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Braves MiLB recap: In case you forgot, Drew Waters is good

The Gwinnett offense exploded led by Drew Waters four-hit day as the Atlanta Braves’ minor-league teams split on Tuesday. Here’s how it went down.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Guess who’s back? Back again. Waters back. Tell a friend. Atlanta Braves outfield prospect Drew Waters, who returned from injury last week with four hits in his three-game rehab stint in Rome... matched that total in Gwinnett in the opening game of the Stripers’ series.

All in all the Atlanta Braves’ minor-league teams went 2-2 on the first night of the new MiLB week. Here’s your recap of how it went down on the farm.

Gwinnett Stripers (12-13) 11, Charlotte Knights (10-15) 7

Box score

  • Drew Waters, CF: 4-for-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
  • Pat Valaika, 2B: 2-for-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI
  • Chadwick Tromp, C: 2-for-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, 1 BB
  • Phil Gosselin, 3B: 2-for-4
  • Touki Toussaint, SP: 4.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

Of course the big story in Gwinnett is that Pat Valaika comes to play on Tuesdays. Last week, he won the Stripers the ball game with a walkoff sacrifice fly and this week, he hit a first-inning home run, his third of the year, to give Gwinnett a two-run lead. His home run followed Drew Waters, who waited exactly one pitch to remind everyone he’s healthy.

Waters stole the show, not only hitting the first Gwinnett leadoff homer of 2022, but recording a hit in each of his at-bats before being pinch-hit for later in the game by Preston Tucker, who incidentally has forgotten how to make outs, now with at least a hit in five of his last six games. Four Stripers finished with multiple hits, including Chadwick Tromp, who muscled up two home runs on the day and drove in four. A four-run sixth inning put the game out of reach.

Touki Toussaint has played with fire for much of the season. He has been able to elude the big crooked inning thus far with big strikeouts despite having a high walk rate and a .271 BAA, but this week he wasn’t able to escape. Toussaint allowed all seven runs, but a combo of R.J. Alaniz, Seth Elledge and Jesús Cruz combined for 4.1 shutout innings to seal the win.

Mississippi Braves (9-13) 3, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (9-13) 2

Box score

  • Michael Harris II, CF: 1-for-4. 1 K
  • Luke Waddell, SS: 1-for-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
  • Drew Lugbauer, 1B: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • CJ Alexander, DH: 2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • Darius Vines, SP: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1ER), 4 BB, 4 K

Darius Vines odd 2022 adventure continued on Tuesday night. He made it through five innings, but was once again struggling with command, landing 54 of his 87 pitches for strikes and walking four batters. To be fair, he looked stronger later, and while he did miss on a few pitches, it wasn’t by much. Jake Higginbotham and Justin Mease pitched three scoreless before reliever extraordinaire Victor Vodnik came on, picking up his first save. He’s now made three appearances, striking out five and has not allowed a run.

A late single by Michael Harris II extended his on-base streak to 22 games. For those not keeping score at home, that’s every single game he’s played this season. He also has a nine-game hitting streak going where he’s hitting .366 with three doubles and all four of his home runs. Drew Lugbauer launched his eighth home run of the year and launched may be an understatement. It was hit so hard off the bat that nary a Pensacola fielder even moved. CJ Alexander continued his strong start after two essentially lost seasons, now hitting .311 after a homer and a single on Tuesday. Justin Dean had a sacrifice fly and a walk in his first appearance for Mississippi this season.

Tanner Gordon is expected to get the ball Wednesday night.

Rome Braves (13-9) 2, Greenville Drive (9-13) 4

Box score

  • Vaughn Grisson, SS: 1-for-3, 1 2B
  • Justyn-Henry Malloy, DH: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • Tyler Tolve, C: 0-for-4, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • Andrew Hoffman, SP: 2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

Andrew Hoffmann just never looked comfortable on Tuesday night in a rare bad start from him. In fact, he doubled his season walk total in just two innings pitched with three, landing just 32 of his 54 pitches for strikes. Bad starts are expected, and Hoffmann has shown he is the complete opposite of this start: a bulldog who can go innings and fill up the strike zone. It doesn’t seem like there is much to worry about here.

But how about Lisandro Santos? He came on for Hoffmann and tossed three scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none. He’s now struck out 25 batters in 12 innings of work and hasn’t allowed a run. Oh yeah, he’s also only walked three.

At the plate, things looked good early.

Justyn-Henry Malloy went deep to put the R-Braves up first, but then the bats went quiet, including Malloy who struck out in his final three at-bats. Vaughn Grissom hit another double and had another stolen base and now has a nice little six-game hitting streak going. He was pulled for a momentary lapse of defense later in the game.

Augusta GreenJackets (12-10) 1, Carolina Mudcats (12-10) 14

Box score

  • Brandol Mezquita, CF: 2-for-4, 1 2B, 1 K
  • Caleb Durbin, 2B: 0-for-4, 1 K
  • Stephen Paolini, LF: 1-for-3, 1 BB
  • Luis Vargas, SP: 4 IP, 10 H, 9 R (7 ER), 0 BB, 5 K

The score tells pretty much the whole story for Augusta on Tuesday. The hitting was missing and the pitching struggled. The silver lining is that Luis Vargas didn’t allow a walk and actually landed 73% of his pitches for strikes. The bad news is that most of them were hit, and hit well, as he allowed two home runs and nine runs (albeit two unearned). Both Kris Anglin and Isrrael De La Cruz couldn’t stop the bleeding allowing five more runs to score.

At the plate, Brandol Mezquita continues to shine. He absolutely roped a double and then worked a very nice opposite-field single in a later at-bat. He has now hit in 13 of his last 15 games with seven multi-hit games and the power looks like it is starting to come along. Stephan Paolini, Mahki Backstrom and Geraldo Quintero recorded the other hits.

AJ Smith-Shawver is scheduled to take the bump Wednesday night.

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