I’m running out of things to say about Kyle Wright’s amazing start to the season with the Braves. The kid did it again on Friday night, when he struck out 11 Marlins batters in six innings. Sure, Miami isn’t necessarily a top-tier offense, but regardless, Wright has been quite a pleasant surprise in 2022, and I hope the righty can keep it up.
Now Atlanta’s 2-0 win over the Marlins might’ve been the storyline of the night on Friday, but there were also several notable performances down the Braves farm. Here’s a look at all the action from Friday…
AAA – Gwinnett Stripers (5-11)
L, 3-2 (F/11) vs. Jacksonville
(P) Tucker Davidson – 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, HR
(RF) Ronald Acuña Jr. – 2 for 3, R, BB, SB
(LF) Preston Tucker – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI
(SS) Braden Shewmake – 1 for 4, 2B
(P) Touki Toussaint – 4 IP, H, 4 K
Gwinnett got on the board quickly on Friday night, thanks to a one-out single by Phil Gosselin and then an RBI double by Preston Tucker. The 31-year-old Tucker is beginning to get a bit hot a the plate of late, as he’s now five for his last 17 (.294 AVG) during these last five games. Tucker knocked in a second run in the third, this time an RBI single to short to push across Ronald Acuña Jr.. However, Jacksonville scored a run of its own in the bottom-half of the frame, making it a 2-1 game through three.
Once again, prospect pitcher Tucker Davidson just didn’t seem to have his best stuff, and in the fifth he showed signs of wearing down, as the Jumbo Shrimp’s Norel Gonzalez took Tuck deep to lead off the inning. It wasn’t really a bad pitch by Davidson – just a better piece of hitting by Gonzalez.
Davidson was able to get one out in the fifth, but was then replaced by William Woods, who was tasked with only getting the final two outs of the inning, before giving way to Touki Toussaint. It was a bit strange seeing Touki coming out of the Gwinnett bullpen, but as you can see by the line above, the righty pitched great last night and probably needed some work. Toussaint was replaced by Dylan Lee out of the Stripers ‘pen, and overall the relief core did its job to hold Jacksonville where it was, but Gwinnett’s offense just couldn’t manufacture any late-inning runs.
The game went to extra-innings and Jacksonville finally won it when Gonzalez came up with another big hit, singling to center to give the Jumbo Shrimp a walk-off hit in the 10th.
For Davidson, that’s now five earned runs from nine hits in 8 2/3 innings this season, giving him a 5.19 ERA overall with the Stripers, not counting the poor big league outing he had with the Braves earlier this season in which he allowed five runs in 2 2/3. Hopefully he can turn this around and get going, especially considering he was expected to compete for a rotation spot in Atlanta this year. The rehabbing Acuña is now 3 for 9 (.333 AVG) in three games so far during his assignment, to go with a double and a pair of stolen bases.
AA – Mississippi Braves (4-9)
L, 3-1 vs. Chattanooga
(P) Jared Shuster – (L), 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K, HR
(RF) Jesse Franklin V – 1 for 3, RBI
(2B) Tyler Krieger – 1 for 2, 2 BB, SB
Mississippi’s Jared Shuster and Chattanooga’s Brandon Williamson battled in what wound being a bit of a pitcher’s duel on Friday, as neither starting pitcher allowed much hard contact. Shuster’s only real mistake came in the fifth when he surrendered a lead-off home run to put the Lookouts up 2-1. Up to that point in his outing, the M-Braves lefty had only given up a double and a pair of singles. Overall, though, the seven-inning start by Shuster will go down as the longest by a Braves minor league pitcher so far in 2022 and a career-high for him (after Darius Vines just went into seventh on Thursday). Shuster will head into his next start with a 1.59 ERA this season, to go with 11.1 strikeouts per nine and just 1.5 walks.
Prospect Michael Harris II didn’t have any hits in the contest on Friday, but the speedy outfielder finished with two stolen bases. His thievery of second in the first inning wound up being crucial, as two batters later Harris scored when Jesse Franklin popped up a sac-fly to left to put Mississippi up 1-0.
Moving to fourth, with a Chattanooga runner on first, first baseman Drew Lugbauer made a nice play by turning a double-play to end the inning and keep the score tied at one.
