his part. After getting up 0-2 on the next batter Owens lost him with his 3-2 pitch missing well outside to walk in the only run of the game. Owens retired the next four batters with two coming via strikeout.

(64-65) Rome Braves 4, (48-76) Asheville Tourists, 3

Box Score

  • Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., CF: 1-3, .226/.333/.330
  • David McCabe, DH: 1-4, .284/.386/.436
  • Jhancarlos Lara, SP: 4.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 4.82 ERA

Sometimes all it takes is one big inning, and Rome got that in the seventh to support a career night in Jhancarlos Lara’s final start of 2023. Lara was a monster out there, but he got off to a shaky start by hitting a batter and walking another in the first inning. A two out single then fell in to score a run, then Lara’s antsiness on the mound cropped up and he balked home a second run. That was all Asheville managed against Lara, as he started reeling off strikeouts following this. Lara struck out the next seven hitters and in total retired nine straight before a two out walk in the fourth inning. He then struck out the next three batters to finish out his start, giving him 11 strikeouts out of the last 13 batters he faced. He blew by his career high with 12 strikeouts in total. His slider did much of the work, getting 11 of the 12 strikeouts and in total he forced 24 whiffs. This outing also furthered his strikeout rate lead (by percentage and per nine) in the system. Barring a massive outing from Owen Murphy if he makes another this season he will finish the season with a lead in that category, and over his final ten starts of the season he led with a 3.02 ERA and 13.4 K/9. With his breakout officially wrapped up the offense had some work to do, as Asheville extended the lead with an unearned run off of Hunter Riggins over his 2 13 innings of relief.

The bottom half of the order needed to get the rally started in the seventh inning, and with the help of Asheville’s Miguel Ullola they did just that. Ullola his Justin Janas to lead off the inning then walked Bryson Worrell and Kadon Morton to load the bases for the top of the order. Cory Acton brought home a run on an RBI ground out, then a walk and a wild pitch scored the second run of the game for Rome. They continued drawing on that lucky hand, and when Kilpatrick went to steal second base the catcher threw down to third, chucking into left field to allow both Morton and Kilpatrick to score and give Rome a lead. With this oddity of an inning out of the way the Rome bullpen was able to close it out, with Rob Griswold pitching a scoreless eighth inning and Ronaldo Alesandro working around a hit batter in the ninth to close the game.

(60-68) Augusta GreenJackets 2, (66-58) Down East Wood Ducks 4

Box Score

  • Drew Compton, 1B: 2-4, HR, 2B, .248/.347/.347
  • Jace Grady, CF: 1-2, 2 BB, RBI, .242/.342/.379
  • Riley Frey, SP: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 6.50 ERA

Augusta had early offensive success, but their paltry late production and defensive mistakes in the sixth inning sunk them in this game. There is no video to go off of for this game so unfortunately our final Augusta series of the season is going to be straight box score readings. This means Drew Compton’s first home run of his professional career, which game Augusta a second inning lead, will be forever lost to exist only in the memories of attendees. Of course, Down East had to one-up him with Riley Frey allowing a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning which gave Down East their first lead. Augusta would respond in the third, however, with Cam Magee getting a double and Jace Grady bringing him home with an infield single. Compton had a double to put two runners in scoring position but Will Verdung popped out to end the inning. Both sides traded hitless innings for a minute until a Kade Kern single in the sixth turned into nothing, then the ill-fated bottom of the sixth rolled around for LJ McDonough. McDonough had pitched well, but allowed two hits with one out in the inning to get himself into some trouble. Then a passed ball and a throwing error by Compton at first base came back-to-back, scoring both runners and ending McDonough’s day. Zack Austin ensured the damage ran no deeper, but it didn’t matter. Jace Grady walked in the eighth inning, but he was called out on a strikeout and batter’s interference (a play I would like to see honestly) for an inning-ending double play. Augusta had no other baserunners over the final three innings.

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