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Michael Harris II extends on-base streak to 26 games; Freddy Tarnok tosses two-hitter for M-Braves

After getting shutout on Friday, the Braves as an organization needed some wins on Saturday… and fortunately it did get some, as not only did Atlanta defeat Milwaukee 3-2, but two of the four minor league affiliates came away with victories. Here’s a recap of all the action down on the Braves farm from Saturday…

AAA – Gwinnett (14-15)

W, 6-1 vs. Charlotte 

(P) Kyle Muller – (W), 6 IP, 7 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K

(3B/LF) Hernán Pérez – 1 for 3, HR, 2 RBI, BB

(C) Ryan Casteel – 2 for 4, HR, RBI, 2 R

(DH) Alex Dickerson – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI 

(2B) Ryan Goins – 1 for 2, 2B, R

After playing as Gwinnett’s DH on Friday, prospect outfielder Drew Waters wasn’t in the lineup for Saturday’s game. Although, it didn’t look like the offense missed him all that much, as Ryan Casteel, Hernán Pérez and Pat Valaika all homered, while Kyle Muller pitched another solid outing.

The Stripers got right down to business in the second, and with two outs, Casteel belted his fourth homer of the season over the left field wall to put Gwinnett up 1-0.

Gwinnett added three more runs in the third: Braden Shewmake led off the frame with a single, then was followed by a two-run homer from Pérez. Two batters later, Valaika added his dinger, and just like that the Stripers led 4-0.

Muller had to work around some traffic in the fourth, as Charlotte managed to come up with a pair of two-out hits (a double and a single, respectively), with the latter hit knocking in a run. However, the lefty prospect pitcher bounced back and got the final out of the inning to escape with limited damage. According to the play log, that third out in the top of the fourth featured a play at the plate in which left fielder Pérez connected with cut-off man Shewmake, who then threw out a Knights runner trying for home.

Gwinnett tacked on two more runs in the bottom-half of the fourth, when Casteel scored off a wild pitch and Alex Dickerson knocked in Ryan Goins with a line drive double to left.

Following Muller’s outing, the Stripers bullpen was dominant, working around just a pair of doubles through the final three innings of the ballgame. The three-man relief group featured R.J. Alaniz (IP, K), Seth Elledge (IP, K) and Jesús Cruz (IP, H, 2 K). Muller certainly needed a good start last night, especially given how much he was knocked around in his May 1 outing with Atlanta. The performance on Saturday drops his ERA in Gwinnett down to 3.16 for the season.

AA – Mississippi (10-16)

L, 3-1 vs. Pensacola 

(P) Freddy Tarnok – 4 ⅔ IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 6 K

(CF) Michael Harris II – 1 for 4, 2B, R

(SS) Luke Waddell – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI

(DH) Hendrick Clementina – 1 for 4, 2B

Saturday was perhaps prospect Freddy Tarnok’s best start of the season so far, but a pair of sixth-inning runs off reliever A.J. Puckett cost Mississippi, as last night Pensacola won 3-1.

Tarnok had to deal with trouble right from the get-go yesterday, allowing a lead-off double on the second pitch of the game. A wild pitch two batters later allowed that runner to advance from second to third, which ended up hurting him because he then served up a sac-fly that gave the Blue Wahoos a 1-0 lead. But with the way this M-Braves offense is swinging it, that deficit didn’t last long. In the bottom-half of the inning, prospect Michael Harris II led off with a double of his own, extending all of his ridiculous streaks for yet another day.

That two-bagger was immediately followed up with another double by Luke Waddell, scoring Harris and tying the game at one apiece.

With the game tied at one, Tarnok seemed to settle in. Throughout the rest of his outing, the righty worked around a single in the second and a walk in the third – but other than that, he was solid, tallying five strikeouts in that span. Tarnok’s only issue was his lack of efficiency, as he needed a whopping 90 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings.

Puckett came in and replaced Tarnok with two outs in the fifth, but then had a rough sixth – an inning that featured eight Pensacola batters, including back to back RBI singles and three-straight base-hits. Those two runs by the Blue Wahoos in the sixth ended up being the difference. Mississippi managed to piece together a pair of singles, a double and a walk over the next three innings, but none of those hits came with runners on the bases, hence the zero runs during that span.

