Where the Atlanta Braves future grows!

Andrew Hoffmann tosses career-best outing, strikes out 11 in Rome win

The Braves were off on Thursday, so the farm system took center stage. Here’s a look at all of yesterday’s action.

AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (5-10)

L, 8-2 vs. Jacksonville

(P) Jasseel De La Cruz – (L), 2 ⅔ IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

(C) William Contreras – 1 for 4, RBI

(LF) Preston Tucker – 1 for 3, 2B, R, BB

(SS) Braden Shewmake – 2 for 4

Count me as one who no longer understands why Jasseel De La Cruz is still starting games. Following last night’s poor outing, I shared this not so fun fact…

JDLC kicked off Thursday’s game by allowing three-straight hits to Jacksonville, which resulted in a quick 1-0 deficit. He had a quick, 1-2-3 second inning, but after facing eight batters in the third, featuring four more earned runs, Cruz’s pitch-count approached 60 so he was given the quick hook, once again. The Braves need to switch this kid’s role before he loses absolutely all confidence in his ability to pitch.

Of course last night’s loss wasn’t entirely Cruz’s fault. The Stripers lineup managed just four hits altogether, with Preston Tucker’s double going down as the offense’s only XBH. Although, prospect Braden Shewmake stays rather hot with two hits on Thursday, pushing his AVG up to .294 for the 2022 season. All in all, though, Gwinnett’s Travis Demeritte-less offense lacked the punch it usually has.

*Ronald Acuna Jr. was NOT in the Stripers lineup on Thursday.

AA – Mississippi Braves (4-8)

W, 4-3 vs. Chattanooga 

(P) Darius Vines – (W), 6 ⅓ IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K

(C) Hendrick Clementina – 1 for 2, RBI, 2 BB

(2B) Tyler Krieger – 1 for 3, R

(3B) Riley Delgado – 1 for 2, R

(P) Justin Maese – (S), 1 ⅓ IP, BB, 3 K

Last night starter Darius Vines provided Mississippi with its longest outing of the season so far, when he pitched into the seventh. It was a strong outing for the 23-year-old righty, who from the second to sixth inning only faced two more than the minimum. Vines, a former seventh-round pick, will head into his fourth start next week with a 2.51 ERA.

Both offenses were pretty quiet until the sixth, when the M-Braves put up four runs. After both Riley Delgado and Michael Harris II each were hit by pitches in back-to-back ABs, Tyler Krieger put down a sac-bunt to move Delgado to third. Then, prospect Jesse Franklin V popped up a sac-fly to center to score the game’s first run.

Two more walks by the Chattanooga pitcher resulted in another run for Mississippi, as Harris scored. Then, a batter later, both Krieger and Drew Lugbauer crossed home when the Lookouts shortstop misplayed a ball hit by Jacob Pearson. 

Vines finally allowed a run in the seventh (an RBI double), before being replaced by Trey Riley. And Riley proceeded to surrender a base-hit and a walk, which a batter late resulted in another Chattanooga run. Then in the eighth, Justin Maese threw a wild pitch that allowed a third run, making things interesting during the final two frames. But thankfully, Maese settled down and struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the one-run lead and the win. 

A+ – Rome Braves (8-4)

W, 4-2 vs. Bowling Green 

(P) Andrew Hoffmann – (W), 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 11 K, HR

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

(C) Tyler Tolve – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI, BB, SB

(CF) Cody Milligan – 2 for 4, R, BB, 2 SB

(RF) Christian Robinson – 1 for 4, RBI

After suffering some bad luck his last time out, righty Andrew Hoffmann put it all together in his start on Thursday. The 22-year-old began the outing by retiring seven consecutive batters, before allowing a one-out, solo-home run in the third. However, that harmless dinger didn’t seem to bother Hoffmann, as he went on to strikeout the next two Bowling Green batters to end the frame, then worked around just a measly two singles through the remainder of his six-inning start. The quality outing gives the former 12th-round pick a solid 3.00 ERA this season, to go with a ridiculous 22-1 strikeout-walk ratio. This kid is certainly going to garner some attention in 2022.

Rome’s offense got the scoring going in the fourth, thanks to a lead-off single by Bryson Horne, who four batters later came around to score when Christian Robinson slapped a line drive base-hit to center.

The R-Braves added two more in the fifth. Andrew Moritz led off with a walk, then Cody Milligan followed by reaching base from an error by Bowling Green and prospect Vaughn Grissom loaded the bases with another free pass. Following a mound visit by the Hot Rods, Justyn-Henry Mallow drew yet another walk, scoring Moritz to take a 2-1 lead. A batter later Horne pushed across Milligan with a ground ball double-play, and just like that Rome was up by two.

Following a lead-off double by Mallow to open the seventh, catcher Tyler Tolve stayed hot by cueing a softly-hit ball to left for an RBI double, pushing the R-Braves lead to 4-1.

Bowling Green tried to make a comeback in the final inning, blasting a solo-homer in the ninth off Rome’s Dylan Spain, but the lead was too much to overcome and the R-Braves held on, improving its record to an impressive 8-4 overall this season.

This Rome team is a lot of fun to watch, and reminds me of last season’s Mississippi Braves. Lot’s of talent up and down the roster.

A – Augusta GreenJackets (5-7)

L, 7-1 vs. Fayetteville 

(P) AJ Smith-Shawver – (L), 1 ⅔ IP, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K

(P) J.J. Niekro – 3 ⅓ IP, H, BB, 5 K

(LF) Kadon Morton – 1 for 4

(1B) Braulio Vasquez – 1 for 4

Augusta ran into some strong pitching by Fayetteville last night, as the Woodpeckers collectively struck out 13 GreenJackets batters, including eight punch outs for its starter Alex Santos (who tossed a four-inning, no-hitter). Although, a six-man group of arms for Augusta also racked up the K’s, as AJ Smith-Shawver (4 K), J.J. Niekro (5 K), Elison Joseph (1 K), Ben Thompson (1 K), Rob Griswold (2 K) and Luis Vargas (1 K) all combined for 14 strikeouts in the loss. For Niekro, the kid has now pitched 11 1/3 scoreless frames for the GreenJackets, all while allowing just a .111 AVG from opposing batters. As an UDFA, the son of Joe Niekro has been an absolute beast out of the bullpen in 2022, as he’s able to cover multiple innings for Augusta.

There wasn’t much to get excited for on offense for the GreenJackets last night, as only three batter recorded hits (Kadon Morton, Brandon Parker and Braulio Vasquez), and Augusta’s only run came off a bases-loaded walk in the seventh. Hopefully the bats can get back going on Friday.

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