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Drew Waters walks it off for Gwinnett, while Darius Vines K’s 11 for Mississippi

Man was Sunday’s Braves game fun to watch. Finally… Atlanta’s bats woke up for a change and routed Milwaukee 9-2, thanks to four XBH and multi-hit performances from both Ronald Acuña Jr. and Dansby Swanson. Oh yeah… starter Charlie Morton was pretty solid too, as he tossed a two-hitter over five innings, striking out five and walking three. Overall it was a fun game to watch, and I hope the Braves can actually keep it up for little while.

The Braves org nearly swept the field on Mother’s Day, as, along with the big league win, all but one minor league affiliate was victorious on Sunday. Here’s a recap of all the action from Sunday’s games down on the Braves farm…

AAA – Gwinnett (15-15)

W, 6-5 vs. Charlotte

(P) Connor Johnstone – 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, K

(CF) Drew Waters – 3 for 5, RBI, R

(C) Chadwick Tromp – 2 for 4, 2 2B, 3 RBI, R

(SS) Braden Shewmake – 2 for 4, 2B, R

(LF) Preston Tucker – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI, R

Sunday’s day game was back and forth during the first half, as both the Stripers and Knights traded runs in each of the first and third innings, resulting in a 3-3 tie after three. Gwinnett’s early runs came from a two-run double by Chadwick Tromp in the first and an RBI groundout by Preston Tucker in the third. With the Stripers opting for a bullpen day, runs were bound to be needed, even though Connor Johnstone performed admirably in his 2 1/3 innings of work.

Thomas Burrows entered with one out in the third and immediately allowed a sac-fly. He settled in for much of the fourth, getting two quick outs, but back to back Charlotte hits broke the tie and gave the Knights a 4-3 lead. Then in the fifth, with Brandon Brennan on the mound, Charlotte rallied again by leading off the frame with two-straight base-hits. Two batters later, highly-touted prospect Blake Rutherford made Brennan pay for those hits by slapping a ground ball to right to push the Knights lead to two.

That 5-3 score would stand for the next three in a half innings, as neither offense could do much in the latter portion of the game. However, in the bottom of the ninth, with Gwinnett at the brink of a Mother’s Day loss, the Stripers bats came alive when Tucker led off the final frame with a double and Tromp followed with a two-bagger of his own. Alex Dickerson struck out for the first out, but veteran Pat Valaika tied things up 5-5 with a sac-fly to center that scored Tromp. The momentum continued, when John Nogowski singled and Phil Gosselin got whacked by a pitch. And then, with runners on first and second, prospect Drew Waters wrapped up the series with a win, inside-outing a walk-off single to left to score a pinch-running Greyson Jenista.

The win on Sunday gives Gwinnett a .500 record as the team enters its scheduled off day on Monday. The Stripers head to Durham on Tuesday having won 4 of 6 against Charlotte.

AA – Mississippi (11-16)

W, 6-3 vs. Pensacola

(P) Darius Vines – 6 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 11 K, HR

(SS) Luke Waddell – 1 for 2, HR, 2 RBI, BB

(RF) Justin Dean – 1 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI

(CF) Michael Harris II – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R

(3B) Riley Delgado – 1 for 3, RBI, R

Since ending the month of April with a terrible outing back on April 27 (featuring seven earned runs from seven hits in 3 2/3 innings), Vines has evidently settled in, and Sunday’s game was his best performance yet as he struck out a career-high 11 batters.

Vines didn’t give up a Pensacola hit until the fifth inning on Sunday, featuring a stretch in which he struck out seven consecutive batters. The 24-year-old righty was in the zone, with his only blemish coming in the seventh when he appeared to tire, allowing back to back singles to begin the frame, followed by a one-out, three-run home run that gave the Blue Wahoos a 3-2 lead – which led to him being replaced by Tyler Ferguson. The gem by Vines now gives him a 4.60 ERA for the season, to go with 10.7 strikeouts per nine.

Of course, this game wasn’t all about Vines performance. Prospect Michael Harris II did it all on Sunday, starting with an impressive catch in center field in the first.

Then, obviously, Harris still needed to keep his streaks going. So in the fourth, the outfielder led off with a ground ball single to push his hitting streak to 14 and his on-base streak to a whopping 27.

Two batters after Harris’ base-hit, Luke Waddell put the M-Braves on the board by slugging his second home run of the season. Waddell is hot, folks.

As mentioned above in the text regarding Vines’ pitching performance, Pensacola jumped out to a 3-2 lead in the seventh with the three-run dinger. But fortunately the Mississippi bats didn’t let its starter’s incredible game go to waste. The M-Braves offense came out in the bottom-half of the inning and sent eight batters to the plate. The four-run outburst was capped off by a two-run triple by the speedy Justin Dean, and just like that Mississippi led 6-3.