While it was an improvement for Tarnok, his opponent on the mound, righty Zach McCambley, was mighty impressive. McCambley, 23-years-old, was considered to be the Marlins 23rd-ranked prospect in 2021 (per FanGraphs), and he showed why on Friday night, striking out eight in a six-inning, two-hitter. It was by far the best start of his season so far, as McCambley sports a 7.33 ERA, even after last night.

A+ – Rome (14-12)

L, 5-1 vs. Greenville

(P) Royber Salinas – (L), 2/3 IP, H, 4 ER, 3 BB, K, HR

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

(CF) Drew Campbell – 1 for 4

(DH) Willie Carter – 1 for 2, R, BB

It had to of been a High-A debut to forget for starting pitcher Royber Salinas, who was given the hook on Saturday after getting just two outs. Salinas threw only 31 pitches (14 strikes) in the outing, and from as far as I can tell, there was no injury. (It’s nearly impossible to find out injury news in the minors.)

Any other night, an early exit for a Rome starter wouldn’t matter much, but last night the R-Braves bats were quiet… for probably one of the first times so far this season, only coming a way with three hits overall as a team.

Salinas was charged with four runs in the first, thanks to three walks and then a two-out grand slam by Greenville. Following that huge hit by the Drive, Salinas was replaced by Malcolm Van Buren, who walked the next batter but got out of it by striking out Jaxx Groshan (the guy that belted two homers on Friday).

With R.J. Freure on the mound, Greenville tacked on another run with an RBI triple in the fourth, giving them five unanswered runs. But finally, in the sixth, Rome’s offense woke up and recorded its first hit of the game as Drew Campbell slapped a ground ball single to left. Then in the seventh, the R-Braves scored its first run when, following back to back walks, Cade Bunnell lifted a sac-fly to center, pushing in Willie Carter and making it a four-run ballgame. However, Rome only managed to combine for one more hit in the eighth and ninth innings, so that 5-1 score stuck.

A – Augusta (14-12)

W, 6-5 (F/10) vs. Carolina 

(P) Kris Anglin – 2 1/3 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K

(3B) Geraldo Quintero – 2 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB

(1B) Mahki Backstrom – 1 for 4, 3B, R

(C) Rusber Estrada – 3 for 5, 2B, RBI

(2B) Cal Conley – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB

Once again Augusta enjoyed a first-inning lead on Saturday, thanks to the scorching-hot bat of Brandol Mezquita, who reached base on an error in the opening frame, allowing Geraldo Quintero to score. But that 1-0 lead wouldn’t last long. In the fourth, Carolina started a rally with a lead-off single, and then three batters later the Mudcats homered, quickly making it 2-1. Then, in the fifth, Carolina added another score with an RBI line drive single.

But Augusta finally answered in the sixth. Mezquita led off with a walk, then advanced to second on a passed ball. Rusber Estrada doubled and then Stephen Paolini scored Mezquita with a ground out to third. The seventh was even more productive, though, as Mahki Backstrom slapped a lead-off triple, Connor Blair walked and Quintero cleared the bases with a triple of his own. Talk about some clutch hitting…

Then, a batter later, Cal Conley made it 5-3 Augusta when he popped up a sac-fly to center, scoring Quintero. But unfortunately, that two-run lead didn’t stick. In the bottom-half of the seventh, Carolina quickly smacked a pair of singles against the GreenJackets J.J. Niekro, and with one out in the inning, Rolddy Munoz came in to replace him. But Munoz couldn’t do much better, as he hit the first Mudcats batter, then allowed a two-run single to tie the game.

Nothing going for either offense in the eighth kept things locked on into the final inning of regulation. And despite a one-out single by Quintero in the ninth, the 20-year-old got himself picked off at first, and the inning ended following a strikeout by Conley. In the bottom-half of the ninth, Munoz pitched around an error and a pair of walks, but was replaced by Rob Griswold for the final out.

With Conley starting off the 10th at second base as the zombie runner, Estrada quickly gave Augusta the lead when he barreled a line drive RBI single to right to go up 6-5. And thankfully, Griswold held off the Carolina bats by setting them down in order to preserve the lead and the win.

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