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CJ Alexander crushes two HR, while Vaughn Grissom comes a double shy of cycle

That Braves-Padres game last night was tough to watch. When Dansby Swanson slugged that monster three-run home run in the sixth, to go up 6-4, I thought for sure Atlanta had it in the bag.

But San Diego went on to score seven unanswered runs and win 11-6. Yikes.

But anyways, Friday night was pretty solid down on the farm. Here’s a recap of all the action…

AAA – Gwinnett (17-17)

L, 6-3 vs. Durham

(P) Huascar Ynoa – (L), 3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, HR

(SS) Pat Valaika – 1 for 4, HR, RBI

(RF) Greyson Jenista – 1 for 3, 2B, RBI, BB

(2B) Hernán Pérez – 2 for 4, 2 2B, R

Once again, it didn’t take long for Gwinnett to get on the board on Friday. Just three batters in, veteran journeyman Pat Valaika took a 3-2 pitch deep over the left field wall, giving the Stripers a 1-0 lead.

However, that small lead didn’t last long. In the bottom-half of the first, with starter Huascar Ynoa on the mound, Durham led off with a walk, followed by a one-out single to put runners on first and second. Then, a batter later, the Bulls cashed in with a two-run double to center to go up 2-1. This actually wasn’t a bad pitch by Ynoa.

The Bulls added three combined runs between the third and fourth, coming from a two-run home run from Josh Lowe in the former inning, and then an RBI groundout by Lowe in the latter frame.

Gwinnett got two back in the seventh, though. Hernán Pérez doubled to lead off the frame, then two batters later Greyson Jenista knocked him in with a double to right. After that, Delino DeShields made it a two-run game (5-3 Durham) when he singled to center.

But in the eighth, with reliever Michael Tonkin on the mound for Gwinnett, the Bulls tacked on another run when former Rays prospect Tristan Gray went deep for his fifth homer of the year. That gave us our 6-3 final score.

That’s two rough outings in a row for Ynoa now, who has allowed 10 runs over his last eight innings spanning two starts. Coming into last night’s game, the 23-year-old had been getting crushed by lefty batters, having allowed a 1.006 OPS against that flavor of hitters, compared to a more manageable .732 OPS allowed versus righties. Ynoa’s season ERA is now 6.41 heading into next week.

On a positive note, prospect Drew Waters was back in the Gwinnett lineup, leading off and playing center field. I suppose we could be seeing him in some kind of every-other-day schedule for awhile going forward, which is better than nothing I guess. The double by Jenista in the seventh gives him three two-baggers in his last three games, as the 25-year-old is beginning to get hot at the plate, going 5 for 11 (.454 AVG) in that span.

AA – Mississippi (14-17)

W, 9-2 vs. Chattanooga

(P) Freddy Tarnok – 5 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K

(3B) CJ Alexander – 3 for 5, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R

(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 2 for 5, 2B, 2 R

(RF/CF) Michael Harris II – 1 for 2, RBI, 2 BB

The M-Braves broke out for nine runs from 13 hits on Friday night, including two home runs from former prospect third baseman CJ Alexander. Alexander jumped all over this one in the fifth…

And then slugged another no-doubter in the final inning, giving him a whopping six RBI for the night (the first time that many RBI has been tallied by an M-Brave since 2013, by Jaime Pedroza).

The two-homer performance by Alexander last night was his third at the Double-A level of his career, as he’s heated up lately going 11 for his last 41 (.268 AVG) with five XBH in the past 10 games. It was also another multi-hit game for Luke Waddell, who now has four such performances during his current 11-game hitting streak, giving him a solid .314 AVG and .859 OPS for the season. Also, prospect Michael Harris II kept his on-base streak going, pushing it to 31-straight.

For Mississippi’s starter on Friday, Freddy Tarnok, the win was his first of 2022, as the 23-year-old has been one of the more consistent performers in the M-Braves staff so far. Last night’s scoreless outing was the second start in a row that Tarnok has allowed one or fewer runs, giving him a respectable 3.55 ERA this season. Prospect Victor Vodnik pitched the ninth in scoreless fashion, giving him six shutout innings thus far to begin the 2022 campaign.

