Where the Atlanta Braves future grows!

Landon Stephens walks it off for Rome, while Mahki Backstrom slugs a pair of HR for Augusta

There was no Atlanta Braves baseball on Thursday, so all eyes were on the organization’s minor league teams. And overall it was a strong night for the affiliates, as three of four won its games. Here’s a look at all the action on the Braves farm from Thursday…

AAA – Gwinnett (17-16)

L, 8-7 vs. Durham

(P) Bryce Elder – 4 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, K

Bullpen – 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 10 K

(C) Chadwick Tromp – 1 for 5, HR, 3 RBI

(3B) Phil Gosselin – 2 for 4, RBI, R, SB

(DH) Preston Tucker – 1 for 4, 2B

(2B) Ryan Goins – 2 for 4, RBI, R

The only Braves minor league affiliate to lose on Thursday, Gwinnett somehow spoiled what was once a 7-0 lead over Durham. And to make matters worse, the Bulls won in walk-off fashion, as Jonathan Aranda slapped the game-winning RBI single to right against the Stripers Nick Vincent.

I mean, you couldn’t have asked for a better start. Gwinnett began by going up 1-0 in the second when Greyson Jenista knocked in Hernan Perez on a force-out. Then in the fourth, three consecutive Stripers reaching base to lead to an RBI single by Ryan Goins, followed by a bases-loaded walk by Phil Gosselin, a sac-fly by Braden Shewmake, and to top it all off… a three-run homer by Chadwick Tromp to make it a seven-run game.

And through three, Gwinnett starter Bryce Elder had been sharp, never facing more than four batters in any of the first three frames. But in the bottom-half of the fourth, Durham answered back with a six-run inning of its own, and 10 batters later, the Bulls trailed 7-6.

Though Vincent allowed the game-winning run in the ninth, you have to give the Stripers bullpen some credit for last night’s performance, holding Durham for much of the latter-innings.

For Tromp, that’s now seven homers in his last eight games, as he has tallied nearly all of his long balls this season (8) just in the last week. The dude is on a crazy stretch right now, and I don’t think he’s planning on cooling off any time soon. Prospect outfielder Drew Waters was not in the Stripers lineup last night. Seems like a normal day of rest as the team is still being super careful with his hamstring.

The six runs allowed by Elder goes down as a season-high… by far. Until Thursday, the prospect righty hadn’t given up more than three runs in a single start, so his season ERA will go from 2.57 to 6.55. I’m not concerned, though. It just wasn’t his night there at the end.

AA – Mississippi (13-17)

W, 3-2 vs. Chattanooga

(P) Alan Rangel – 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 6 K

Bullpen – 4 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K

(CF) Michael Harris II – 1 for 3, RBI

(1B) Cade Bunnell – 2 for 4, 2B

(RF) Justin Dean – 2 for 4, 2B

The M-Braves came back last night and won its game versus Chattanooga, thanks to an incredible throw by right fielder Justin Dean, who preserved Mississippi’s 3-2 advantage in the bottom of the ninth by throwing out a Lookout runner going home.

Of course the M-Braves first needed to get those three runs… and it all started in the final two frames of the game. Trailing 2-0 in the eighth, the infamous Michael Harris II put Mississippi on the board when he lifted a perfectly-placed sac-fly to center, scoring Logan Brown.

Then, in the top-half of the ninth, the M-Braves rallied when Luke Waddell singled and both CJ Alexander and Trey Harris drew back to back walks. With the bases loaded, Andrew Mortiz came through in a big way, popping up another clutch sac-fly to tie the game at 2-2.

That game-tying score by the M-Braves was immediately followed up with yet another big hit by Jalen Miller, who knocked in Alexander with swinging-bunt that the Chattanooga third baseman couldn’t do anything with. Everybody was safe and Mississippi led 3-2.

Closer Justin Maese came in for the bottom-half of the ninth for the M-Braves. Maese allowed a lead-off single, but then induced a strikeout, and following Dean’s putout from right field he got the Lookouts to groundout for the third and final out, converting his sixth save of the season.