The M-Braves bullpen deserves credit as well, for the trio of Ferguson, Jake Higginbotham and Indigo Diaz combined to toss 2 2/3 scoreless innings to hold off Pensacola. As shown by each of their season ERAs, both Higginbotham (9.58) and Diaz (4.09) needed the clean appearances.

A+ – Rome (14-13)

L, 10-3 vs. Greenville

(P) Dylan Dodd – (L), 5 1/3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 6 K, HR

(RF) Christian Robinson – 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI

(3B) Justyn-Henry Malloy – 1 for 3, 2B, BB

(CF) David Campbell – 2 for 4

Rome’s series finale on Sunday was a rough one, as once again last year’s third-round pick, lefty Dylan Dodd, struggled. Dodd’s seven earned runs yesterday is the third time this season he has allowed three or more runs in a start, giving him a bloated 6.44 ERA in six outings so far in 2022. But to be fair, his final line is a bit misleading, for most of the damage came in a four-run second inning, when Greenville put two base runners on and swatted a three-run homer. If you take away that costly longball, Dodd’s line is much more manageable (5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 6 K). But unfortunately… that’s not how it works, so the prospect pitcher will need to regroup for his next scheduled start.

The Drive put up a four spot in the sixth inning as well, this time with a two-out RBI single (off Dodd)… and later a three-run homer (off reliever Justin Yeager). By the time Rome’s offense came alive in the seventh for three runs of its own (thanks to a pair of RBI singles by both Christian Robinson and Beau Philip), it was really too late.

Of course, it didn’t help that Greenville tacked on two more runs in the bottom-half of the seventh to make it a seven-run game (thanks to a throwing error by R-Braves catcher Javier Valdes).

Overall, it just wasn’t Rome’s game, and the loss on Sunday gives the team four in a row now as this marks its first series loss of the season. The R-Braves will be back it on Tuesday at home, starting a series with Winston-Salem.

A – Augusta (15-12)

W, 9-7 vs. Carolina

(P) Luis Vargas – 4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K

(3B) Caleb Durbin – 1 for 3, 3B, 2 RBI

(CF) Kadon Morton – 4 for 4, RBI, R, BB, SB

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

(RF) Stephen Paolini – 1 for 5, HR, RBI, R

Augusta broke out for three runs rather quickly on Sunday. Geraldo Quintero led off with a double and was knocked in from a sac-bunt by Cal Conley that was misplayed by the Carolina defense. Following a walk by Adam Zebrowski two batters later, the GreenJackets made it 2-0 when Brandon Parker slapped a line drive to left that scored Conley. And after a wild pitch by the Mudcats, Kadon Morton recorded his first of four knocks on the day when he singled to left, scoring Zebrowski. Six batters and three runs… it doesn’t get much more efficient than that to begin a ballgame.

That 3-0 advantage held for a bit, but Carolina’s offense finally broke through with one run in the fourth, thanks to a trio of singles. But Augusta countered quickly by tacking on two more scores in the fifth when Conley and Quintero initiated a double-steal of second and home, respectively, with the former eventually scoring from a Mudcats throwing error. A 5-1 GreenJackets lead turned into a 5-2 lead in the bottom-half of the inning, when Carolina hit a one-out RBI double, ending Luis Vargas’ day on the mound.

The sixth and seventh were uneventful, but the eighth and ninth featured a combined nine runs from both teams. Augusta scored two in the eighth when Caleb Durbin slapped his first triple of the year, emptying the bases to push the GreenJackets lead to 7-2. But the Mudcats weren’t done scoring either. In the bottom-half of the eighth, Carolina led off with a solo home run, and then proceeded to send eight more batters to the plate, resulting in four more runs to make it a tied ballgame. What has happened to this Augusta bullpen?

Thankfully the GreenJackets were able to end the series with a win, though. Following a flyout by Conley to lead off the ninth, Stephen Paolini belted his first homer of the season to put Augusta up 8-7, and then later in the inning Victor De Hoyos drew a bases loaded walk to push the lead to two.

GreenJackets reliever Juan Mateo came out again for the final half-inning, and at first appeared to be hellbent on making this another comeback rally for Carolina when he walked the first batter. But fortunately, Mateo induced a double-play ball in the infield and then got another Mudcats batter to groundout to second to end the game.

Augusta ties its series with Carolina and will return home for Tuesday’s opener versus Columbia, the team the GreenJackets opened the 2022 season against (AUG won that series 4-3).

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