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Braves Minor League Recap: JR Ritchie and Darius Vines shine on the mound

The starting pitchers for Mississippi and Augusta shined on Saturday evening.

MLB: MLB-Draft Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It was a fun night down in the Atlanta Braves’ farm system as their farm affiliates went a combined 2-1 with Rome getting a game cancelled due to rain. Darius Vines and JR Ritchie were both excellent on the mound, the Augusta offense went wild, and Mississippi...tried their very best. Let’s get into the games.

Gwinnett Stripers 4, Buffalo Bisons 1

Box Score

  • Ryan Casteel, C: 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB, .808 OPS
  • Hernan Perez, RF: 2-4, BB, R, .752 OPS
  • Darius Vines, SP: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2.91 ERA

The Stripers took advantage of a strong start from Darius Vines and managed to stitch together enough offense to secure a 4-1 victory on Saturday evening. Vines was coming off a stretch where he hadn’t completed the fifth inning or more since 8/14, so it was nice to see him pitch deep enough to “qualify for the win”. We still have not seen him miss bats like he was at Mississippi, but we have noticed some lack of sharpness on his offspeed stuff as well as his command backing up a little bit which both could be attributed to late season fatigue. The Gwinnett bullpen got the job done as Ferguson, Webb, Cruz, and Tonkin combined for four hitless innings of relief with seven strikeouts (although the five walks between them were less than ideal).

The biggest swing of the night came from Ryan Casteel who connected for a two-run homer in the sixth inning. That was his 16th homer this season and raised his season OPS .808 despite his less than great .214 batting average. Hernan Perez was the only Striper to have a multi-hit game, although Taylor Motter, Rylan Bannon, and Delino DeShields joined him and Casteel as players that reached base multiple times.

Mississippi Braves 1, Biloxi Shuckers 9

Box Score

  • Jalen Miller, DH: 1-4, 2B, RBI, .740 OPS
  • Justyn-Henry Malloy, LF: 1-3, BB, R, .862 OPS
  • Nolan Kingham, SP: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 6.43 ERA

We won’t linger longer here as Nolan Kingham had given up five runs by the end of the third inning and the Mississippi offense went cold as the Braves fell by the score of 9-1. Nolan Kingham got the start for Mississippi and he continued his 2022 struggles that ended up getting him demoted back to Mississippi in the first place. He has thrown 15 innings total in his last three starts and has given up 14 runs while walking five and striking out 12 batters. There is certainly some unfortunate BABIP stuff happening with him, but the four homers he has given up over that same span plus the usual eye test stuff seems to indicate he isn’t fooling guys as a starter. We liked how his stuff played up as a reliever and we hope he ends up back in that role to set him up better for success.

On offense, was a tough night. Mississippi only managed to get four hits in the game with the only extra-base knock coming via a double for Jalen Miller. Justyn-Henry Malloy wasn’t going to be denied as he reached base twice. Malloy is doing in September pretty much what he did during his particular hot month of August with the notable exception of not hitting for power at the moment as he has just one extra-base hit this month. We are talking about a small sample here in an environment that is known to suppress power, but this is at least something to keep an eye on.

Rome Braves, Hickory Crawdads - Cancelled

Rain sucks

Augusta GreenJackets 9, Kannapolis Cannon Ballers 1

Box Score

  • Ethan Workinger, 1B: 2-5, 3B, 2 RBI, R, .855 OPS
  • Nacho Alvarez, 3B: 2-4, BB, SB, 3 R, ,883 OPS
  • Stephen Paolini, RF: 1-2, 2B, 2 BB, HBP, .662 OPS
  • JR Ritchie, SP: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 2.70 ERA

JR Ritchie continues to improve and impress in his first season as a pro and the Augusta offense went wild on their way to a 9-1 win. After not having his best command last week, Ritchie got back on track on Saturday as he gave up zero free passes and made it through four innings on 49 pitches while striking out six batters. So far as a pro, the Braves’ 35th pick in the 2022 draft has averaged about a strikeout an inning while walking just five batters (three of which came last week). The Augusta bullpen took the ball and ran with it as they combined for five shutout innings with one walk and eight strikeouts.

On offense, it was a team effort as every hitter in the lineup other than Francisco Floyd recorded a hit in the game and Francisco did reach via a walk and score a run. Nacho Alvarez, Drake Baldwin, Ethan Workinger, and EJ Exposito each had multi-hit games with others reaching multiple times with the help of some walks and, in Stephen Paolini’s case, HBP. Workinger, in particular, has been quite hot in September as he has slashed .308/.345/.615 in seven games this month.

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