Man did the Braves need that win last night against the Padres. That Marcell Ozuna homer in the eighth was huge, followed by an even more clutch RBI double by Austin Riley, to put Atlanta up 6-5 late. Thankfully, the Bravos bullpen held it together, because I don’t know what Braves Country would’ve done if the team would’ve spoiled yet another late lead. But all is well.
Meanwhile, down on the Braves farm, there was a few notable performances by a few of the system’s most talented players, including a perfect 5 for 5 night for a kid many will be getting to know real well… real soon… down in High-A. Here’s a recap of all the action from Saturday night…
AAA – Gwinnett (17-18)
L, 6-0 vs. Durham
(P) Kyle Muller – (L), 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 2 HR
(3B) Pat Valaika – 1 for 3
(1B) John Nogowski – 1 for 3
Despite starter Kyle Muller matching a career-high 12 strikeouts on Saturday, Gwinnett couldn’t muster any offense against Durham’s four pitchers, only tallying two hits overall as a team. For the prospect lefty, who totaled 94 pitches (66 strikes) in the impressive outing, that’s now back to back six-inning starts, to go with a 3.69 ERA overall for the season. Unfortunately, Muller was tagged with the loss.
The Bulls jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, homering in the second at-bat as part of three-straight hits, which ended with an RBI single. But following that second run, Muller seemed to settle in, as he set down a whopping 13 Durham batters in a row before giving up a two-out single in the fifth. However, that base-hit wound up costing him when the Bulls slugged another homer, extending its lead to 4-0.
Muller would eventually get out of the inning without further damage, striking out the final the batter to end the frame. He then worked around a two-out walk in the sixth to finish a solid outing for the Stripers. Durham would go on to add a run in each of the seventh and eighth off Dylan Lee (RBI double) and Jesus Cruz (solo HR), respectively.
Veterans Pat Valaika and John Nogowski were the only Gwinnett batters to record a hit on Saturday, with Hernán Pérez and Ryan Goins each adding a walk apiece. The quiet bats snapped a few streaks as both Chadwick Tromp’s 13-game hitting streak and Preston Tucker’s 13-game on-base streak came to an end last night. Keeping with the usual trend lately, prospect Drew Waters was in Friday’s lineup… but not Saturday’s. Many are calling for Waters to replace Ronald Acuña Jr. as the latter deals with a groin ailment.
AA – Mississippi (14-18)
L, 7-3 vs. Chattanooga
(P) Darius Vines – (L), 6 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 3 HR
(LF) Jalen Miller – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 RBI, R
(2B) Riley Delgado – 2 for 3, R
It was too little too late for the M-Braves on Saturday night, as Chattanooga jumped out in front with seven unanswered runs before Mississippi’s bats came alive and scored three in the eighth. But the deficit was too much to overcome.
M-Braves starter Darius Vines wound up putting together a respectable outing, totaling eight strikeouts, but his home run problems came as early as the first inning when, following a two-out single, the Lookouts took him deep for a two-run bomb. Chattanooga followed up that two-run opening frame with a second long ball in the second inning, this time thankfully a solo-homer. Just like that, Mississippi trailed 3-0.
But after getting out of the second, Vines started finding his groove, and over the next two frames he pitched around just a single and a walk, to go with a pair of strikeouts. However, in the fifth, the Lookouts struck again and launched its third dinger of the game when first baseman Robbie Tenerowicz went deep (his second HR of the night). For Vines, that makes eight home runs he’s allowed so far this season (in 35 1/3 overall innings), giving him an average of a little over two homers allowed per nine innings. Saturday’s performance gives the righty pitcher back to back starts in which he’s surrendered three or more runs, as he’ll enter next week with a 4.84 ERA for the year.
Mississippi just couldn’t figure anything out against prospect pitcher Andrew Abbott, who was making his Double-A debut for Chattanooga. Abbott racked up a dozen strikeouts in 5 2/3 scoreless innings, helping contribute to what wound up being a season-high 18 punch outs for the M-Braves lineup. However, Mississippi’s offense finally rallied in the eighth, scoring three runs… all with two outs. First Riley Delgado reached with a single, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Michael Harris II put runners on first and second when he reached from an error, and finally, the hot-hitting Jalen Miller put the M-Braves on the board with a bases-clearing double.
Two batters later, following a Chattanooga mound visit and a single by Luke Waddell, Miller came around to score off yet another wild pitch, cutting the deficit to just four runs. But unfortunately, that’s all Mississippi could manage, and the offense went down quietly in the ninth.
Regarding the many notable streaks for the M-Braves, Michael Harris’ on-base streak finally ended on Saturday at 31-straight games (though he did reach base… on an error). The prospect outfielder finished 0 for 4 with one strikeout and a run scored. Although, meanwhile, both Luke Waddell and Trey Harris extended their respective streaks, as the former’s 1 for 4 performance has him hitting safely in a dozen consecutive games, and the latter’s base-hit last night has him reaching base in 11 in a row. For the current series, Miller is hitting a solid .500 (8 for 16) with three doubles and three RBI.