Notable contributors on Mississippi’s offense not only included two hot hitters in Michael Harris and Waddell, but also Cade Bunnell, who was just promoted to Double-A prior to Thursday’s game. Bunnell finished with two hits, including a double in the win. And speaking of Waddell, with Harris’ hit streak snapped back on Wednesday, the M-Braves primary shortstop now holds a team-high ten-game hitting streak, to go with his .306 AVG and and 20 RBI. Harris extended his on-base streak to 30 games when he slapped an opposite-field single in the third.

For M-Braves starter Alan Rangel, the righty was dominant during the first four innings of his outing on Thursday, having struck out five and walking three. But overall, Rangel’s control issues got worse throughout the game and he wound up matching a season-high in free passes (5) in the 88-pitch start. Regardless, though, the 24-year-old has allowed two or fewer runs in all but one of his six Double-A outings so far in 2021, despite sporting a 5.40 ERA. Lefty batters have tallied an .861 OPS versus Rangel this season.

A+ – Rome (17-13)

W, 3-2 vs. Winston-Salem

(P) Luis De Avila – 6 IP, 4 H, BB, 6 K

(LF) Landon Stephens – 1 for 2, HR, 3 RBI, BB

(CF) Cody Milligan – 1 for 3, 3B, BB

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

This game had it all for Rome, featuring six shutout innings from starting pitcher Luis De Avila, an immaculate inning from reliever Alec Barger in the top-half of the ninth, and a walk-off home run from slugger Landon Stephens, giving the R-Braves an exciting win over Winston-Salem on Thursday night. Here’s that game-winning dinger by Stephens, who has a whopping 10 home runs so far in 2022.

Stephens had begun to seem to cool off lately, going just 1 for 18 (.056 AVG) with nine strikeouts in his last five games entering last night, but this kid is going to be a bit streaky… and we’ll just have to accept that going forward. His 10 long balls is the second-most in High-A’s South Atlantic League and tied for fourth in all of minor league baseball, and he’ll enter Friday with a .227 AVG and .913 OPS for the year.

For De Avila, this whole starting pitching thing is going rather well so far this season. In his first year as a starter, the lefty now has two outings in which he hasn’t allowed a single run, giving him a 4.30 ERA so far in 2022. His start last night was a nice improvement compared to the six runs he allowed last week.

A – Augusta (18-12)

W, 13-2 vs. Columbia

(P) Jordano Perez – (W), 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, K, HR

Bullpen – 3 IP, H, 2 BB, 6 K

(1B) Mahki Backstrom – 3 for 5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R

(RF) Kadon Morton – 2 for 4, 2 RBI, R, BB

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

(LF) Connor Blair – 1 for 5, HR, RBI, R

(CF) Brandol Mezquita – 2 for 5, 2B, R, SB

(SS) Cal Conley – 3 for 5, 2 R, SB

It was a night for hits as Augusta collectively tallied 16 as a team, with only Brian Klein going without a knock in the win, though Klein did make this nice play at second in the third…

The GreenJackets teamed up for four home runs on the night, with first baseman Mahki Backstrom slugging two all by himself, hitting one in the sixth and one in the eighth, giving him a season-high five RBI on the night. Here’s that long ball in the sixth…

Of course you can’t give all the credit to the Augusta offense. The GreenJackets five-game winning streak has mostly been about its strong pitching, and that trend continued on Thursday as Jordano Perez induced a ton of weak contact in his outing. Perez, making just his second start for Augusta, generated 13 batted-ball outs last night, with 11 of those coming as groundouts. The kid didn’t rack up strikeouts, only getting one, but he was able to keep Columbia from threatening during his six innings of work. And to top it off, both relievers James Acuna and Isrrael De La Cruz did a nice job of preserving the lead by tossing three scoreless frames to end the game.

For last night’s MVP, Backstrom, it hasn’t been the best start to 2022, as his immense struggles against left-handed pitching (.083 AVG) has held him back this year. But hopefully the three-hit, 5 RBI performance on Thursday sparks something in him going forward. Brandol Mezquita stays hot with a double last night, giving him his sixth XBH in his last nine games – a stretch in which he has hit .368 with a 1.046 OPS.

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