But the homer by the Lookouts in the fifth off Shuster (mentioned above) gave Chattanooga just enough of a lead, and then in the eighth the team pushed across a third run when M-Braves third baseman CJ Alexander made a throwing error. The Mississippi offense just didn’t have anything going last night, as the lineup didn’t record a hit after the third inning, with its only base runners coming from a fielding error in the fourth and a walk in each of the fifth, seventh and eighth. Hopefully the bats get back at it on Saturday.
A+ – Rome Braves (9-4)
W, 7-2 vs. Bowling Green
(P) Tanner Gordon – (W), 6 IP, 5 H, ER, 6 K, HR
(3B) Justyn-Henry Malloy – 1 for 5, HR, 2 RBI
(SS) Beau Philip – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, R
(RF) Christian Robinson – 2 for 4, HR, 2B, RBI
(C) Javier Valdes – 2 for 5, HR, 2 RBI
Prospect pitcher Tanner Gordon tossed another gem on the mound and the Rome offense broke out for three home runs on Friday night as the R-Braves picked up its third consecutive victory. Gordon, who was coming off a 14-strikeout performance his last time out, continued the dominance last night, with just a harmless solo-homer in the third being his lone mistake. In fact, after setting down the Hot Rods in order in the opening frame, Gordon went on to pitch around just one base-runner in each of the second, third and fourth innings, before giving up a single and a sac-fly in the fifth. The righty finished strong, though. After allowing a lead-off base-hit in the sixth, Gordon struck out all three remaining batters to finish the frame and his outing.
Rome scored off an RBI single by Beau Philip in the second, then jumped way ahead in the fourth thanks to back-to-back home runs from Javier Valdes and Christian Robinson. Then in the fifth, following a lead-off single by Vaughn Grissom, prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy made it a 6-1 game when he crushed his first long ball of the 2022 season.
The R-Braves added a bit of insurance in the ninth, when Philip scored Landon Stephens with a sac-fly to right. The five-run deficit was just too much for Bowling Green to overcome, though, and after surrendering a lead-off double, Rome reliever Austin Smith retired the following three Hot Rods batters in order in the final frame to preserve the lead and the win.
Man this is a hot Rome team, and on Friday it wasn’t the usual guys that provided the offense. Last night, the nos. 7 thru 9 batters in the lineup finished the game 6 for 13 with two homers, a double and five RBI. Like I’ve said a few times this season already, this year’s R-Braves reminds me of 2021’s M-Braves. Lot’s of talent.
A – Augusta GreenJackets (6-7)
W, 5-2 vs. Fayetteville
(P) Adam Shoemaker – 0 IP, ER
(1B) Mahki Backstrom – 2 for 4, 3B, 2B, RBI
(P) Benjamin Dum – 3 IP, 2 H, 4 K
(DH) Adam Zebrowski – 1 for 2, 2B, RBI, R, 2 BB
The GreenJackets were forced to deal with an injury and an early exit from starter Adam Shoemaker, who left the game before getting an out in the first inning of last night’s contest versus the Woodpeckers. Shoemaker was last year’s 11th round pick by the Braves. There hasn’t been any news regarding what happened to him last night, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.
Augusta’s Benjamin Dum came in to replace Shoemaker in the opening frame, and he wound up allowing a couple of singles, resulting in a 1-0 lead for Fayetteville. But the GreenJackets offense answered in its half of the first. Following a lead-off walk by Caleb Durbin, two batters later Adam Zebrowski slapped a two-out double to score Durbin and make it a tied ballgame.
It stayed knotted at one for a few more innings, but in the fourth Augusta added two more runs, thanks to an RBI double by Mahki Backstrom, and then later, a wild pitch by the Woodpeckers that scored Brandol Mezquita.
The GreenJackets provided yet another two-run inning in the eighth. Mezquita led off the frame with a single, then Backstrom scored the young outfielder when he slapped a triple to right, giving the latter a two-hit performance on Friday. A pair of one-out hits by Fayetteville in the ninth resulted in a run for the Woodpeckers, but Augusta’s Juan Mateo did a nice job of settling back down to quickly get the final two outs and preserve the win for the GreenJackets.
The two-hit, three-RBI night for Backstrom was desperately needed, as he was hitting just .147 entering yesterday, thanks to a four-game hitless streak. The former 18th round pick (2019) has always been considered a rather talented fringe-type prospect.
Augusta’s bullpen was pretty solid last night, especially given it had to cover all nine innings due to the injury to Shoemaker. The five-man group of arms combined to strike out 12 batters and allow just two runs from five hits (3 walks).