A+ – Rome (19-13)
W, 7-1 vs. Winston-Salem
(P) Dylan Dodd – (W), 7 IP, 5 H, 5 K
(DH) Justyn-Henry Malloy – 5 for 5, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R
(2B) Cody Milligan – 3 for 4, 2B, 2 R, BB
(3B) Vaughn Grissom – 2 for 4, 2B, 2 R, BB
(1B) Landon Stephens – 1 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI
I wrote about his struggles so far this season prior to his start on Saturday, but boy did prospect Dylan Dodd turn things around last night. The 23-year-old lefty turned in by far his longest outing of the year, pitching seven shutout innings against a solid hitting Winston-Salem team, while striking out five and walking none.
In the 89-pitch start, Dodd induced a whopping 10 groundouts, and only allowed multiple hits in a single inning once, when the Dash slapped back-to-back one-out base-hits in the sixth. It was a magnificent showing by Dodd, who improves to 3-2 this season and carries a 5.20 ERA. A couple more starts like that and he’ll certainly begin chipping away at that season ERA in no time.
So I’m sure you noticed above, but… this Justyn-Henry Malloy kid is really great. Malloy was perfect at the plate for Rome on Saturday, tallying a career-high five hits in the rout, and he provided the R-Braves with a huge two-run double in the second to make it a 5-0 game early.
Rome would later add to its lead, but before that, Vaughn Grissom impressed everyone with a nice hustle double in the fourth. This was just an old fashioned line drive base-hit, but Grissom turned on the jets and stretched it out for two. I know it’s not a huge deal, but it’s the little things that sometimes matter.
Malloy singled immediately after Grissom’s two-bagger above, but Rome couldn’t push any runs across that inning. However, in the fifth, two batters after Beau Philip led off the inning with a single, Javier Valdes made it 6-0 when he slapped a ground ball single to center. Following Malloy’s fifth hit of the game to lead off the eighth, Landon Stephens added one more run by knocking him in with a double. Winston-Salem scored a run in the final frame, but that six-run deficit was just too much to overcome.
Like perhaps a few Rome hitters at this point, Malloy is certainly on his way to a Double-A promotion. And at just 22-years-old, he’s looking more and more like a top 10 prospect in the Braves system; I currently have him ranked 19th on my 2022 Braves Top 35 from this past offseason, but that was after seeing him in just 37 games in Single-A, where he really should’ve been flourishing anyways. This kid is doing damage against righties (.913 OPS), lefties (.952 OPS), situations featuring two outs and RISP (.938 OPS) AND versus pitchers older than him (.847 OPS). As an ultra-athletic third baseman with obvious power, pay attention to Malloy, folks. For the season he’s hitting .327 with a .924 OPS overall.
The three-hit night for Cody Milligan will go down as his second such performance of the season, as the infielder is now 5 for his last 10 (.500 AVG) in these last three games. Grissom is also hot over his last few games, going 5 for his last 8 combined on Friday and Saturday.
A – Augusta GreenJackets (19-13)
L, 5-3 vs. Columbia
(P) Luis Vargas – 5 ⅓ IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 4 K, HR
(3B) Geraldo Quintero – 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBI, SB
(CF) Brandol Mezquita – 1 for 4, 2B
(2B) Brian Klein – 2 for 4, 2B
An RBI triple allowed by reliever Darling Florentino and a fielding error by Geraldo Quintero at third base, both in the ninth, snapped Augusta’s winning streak at six-straight games, as the GreenJackets lost a close one on Saturday.
Quintero may have made a costly error in that final frame, but he put his team out in front in the third inning when he slugged his third home run of the season.
That 1-0 advantage for Augusta held for a few innings, as starter Luis Vargas was sharp for much of his outing. Although, as he tired, the Fireflies got to him, and Columbia led off the fifth with a solo-homer to tie the game. But the GreenJackets answered with a run of its own in the bottom-half of the frame. Following a lead-off walk for Kadon Morton, Quintero pushed him home with a fly-out to left field, giving Augusta back the lead at 2-1.
But some sloppy play by the GreenJackets defense allowed the Fireflies to score a pair of runs in the seventh. First, catcher Adam Zebrowski made an errant throw to second when trying to gun down a base stealer, allowing a run to cross home plate. Then, with a runner on third, reliever Kris Anglin threw a wild pitch, allowing another run to cross, giving Columbia a 3-2 lead. Those two runs mentioned above in the final frame gave the Fireflies a 5-2 advantage heading into Augusta’s half of the ninth. And despite two hits and a walk, including an RBI ground ball by Morton, the GreenJackets could only get one, resulting in the 5-3 loss.
Vargas – Augusta’s starter on Saturday – has been pretty consistent so far this year, and he pitched well enough to keep the team in the game last night. The 20-year-old righty has just one poor start to his name in 2022 (6 ER), with his other six outings featuring two or fewer runs allowed. He doesn’t generate a ton of strikeouts, but Vargas has been one of the GreenJackets better options out of the rotation, and he’ll enter his next start with a 3.20 ERA for the year.
Last night Augusta tied Columbia with seven hits as a team but finished 0 for 12 with RISP as it left six on base. Brandol Mezquita’s double on Saturday gives him seven XBH in just his last 10 games, as he has reached base safely in his last 23 consecutive contests, giving him a .343 AVG and .900 OPS for the year.