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Gwinnett wins fourth in a row, while Michael Harris does it all in M-Braves victory

It seems like its been awhile, but on Saturday the Braves won its second series of the month, beating the Marlins 4-3 thanks to a pair of home runs from William Contreras and a solid five-inning start by righty Kyle Wright. It’s pretty crazy, Contreras has played in just 10 games this season… but already has six homers. The man simply hits bombs.

Down on the farm, Atlanta’s minor league system nearly went all the way for an org-wide sweep, but Augusta unfortunately dropped its fifth-straight game as it continues to scuffle against one of the better Low-A teams this season in Charleston. Here’s a recap of all the action down on the farm from Saturday…

AAA – Gwinnett (21-20)

W, 6-5 vs. Memphis

(P) Touki Toussaint – (W), 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, HR

(SS) Braden Shewmake – 4 for 4, 2B, RBI, R

(DH) Alex Dickerson – 1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI

(3B) Hernán Pérez 2 for 4, 2B, RBI, R

(LF) Preston Tucker – 1 for 4, RBI, R

(CF) Drew Waters – 1 for 2, 2 R

The Stripers keep rolling as they’ve now won four-straight against Memphis this week. Saturday’s win came thanks to a four-hit day from prospect shortstop Braden Shewmake – his second such performance so far this season.

Gwinnett starter Touki Toussaint ran into some trouble early, allowing a double and an RBI single in the first, which resulted in a 1-0 lead for Memphis. But in the third, in what wound up being a five-run inning for the Stripers, veteran Alex Dickerson capped off a nice rally for the offense by slugging his third home run of the year – a three-run bomb to put Gwinnett up 5-1.

Moving on to the fourth, Touki surrendered a one-out, solo homer to trim Gwinnett’s advantage to just three. And it looked as if the Redbirds were about to go back-to-back, but prospect Drew Waters pulled off an impressive grab to rob Memphis’ Luken Baker of a home run. Look at the hops by Waters.

The fifth was another sloppy inning for Toussaint, who walked the lead-off batter, before catcher Chadwick Tromp allowed a passed ball and Touki threw a wild pitch. With that lead-off base runner advancing all the way to third, a line drive single by Memphis pushed across a run, making it a 5-3 ballgame. However, in the bottom-half of the inning, Hernán Pérez provided some separation when he belted an RBI double to left, pushing the lead to three again.

Touki did a nice job finishing his outing strong. In the sixth he retired the Redbirds in order, and then in the seventh the righty struck out the lead-off batter before issuing a free pass – effectively ending his day in favor of reliever Seth Elledge, who proceeded to induce a groundout and flyout to end the frame. But Elledge struggled in the eighth, giving up back-to-back two-out hits – one of which being an RBI double to make it a 6-4 game.

Brandon Brennan came on in relief, and after allowing a single, Brennan managed to get the inning-ending groundout to get out of the jam.

Gwinnett’s manager Matt Tuiasosopo opted for the usually-consistent Dylan Lee to work the final frame, and initially it appeared to be a mistake as the 27-year-old lefty gave up a solo homer to the first batter he faced in the ninth. However, Lee quickly settled in, working around a single on his way to striking out his remaining three batters in the inning to preserve the Stripers one-run lead.

The four-hit night for Shewmake was desperately needed. The 24-year-old prospect has had a solid 2022 season thus far (shown by his .304 AVG at this point), but of late he had been struggling with just two hits overall in his last six games. Hopefully Shewmake can finish the week strong with a strong performance in the series finale on Sunday.

For Toussaint, despite earning the win, his start on Saturday was yet another outing featuring multiple earned runs – his fifth game in a row that’s included two or more runs. So far it appears left-handed batters are really holding Touki back. The former prospect has held righty batters to just a .182 AVG and .630 OPS, but lefties are sporting a .329 AVG and .984 OPS. Overall, Toussaint owns a 5.00 ERA this season, though pitching better against opposite-handed batters should allow him to chip away at that mark.

AA – Mississippi (17-21)

W, 5-4 vs. Biloxi

(P) Tanner Gordon – (W), 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, HR

(LF) Michael Harris II – 2 for 4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB

(2B) Riley Delgado – 2 for 4, RBI, R

(1B) Drew Lugbauer – 1 for 4, HR, RBI

(3B) CJ Alexander – 1 for 4, 2B, R

(SS) Yariel Gonzalez – 1 for 4, 2B

M-Braves starter Tanner Gordon put together a solid outing on Saturday, striking out seven in five innings of work. The 24-year-old prospect ran into a bit of trouble in the first when he gave up a quartet of singles, resulting in a 2-0 deficit early. But after that eventful inning, Gordon found his groove as he retired the next six of eight over the following pair of frames, which allowed the Mississippi offense to work its magic.

First it was prospect Michael Harris II, who led off the top-half of the first with his fifth home run of the season. Then, in the second, as part of a four-run inning, Drew Lugbauer led off with a solo homer, to go with three-straight hits, including a ground-rule double by CJ Alexander and an RBI single by Riley Delgado.

The hits just kept coming. After Delgado’s RBI, Jacob Pearson singled and then Andrew Moritz knocked in Delgado with an RBI groundout. With his second hit of the day, Michael Harris made it a 5-2 ballgame when he slapped a line drive to left for a double, scoring Pearson.

Gordon pitched around a lead-off walk and a single in the fourth, getting a much-needed double-play and a groundout to get through unscathed. And that groundout was thanks to Alexander at the hot corner, who made an excellent play…

But in the fifth, Biloxi chipped away at Mississippi’s lead when Gordon gave up a lead-off home run to second-ranked Brewers prospect, outfielder Joey Wiemer (his 11th HR of the year).

