The Gwinnett Stripers are again the lone representative on the Atlanta Braves system in action, but they gave us a lot to cheer for in lieu of the recent struggles of the big league club. Jared Shuster put up one of the best outings of his career to lead Gwinnett to victory and Victor Vodnik rounded that out by continuing his strong work out of the bullpen.
(67-76) Gwinnett Stripers 4, (71-74) Memphis Redbirds 3
- Taylor Motter, 2B: 1-4, 2B, .261/.355/.592
- Ryan Casteel, C: 1-4, HR, 4 RBI, .216/.305/.489
- Greyson Jenista, RF 2-4, 2B, .207/.272/.382
- Jared Shuster, SP: 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 3.74 ERA
- Victor Vodnik, RP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3.04 ERA
The Stripers weren’t spectacular with the bats on Friday evening, but came through when it mattered and scored a close win over the Redbirds. Unfortunately for all of us (mostly me), Justyn-Henry Malloy was taking a breather tonight, so there wasn’t anything to speak of prospect-wise on the offensive end. Fortunately, Jared Shuster made up for that and more, but we’ll get to him in a bit. Gwinnett was no hit through four innings in this one before Tyler White broke through first with a single to lead off the fifth inning. Greyson Jenista also had one of his two hits in this inning, but both runners were stranded and Gwinnett fell behind when Memphis scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
The third time through the order the Stripers finally turned it on, but it took until there were two outs in the sixth inning for them to step up. Taylor Motter ringed a two out double to get a rally started and two walks followed to bring up the powerful Ryan Casteel with the bases loaded. Casteel continued his fantastic season by ripping a line drive home run high off of the berm in left field for a go ahead grand slam. This was Casteel’s team-leading 17th home run this season, which he has done in just 67 games played. Greyson Jenista doubled behind Casteel, but the scoring was over and he was stranded when Joe Dunand struck out to end the inning. Those five hits in the fifth and sixth innings were the only ones Gwinnett managed in the game and it was up to the pitching staff to hold the Redbirds offense to fewer than four runs.
Jared Shuster has been solid if a bit underwhelming since his promotion to Gwinnett, but all of that changed Friday night when he blew past his level-bests to put up a career night. Coming into this past start Shuster had only pitched into the sixth inning twice in nine Triple-A games and maxed out at four strikeouts. After a first inning that featured a ground out, a walk, and a double play it seemed like business as usual, but over the final six innings of his start he started piling up the strikeouts. Following that one out walk in the first inning Shuster retired ten straight batters and with five of them coming on strikeouts already had his best strikeout total in a Stripers uniform. Home runs have been Shuster’s plague and he couldn’t escape it in this outing, but the two-run shot in the fifth inning only temporarily marred his night. Following that home run Shuster retired another nine batters in a row with another five coming on strikeouts to give him his first double-digit strikeout night in a Gwinnett uniform. In addition to the strikeouts Shuster was a ground ball machine, recording nine more ground ball outs in the game. Only three balls in the game went in the air: a third inning pop out to the shortstop, a soft line drive single to lead off the fifth inning, and that home run. Hard contact was hard to come by against him and unfortunately the one time Memphis did square him up they made him pay. Shuster perhaps didn’t even use his full tank, leaving after a full seven innings at just 85 pitches.
After Shuster’s brilliant night the Stripers bullpen had to protect a two-run lead for two innings, and Jay Jackson began that journey by allowing a solo home run to cut their advantage in half. Jackson then allowed a hit and a walk to put the go-ahead run on base before he managed to get it together and get a fly out and strike out to close out the ninth inning. Gwinnett turned to Victor Vodnik to close out the game in the ninth inning, and they had good reason to make that decision. Over his last six outings following his trip to the injured list Vodnik pitched 6 2⁄3 innings, struck out ten batters, and allowed only one run. Vodnik struck out the first batter of the inning looking, but Nolan Gorman netted a double against him that put the tying run in scoring position with one out. Vodnik responded by striking out the next two batters to close out a tight Friday night win.
Next Game: 9/23 @ (71-74) Memphis RedBirds @ 3:05 PM ET