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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap: Freddy Tarnok continues late season surge

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There was a really full slate of games on Saturday highlighted by some strong pitching performances.

Freddy Tarnok Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Gwinnett Stripers 8, Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 7 - F/11

Box Score

  • Andres Blanco, 2B: 1-2, 4 BB, HR, 3 RBI, .820 OPS
  • Johan Camargo, 3B: 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI, BB
  • Ian Anderson, SP: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 5.63 ERA

Ian Anderson looked dominant for most of his outing and after he had a rough inning, the offense backed him up in Gwinnett’s 8-7 win over the RailRiders. Ian looked really strong through the first five innings on Saturday, but things got away from him in the sixth where he gave up some hard contact. Erik Kratz in particularly gave him some fits as he connected for his second home run of the game in that frame. Overall, though, the fastball and changeup had good life to them although he did not throw his breaking ball a ton (it is likely he is still getting a feel for that pitch with the new ball). In peak Braves fashion, the bullpen made things more interesting than they needed to be as AJ Minter gave up three runs (just one earned), but the offense came to play and helped secure the victory in extra innings.

On offense, Andres Blanco had himself a night as he connected for a solo home run and also walked an astonishing four times in the game. Johan Camargo, looking to re-establish himself after a pretty woeful stretch in the majors, had a double and a couple of RBIs. The heroes on this night were Camargo, Pedro Florimon, and then Blanco as an RBI double from Johan and a RBI single from Florimon in the bottom of the 11th tied the game before Andres drew a bases loaded walk-off walk to secure the win.

Mississippi Braves 0, Birmingham Barons 3

Box Score

  • Ray-Patrick Didder, CF: 1-3, BB, .624 OPS
  • Trey Harris, RF: 0-3, .803 OPS
  • Claudio Custodio, SP: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2.38 ERA

Not much to talk about here as Mississippi only managed one hit on Saturday in their 3-0 loss to Birmingham. Claudio Custodio struggled in his start to find the strike zone as he could get out of the fourth inning. He is allowed a rough appearance every once in a while and given that six of his past nine appearances have been scoreless, we’ll give him a pass on this one. Tyler Matzek, Jason Hursh, and Ben Rowen combined for 5.1 scoreless innings of relief with Matzek, a recent minor league FA signing, being particularly impressive with five strikeouts in 2.1 innings of work.

On offense, well....the only hit in the game was off the bat of Ray-Patrick Didder and he was also the only Mississippi player to draw a walk. A rough offensive performance for Mississippi whose lineup was ravaged by the promotions of Cristian Pache and Drew Waters as well as some injuries.

Florida Fire Frogs 3, Clearwater Threshers 2 - Game One

Box Score

  • Jefrey Ramos, LF: 2-3, RBI, .664 OPS
  • Brett Langhorne, 2B: 1-3, 2 RBI, .558 OPS
  • Freddy Tarnok, SP: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 5.07 ERA

Florida Fire Frogs 5, Clearwater Threshers 0 - Game Two

Box Score

  • Riley Delgado, SS: 3-4, .659 OPS
  • Jordan Rodgers, 2B: 2-3, HR, 3 RBI, .555 OPS
  • Matt Hartman, SP: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 4.31 ERA

Freddy Tarnok continued his impressive run since coming back from the injured list as Florida swept their doubleheader with Clearwater. Florida is getting pretty adept at playing twin bills since they seemingly have to play at least one a week. In Tarnok’s case, it appears that what he is doing since his return from the IL is working well. In eight of his last nine starts, Tarnok has given up two earned runs or less while not walking more than two batters in any of those nine starts. He is a raw arm, but loaded with potential. Matt Hartman did WORK in his half of the doubleheader as he threw a complete game shutout (the 7 inning variety) to complete the sweep for Florida.

On offense, Florida did just enough to get the victory in game one. Jefrey Ramos had a couple of hits and an RBI and Brett Langhorne had a sac fly and the game-winning RBI single in the first game. In the second game, the offense was much more prolific as Langhorne, Riley Delgado, and Jordan Rodgers all had multi-hit games for Florida. Rodgers had the big knock in the game as his fourth home run of the season was a three-run shot that gave Hartman all the breathing room he could ask for.

Rome Braves 4, Columbia Fireflies 0

Box Score

  • Greg Cullen, 2B: 2-4, R, .803 OPS
  • Brendan Venter, 3B: 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, .612 OPS
  • Bryce Ball, 1B: 1-4, RBI, .885 OPS
  • Alan Rangel, SP: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 4.51 ERA

Rome got strong pitching performances from Alan Rangel and Jake Higginbotham to secured a 4-0 victory over Columbia. It wasn’t always pretty from Rangel on Saturday, but he still went six shutout innings while giving up just one hit in this one. The four walks are less than ideal, but an impressive outing nonetheless. Jake Higginbotham closed the door with three scoreless innings of relief and continues to impress during his stint in low-A. This was his fifth straight scoreless appearance and has been an under-sung hero of Rome’s bullpen as he has often had to go multiple innings in his appearances (I still think that converting him back to being a starter is a good idea).

On offense, Greg Cullen continued his torrid stretch as he now has five multi-hit games in his past 11 games. His .803 OPS also ranks 7th in the South Atlantic League which, for a second baseman, is quite impressive. Brendan Venter did the bulk of the heavy lifting for the Rome offense as he had a pair of extra-base hits including a two-run homer. Bryce Ball hasn’t connected for his first home run in full season ball yet, but it seems like it is only a matter of time as he just keeps hitting. With his RBI single, he has hit safely in five of his first six games with Rome.

Danville Braves 3, Elizabethton Twins 2 - F/10

Box Score

  • Cody Milligan, 2B: 2-4, 2B, .700 OPS
  • Willie Carter, LF: 2-4, R, .712 OPS
  • Alec Barger, SP: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 6.06 ERA

Danville’s pitching staff was excellent against Elizabethton as the Braves were victorious by the score of 3-2. Cody Milligan, Willie Carter, and Mitch Calandra all had multi-hit games for Danville on Saturday. This game, too, went to extra innings and the Braves affiliate walked this one off as well thanks to a Ray Hernandez force out that drove in Willie Carter to secure the win.

GCL Braves 11, GCL Rays 5 - Game One

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 3-5, BB, 3 RBI, .760 OPS
  • Stephen Paolini, CF: 2-4, BB, 2B, 2 RBI, .510 OPS
  • Jared Johnson, SP: 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 4.38 ERA

GCL Braves 5, GCL Rays 2 - Game Two

Box Score

  • Brandol Mezquita, LF: 2-3, .616 OPS
  • Mahki Backstrom, 1B: 0-2, BB, .842 OPS
  • Luis De Jesus, SP: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3.93 ERA

Yet another doubleheader (well one was a completion of a suspended game) went the Braves’ way as the GCL Braves swept their twin bill with the GCL Rays by the scores of 11-5 and 5-2. Vaughn Grissom had himself a good day as he reached base multiple times in each half of the doubleheader. Stephen Paolini has looked much better of late as well as he has hit safely in seven of his past nine games while maintaining a pretty insane walk rate. One thing to keep an eye on with Mahki Backstrom is his strikeout rate which is currently near 30%. He got a late start to his pro career (he signed late in the draft signing period) and should be seen as a raw talent who will need some time, so there is no need for alarms just yet especially considering the production so far.