Staying strong mentally, though, Gordon bounced back and retired the next three Shuckers batters in order in the fifth, ending his 89-pitch outing set up for the win.

Fast-forward to the seventh, with Justin Yeager on the mound, Biloxi began to threaten. Yeager got a quick lineout for the first out, but back-to-back singles put runners on first and second. A Shuckers force-out at second put runners on the corners, and then a ground ball to left pushed across a run, making it just a one-run advantage for Mississippi. However, the M-Braves traded a run for an out as Michael Harris made an impressive throw from left field to get the out at home. He can play anywhere on the field, folks.

As they’ve mostly done throughout the season so far, relivers Indigo Diaz and Justin Maese worked the final two frames for the M-Braves, allowing no hits and no runs to go with two strikeouts, preserving Mississippi’s slim lead for the win.

There was a lot to take away from this game. Several of the M-Braves top contributors performed well, and Michael Harris appears to be heating up yet again as he’s now 9 for his last 21 (.428 AVG) with six XBH, including five-straight games with a double (as part of a five-game hitting streak). The win for Gordon gives him four for the year, and Saturday’s three runs allowed was a drastic improvement compared to his last time out, when he allowed seven runs total. The righty will head into his next start still with a bloated ERA of 9.98 for 2022, but he can begin lowering that mark with a string of good performances over the next few weeks.

A+ – Rome (22-16)

W, 8-3 vs. Aberdeen

(P) Andrew Hoffmann – (W), 6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, BB, 8 K, HR

Bullpen – 3 IP, H, 5 K

(C) Javier Valdes – 2 for 5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R

(SS) Cade Bunnell – 1 for 5, 2 RBI, R

(1B) Bryson Horne – 1 for 5, RBI

(CF) Drew Campbell – 2 for 5, RBI

For the second-straight night, Rome’s bats carried the team to a win as seven of its nine batters in the lineup recorded at least one hit on Saturday. The R-Braves scored all eight of its runs in just the first four innings, highlighted by a four-run first.

A wild-pitch in the first allowed Rome to score its first run, followed by three consecutive singles by Javier Valdes, Cade Bunnell and Bryson Horne, with the latter two base-hits featuring an RBI apiece. Then in the second, Christian Robinson drew a lead-off walk, and two batters later Drew Campbell knocked him in with an RBI knock, making it 5-0. The momentum continued into the third. Landon Stephens led off with a free pass this time, and it was another costly one for Aberdeen as Valdes slugged his fourth home run of the year (and second HR in 2 days) to put Rome up 7-0.

The IronBirds also scored a run in the third – its first of the game, when R-Braves starter Andrew Hoffmann gave up back-to-back singles and a walk, followed by an RBI groundout to second. But Rome wasn’t done yet. In the fourth, Cody Milligan and Campbell both slapped singles, and then the former came around to score when Justyn-Henry Malloy reached on a fielder’s choice, making it an 8-1 lead.

Hoffmann would surrender a lead-off homer in the bottom-half of the fourth, to go with a two-out RBI single four batters later. But after that, the prospect righty found his groove, facing the minimum in the fifth and pitching around only a harmless double in the sixth. At 87 pitches (59 strikes), Hoffmann’s day was done through six, and overall he did a nice job of keeping the ball on the dirt, as seven of his eight batted-ball outs were ground ball outs. Another win (his second) and strong outing for the 22-year-old, who’s down to a 3.15 ERA for the season.

Following Hoffmann on the mound, relievers Trey Riley and Malcolm Van Buren pitched well, combining to work three scoreless innings and striking out five. For Van Buren, that’s now five-straight shutout relief appearances, giving him 5.2 consecutive scoreless innings, to go with 11 strikeouts in that span.

A – Augusta (20-18)

L, 5-1 vs. Charleston

(P) AJ Smith-Shawver – (L), 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, K

(CF) Brandol Mezquita – 2 for 4, SB

(2B) Geraldo Quintero – 1 for 4, RBI

(3B) Caleb Durbin – 1 for 2, R, BB

Whew boy… make that five losses in a row for Augusta, who just can’t seem to figure out this Charleston pitching staff. It was a rather uneventful contest for the GreenJackets on offense on Saturday, as the group managed only five hits and finished 1 for 11 with RISP.

Don’t be too alarmed by the super-early exit for teenage prospect AJ Smith-Shawver. There are no reports of an injury. It appears Smith-Shawver just didn’t have his stuff going for him last night, and with 33 pitches through 0.2 innings, I suppose manager Nestor Perez didn’t want to risk leaving him out there and hurting his confidence. The kid had put together four solid outings in a row leading up to Saturday, so he’s allowed to have one poor showing every now and then. Smith-Shawver will head into next week with a 4.91 ERA for the year.

Really, other than a two-hit game for prospect outfielder Brandol Mezquita, Geraldo Quintero provided the only highlight of the game for Augusta, when he slapped an RBI single in the first to put the GreenJackets up 1-0.

Unfortunately, though, that’s about it. After Smith-Shawver exited, Estarlin Rodriguez picked up the bulk of the innings, pitching 3.1 frames and allowing one run from three hits and three walks. Then Rolddy Munoz and Juan Mateo finished up the game, piecing together the final four innings, combining to allow two runs from three hits (though all the runs came off Munoz). Hopefully the GreenJackets can finish up the week on a positive note with a win on Sunday, avoiding a dreadful six-game losing streak.

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