A+ – Rome (18-13)

W, 5-4 vs. Winston-Salem

(P) Roddery Munoz – 4 2/3 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 4 K

(RF) Christian Robinson – 3 for 4, R

(3B) Justyn-Henry Malloy – 2 for 5, 2 RBI, R

(SS) Vaughn Grissom – 3 for 4, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB

(C) Tyler Tolve – 2 for 4

Rome won a wild one on Friday night, giving the team four-straight victories and a series win. One of the offense’s most consistent contributors, outfielder Drew Campbell, provided the heroics last night, slapping a line drive to left-center for the walk-off RBI in the ninth.

The R-Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the very first inning thanks to a two-run home run by prospect shortstop Vaughn Grissom – his third long ball of the season.

But four runs combined in the fifth and sixth for Winston-Salem put Rome down by two going into the latter-innings, setting up that exciting final frame. To start off the ninth, Willie Carter flew out, but Christian Robinson got on with a clutch single. Then, two batters later with two outs, Grissom singled to right to put runners on first and third. A mound visit by the Dash was followed up with a huge two-run single by Justyn-Henry Malloy that was hit in no-mans land in shallow-center, tying the game at four apiece.

A walk by Landon Stephens put runners on first and second again… and Campbell didn’t miss his opportunity…

The three-hit performance by Grissom (who came a double short of the cycle), was just his second three-hit game of the season. Although the prospect has been solid lately, having gone 12 for 35 (.342 AVG) with two homers, a double and a triple in his last nine games. Grissom is still hitting over .300, sporting a .303 AVG and .846 OPS for the year. It was also a big night at the plate for Robinson, who’s now up to a .345 AVG for 2022. The 22-year-old outfielder was even hotter last month, but over his last 13 games he has a whopping 19 hits in 46 AB, good for a .413 AVG in that span.

For Rome’s starter last night, Roddery Munoz, it wasn’t necessarily a great outing as he allowed eight hits for the second-straight start. However, the kid kept the team in the game by giving up just the two runs. For the 22-year-old Munoz, it’s been a bit of an up and down year so far, and he’ll enter his seventh start of the year next week with a 5.19 ERA for the season.

A – Augusta (19-12)

W, 6-3 vs. Columbia

(P) Landon Leach – 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K

(P) J.J. Niekro – 5 IP, H, BB, 9 K

(2B) Caleb Durbin – 2 for 4, 2B, R

(LF) Brandon Parker – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R

(CF) Stephen Paolini – 1 for 3, 2B, R, BB

(1B) Mahki Backstrom – 2 for 4, RBI

Make that six wins in a row for Augusta as it once again took care of Columbia on Friday night, this time thanks to some incredible pitching; overall, the GreenJackets racked up 18 strikeouts as a team, tying its season-high.

The Fireflies got on the board first, scoring two runs in the second from a two-run triple. But in the bottom-half of the inning, Augusta pushed across a run when Connor Blair grounded into a double-play, scoring Brandon Parker. The GreenJackets added two more in the third when Brian Klein walked, Caleb Durbin doubled and Cal Conley slapped a liner to the pitcher. Although, it was an out, both Klein and Durbin ended up scoring because the catcher misplayed the throw home. Augusta led 3-2.

Three innings later that one-run advantage would quickly extend to a three-run lead. In the sixth, the GreenJackets ripped off three consecutive two-out hits, as Rusber Estrada singled, Parker doubled and Mahki Backstrom singled. Backstrom’s base-hit scored a run, and then Augusta added another a batter later when Parker scored from third on a caught-stealing at second. Each team would score one run apiece in the eighth, but the GreenJackets advantage was too much to overcome.

For Augusta starter, Landon Leach, it certainly wasn’t his best night, only making it through two innings, despite throwing 51 pitches (30 strikes). But oh boy did J.J. Niekro pitch beautifully in relief. Niekro began the third and started off by setting down seven Fireflies batters in a row, before hitting a batter. The Augusta reliever then proceeded to retire five in a row before allowing a base-hit in the seventh (the final batter he faced). It was a remarkable performance by Niekro as he currently sports a 2.63 ERA this year.

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