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Jared Shuster and Tanner Gordon rack up K’s, while Michael Harris just keeps hitting

Hey! Two wins a row for the big league Braves, and all of a sudden we all feel much better about the 2022 season. It was so nice to see Ian Anderson back to his usual self on Saturday, as the righty pitched a two-hitter in 5 2/3 and struck out seven, leading Atlanta to another 5-2 win over San Diego. And speaking of strong pitching performances, there were two huge ones down on the farm on Saturday night. Let’s take a look at what went down on the Braves farm yesterday…

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (5-6)

L, 10-0 vs. Nashville

(P) Tucker Davidson – (L), 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR

(DH) Preston Tucker – 1 for 3, 2B

(C) William Contreras – 1 for 3

Now and again a team runs into great pitching, and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday, as Nashville’s starter Ethan Small (MIL’s sixth-ranked prospect) gave the Gwinnett lineup fits, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Small – a first-round pick by the Brewers back in 2019 – finished with seven strikeouts and three walks in his six-inning, one-hitter; a two-out double by the Stripers Preston Tucker in the fifth was the southpaw’s only blemish. Then in the seventh, with Small out of the game, William Contreras gave Gwinnett it’s only other knock for the night when he singled to center. The two hits by the Stripers offense on Saturday was… you guessed it… a season-low.

It didn’t get much better on the mound for Gwinnett last night. Lefty prospect Tucker Davidson got the start, and unfortunately the first and fourth inning was really his only two clean frames of the outing. After pitching around a lead-off single in the opening inning, Tuck gave up a solo-homer to start off the second, which followed with a two-run dinger in the third (to go with a pair of walks). Davidson did well to bounce back in the fourth, setting down all three Nashville batters in order, but trouble struck again in the fifth when, after a lead-off strikeout, two-straight Sounds batters reached base. Jesus Cruz came in to get the final two outs in the fifth, but in the process he surrendered yet another long ball (although he did strikeout former Brave, catcher Alex Jackson).

Nashville would go on to score two more runs in the seventh, and another pair in the ninth, off R.J. Alaniz and Michael Tonkin, giving them the double-digit win on Saturday. Former Rockies outfielder, David Dahl, finished the game with four RBI for the Sounds, thanks to three hits, including a homer and a double. Why is he in Triple-A?

AA – Mississippi Braves (2-6)

W, 4-0 (F/6) vs. Biloxi

(P) Jared Shuster – (W), 5 IP, 2 H, BB, 12 K

(LF) Jefrey Ramos – 1 for 2, 2B, RBI, R

(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 1 for 2, HR, RBI

(CF) Michael Harris II – 1 for 3 (8-game hitting streak)

While he was a first-round pick, and a guy that averaged 14.7 strikeouts per nine in his last collegiate season at Wake Forest, prospect Jared Shuster had never surpassed seven strikeouts in a single outing as a pro… until now. Last night, in his second start of 2022, the lefty tied a Southern League record by punching out eight consecutive batters on his way to a dozen strikeouts overall, helping lead Mississippi to a shutout win – the team’s first in the series.

The 23-year-old Shuster had everything working on Saturday. After pitching around a one-out double in the first, a lead-off walk in the second and a one-out single in the third, the lefty set down eight-straight from the third thru the fifth innings, until a rain delay ended the contest with one out in the sixth. In the five-inning, two-hitter, Shuster totaled 80 pitches (56 strikes) against a Biloxi team that was undefeated. The kid’s ERA for 2022 fell to 0.90 after the start.

On offense, it was the usual contributors for the M-Braves. With the game still tied at 0-0 in the second, slugger Drew Lugbauer belted his third home run of the season when he blasted a pitch over the right-center wall, off the scoreboard, to lead off the inning.

After trading zeroes for a few innings, Mississippi struck again, this time in the fifth. Jalen Miller led off the frame with a base-hit and was then pushed to third when Logan Brown hit a ground ball that was mishandled. A batter later, prospect Jefrey Ramos knocked in Miller with his first double of the season, and then the M-Braves quickly added two more runs when Jacob Pearson popped up a sac-fly to center and the Biloxi fielder made a bad throw back to the infield, allowing both Brown and Ramos to cross home.

Although he didn’t get in on the scoring, prospect Michael Harris II kept his hitting streak going last night, pushing it to eight games in a row with a one-out single in the third inning. The 1 for 3 performance for Harris on Saturday keeps his AVG at .375 for the season, as the kid has literally hit safely in every single game the team has played. What a talent.

A+ – Rome Braves (5-3)

W, 3-2 vs. Hudson Valley

(P) Tanner Gordon – (W), 6 IP, 2 H, 14 K

(C) Javier Valdes – 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI

(3B) Justyn-Henry Malloy – 2 for 4, 2B, R

(1B) Bryson Horne – 1 for 3, RBI, R, BB

The dominant starting pitching continued down in High-A as well, as righty Tanner Gordon led Rome to a win over Hudson Valley last night, while striking out a career-high 14 batters and carrying a no-no into the fourth (after setting down 10-straight). A measly single in the fourth wasn’t enough to get Gordon rattled, though, and throughout the fifth and sixth, the 24-year-old pitched around a double, to go with six consecutive punch outs to finish the impressive outing. Impressive stuff from the former sixth-rounder, and I’m sure we’ll be talking plenty about Gordon in 2022.

