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Braves Minor League Recap: Michael Harris delivers game-winner; Joey Estes hot start continues

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The Atlanta Braves farm system went 3-2 on the night, with Mississippi splitting a doubleheader. Let’s take a look at the top minor league performers.

Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

It looked like it would be a bleak night on the Atlanta Braves farm. Augusta was being no-hit into the sixth inning, Gwinnett found itself on the wrong side of a pitcher’s duel late in the game and Rome was tied with red-hit Bowling Green in the eighth. A Travis Demeritte home run, a Michael Harris double and some peak Low-A scored GreenJackets runs and we had ourselves quite the interesting evening.

Oh, and Augusta and Rome combined to strikeout 32 batters while walking two. TWO.

Let’s take a look at how it went down on Thursday, May 20.

Nashville Sounds (9-5) 3, Gwinnett Stripers (9-6) 1

  • Jose Rodriguez, SP: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
  • Thomas Burrows, RP: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
  • Travis Demeritte, RF: 2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI
  • Orlando Arcia, SS: 1-for-3, 1 BB

BOX SCORE

There wasn’t much offense for the Stripers on Thursday. They mustered just four hits and Demeritte had two of them. One was his fifth home run of the season, tying the game at one in the seventh. It was the only run Gwinnett could get. Drew Waters’ four-game hit streak came to an end with an 0-for-4 night, but still has a solid .300/.375/.560 slash line in the early goings. Orlando Arcia got yet another hit, because it was a day that ends in Y. This started up a new hitting streak, which ended Wednesday, his first hitless game in May. He’s now had a hit in 14 of 15 May games.

Rodriguez and Burrows were nothing sensational, but they certainly got the job done, striking out 12 batters and allowing just one run over six combined innings. Mitch Horacek allowed the go-ahead two-run bomb to Keston Hiura in the eighth. Our old friend Patrick Weigel pitched the ninth to get his second save with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

Mississippi Braves (6-9) vs. Chattanooga Lookouts (9-6)

Let’s play two!

Game 1: Lookouts 3, M-Braves 1

  • Hayden Deal, SP: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
  • Brooks Wilson, RP: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0ER, 1 BB, 3 K
  • Justin Dean, CF: 1-for-3, 1 R, 2 SB

BOX SCORE

There wasn’t much doing for the M-Braves on offense in this one. Only Dean, Greyson Jenista and Wendell Rijo were able to get a hit, and they were all singles. It’s worth talking about Dean who is really having a solid season thus far. Don’t worry about the average for now, he has a hit in three straight and has an on-base percentage of .412. He’s also scored a run in three-straight games and stole two bases in Game 1. Let’s not forget, Dean led the Sally in runs and stolen bases in 2019, so he’s producing much like the prospect we got excited about in Rome.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the M-Braves bullpen has been simply remarkable. Brooks Wilson has now held his opponents scoreless in four appearances to start the year to go along with 12 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Wilson is a strike-thrower and he’s very athletic — he won the John Olerud Award in 2018 as the best two-way player in college baseball — and is a bullpen piece to keep an eye on.

Game 2: M-Braves 3, Lookouts 1

  • Greyson Jenista, 1B: 1-for-2, 1 HR, 2 RBI
  • Riley Unroe, 3B: 3-for-3
  • Matt Withrow, SP: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

BOX SCORE

Mississippi flipped the script, taking Game 2 by the same score which they lost Game 1. Withrow had yet another good go, lowering his season ERA to 0.75 having allowed just one run in his first 12 innings. Troy Bacon closed out the game, going the final two innings, allowing two hits while striking out two. He’s yet another piece in this pen that has yet to allow a run in 2021 though his five appearances.

The M-Braves exploded in the bottom of the sixth when they scored all three of their runs. The big blow came off the bat of Jenista, with his third home run of the year putting the M-Braves ahead for good. It is like deja vu all over again: Justin Dean got another hit, scored another run and swiped another stolen base. His average is up to .262 on the season. Jalen Miller launched his second home run of the season to account for the M-Braves other run.

Rome Braves (9-6) 2, Bowling Green Hot Rods (10-5) 1

  • Alan Rangel, SP: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 IP
  • Trey Riley, RP: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 6 K
  • Indigo Diaz, RP: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 4 K
  • Michael Harris II, CF: 2-for-4, 1 RBI
  • Cody Milligan, 2B: 1-for-3

BOX SCORE

Rome Braves living legend Alan Rangel took the bump and tossed his best start of the season. He was able to liter the strike zone with effective pitches, landing 73 percent of his pitches for strikes and striking out seven. That’s quite a few strikeouts for Rangel, who’s ground ball efficiency has led him to become more of a pitch-to-contact type of guy. But how about that bullpen? Trey Riley and Indigo Diaz didn’t allow a hit, run or walk over five innings, striking out 10 of the 15 outs they recorded. That’s a total of 17 strikeouts and one walk by Rome’s pitching. It’s time to be a little intrigued by Diaz by the way. The 22-year-old righty out of Michigan State picked up his second win of the season Thursday. He’s allowed just one run over his 8.1 innings and has struck out 17.

You know who the star at the plate was. Rome had seven hits and Harris II had two of them, including this eighth inning, go-ahead double.

The adjustments Harris made this offseason and being part of the alternate site are evident. He now has four multi-hit games in a row with 10 hits over that span. Cody Milligan has cooled down a bit since his scorching hot start, but still put the ball in play once Thursday night. He’s now slashing .333/.378/.436.

Augusta GreenJackets (7-8) 3, Fayetteville Woodpeckers (7-8) 2

  • Joey Estes, SP: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R (unearned), 0 BB, 8 K
  • Estarlin Rodriguez, RP: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R (unearned), 1 BB, 4 K
  • Justin Yeager, RP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
  • Willie Carter, RF:1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • Cam Shepherd, SS: 1-for-3, 1 BB
  • Braulio Vasquez, 1B: 0-for-2, 1 BB, 1 R, 1 SB

BOX SCORE

The GreenJackets won a wild one, coming from behind despite recording just two hits on the night. In fact, Augusta was being no hit into the sixth when Willie Carter broke up the no-no and drove in the GreenJackets first run. Later that inning, Brandon Parker picked up the tying RBI the hard way: getting plunked with the bases loaded. The next inning, Vasquez walked and stole his 10th base of the season. He came all the way around to score on a throwing error. As our own Garrett Spain pointed out the other day, Vasquez still has more stolen bases than total bases (7).

We need to talk about Joey Estes. He’s made three starts so far and has gone further in each outing, lasting five innings on Thursday. He’s struck out 17 and has walked three, but nary a batter in his last two starts. He was pumping on Thursday, and although we didn’t have a velocity, the Woodpeckers couldn’t keep up with his fastball and he was throwing his breaking ball and getting swings and misses anywhere in the count. There was hardly any hard contact and even his outs were simple, recording six groundouts and just one fly out. Estes ERA is now 1.50 and per the broadcast, the GreenJackets starting pitching has the lowest ERA amongst starters in Low-A East thus far. If this is the season Estes puts it together, he could climb our midseason prospect rankings.