But before Gordon exited his start, the R-Braves offense had put up a run, thanks to Bryson Horne, who in the fourth knocked in Justyn-Henry Malloy when he grounded into a force out, in what’d you call a “trade an out for a run” situation.

Rome added two more in the sixth, this time off the bat of Javier Valdes, who absolutely crushed a line drive to left-center for a two-run double, putting the R-Braves up 3-0. The two-bagger was Valdes’ first of the season.

Jake McSteen relieved Gordon for the seventh, and boy did he come close to spoiling his teammates gem last night. McSteen worked a perfect seventh inning, setting the Renegades down in order. But in the eighth, Hudson Valley led off with a single, and then with two outs, added three-straight hits: an RBI double, RBI single and a base-hit. Rome manager Matt Tuiasosopo gave McSteen the hook and opted for the hot-of-late Justin Yeager, who thankfully got the last out of the inning with just three pitches. CLUTCH pitching from Yeager, who had runners on the corner.

Yeager would stay in for the ninth, and after allowing a lead-off walk, he struck out out two of the final three batters he faced, preserving the one-run lead and the win for Rome.

It looks like prospect Vaughn Grissom got the night off on Saturday, as Cade Bunnell started at short in his place. The 2 for 4 performance last night for Malloy was desperately needed, for last year’s sixth-round pick had managed just one hit in his last 12 AB over the last three games. The 22-year-old Malloy is now slashing .219/.324/.313 with three doubles, but has yet to homer this season. Yeager has now worked three consecutive scoreless appearances, and has struck out eight in 3 1/3 innings so far in 2022.

A – Augusta GreenJackets (4-4)

L, 5-4 vs. Myrtle Beach

(P) Adam Shoemaker – 2 2/3 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

(P) J.J. Niekro – 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, BB, 6 K

(3B) Geraldo Quintero – 1 for 5, 3B, 2 RBI, R, SB

(2B) Cal Conley – 1 for 3, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 SB

(LF) Brandon Parker – 2 for 4, 3B, 2B

(CF) Brandol Mezquita – 2 for 4, RBI, BB

For the third time in this series Myrtle Beach walked it off against Augusta last night, as the Pelicans James Triantos (the Cubs 4th ranked prospect) slapped a line drive single to right off GreenJackets reliever Juan Mateo, pushing across the winning run. It was a tough loss, especially considering Augusta had jumped out to a 4-0 lead during the top-half of the third, only for the Pelicans to score four in the bottom-half of the inning, then add one more in the final frame.

There was some positives for Augusta, though. Starter Adam Shoemaker, who was either on a strict pitch count or simply didn’t appear to be control, left the game with two outs in the third after throwing just 56 pitches (30 strikes). However, J.J. Niekro (nephew of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro) came out of the bullpen and pitched beautifully, walking the first batter he faced but inducing an inning-ending groundout. Niekro then proceeded to get in a groove, surrendering a pair of singles in the fourth, but tallying two strikeouts before setting down seven-straight batters. A one-out single in the seventh broke his streak of dominance, but the righty quickly bounced back by getting a double-play ball to remain unscathed. As you can see from his line above, Niekro was on a roll in this one, and as a former UDFA he may be a kid to pay attention to.

The walk-off run was charged to righty Elison Joseph, as it was he who allowed Myrtle Beach to put runners on first and second before Mateo entered and gave up the game-ending RBI. The GreenJackets bullpen didn’t do too bad, just timely hitting for the Pelicans.

On offense, several Augusta hitters stayed hot on Saturday as the usual contributors picked up hits, including Caleb Durbin (1 for 3 / .350 AVG in ’22), Cal Conley (1 for 3 / .257 AVG), Adam Zebrowski (1 for 4 / .280 AVG), Brandol Mezquita (2 for 4 / .333 AVG) and Braulio Vasquez (1 for 5 / .294 AVG). For a Single-A club with not too many top-tier prospects, the GreenJackets lineup hasn’t had any trouble scoring runs this season. Also, Conley’s pair of stolen bases last night already gives him four in 2022, which is already half his total from 35 games last year.

All four Braves affiliates will play its respective series finales on Sunday, with day games for all of Gwinnett (12:05 PM), Mississippi (1:05 PM) and Rome (1:00 PM). Augusta will finish up its set with Myrtle Beach tonight, with first pitch slated for 5:05 PM. Here are today’s probables down on the farm…

  • Gwinnett – Touki Toussaint
  • Mississippi – Alan Rangel
  • Rome – Luis De Avila
  • Augusta – Landon Leach

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