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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap: Vodnik and Elder pitch well, Michael Harris just keeps hitting

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Gwinnett Stripers 2, Nashville Sounds 3

Box Score

  • Drew Waters, CF: 0-2, BB, 2 HBP, .932 OPS
  • Sean Kazmar, 3B: 1-4, RBI, .860 OPS
  • Kyle Muller, SP: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 7.63 ERA
  • Daysbel Hernandez, RP: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 9.64 ERA

Kyle Muller and the Stripers were locked in a close game with Nashville all night and the Sounds ultimately prevailed by the final score of 3-2. Muller certainly looked better than he had in previous starts this season, but the command was still pretty iffy at times. That said, unlike in his previous appearances this year, he largely pitched his way out of trouble on Friday evening although Keston Hiura did understandably give him fits including giving up a homer to him in the fourth inning. The winning run ultimately crossed the plate due to a pair of wild pitches from Muller in the fifth inning which allowed a sac fly to score Nashville’s third run of the game. The Gwinnett bullpen certainly did their job as Daysbel Hernandez, Jay Flaa, and Jesse Chavez combined to throw 3.2 scoreless innings of relief to keep Gwinnett in the game. Also, Muller is a big man and is capable of hitting the ball very hard.

On offense, there wasn’t much to speak of which is a shame because the team certainly had its chances thanks to drawing seven walks in the game. Not a single extra-base hit was recorded by a Gwinnett Striper batter in the game and only Muller and Sean Kazmar managed to push runs across the plate. Drew Waters certainly did his job in the leadoff spot as he reached base three times including two the hard way via hit by pitch. In his past seven games, he has brought his OBP up a full 158 points to .393 which is quite good. Hard to say whether this change in approach is going to stick long-term, but it does seem to be the case that he is working on being more selective. Unfortunately, he also ran into a very unfortunate out in the ninth inning as he was hit by a pitch and was subsequently picked off which killed the Stripers’ chances of tying the game late.

Next Game: 5/22 @ Nashville at 7:35 PM EST. Probable Starters: Gwinnett - TBD, Nashville - Alec Bettinger

Mississippi Braves 1, Chattanooga Lookouts 4

Box Score

  • Riley Unroe, SS: 3-4
  • Trey Harris, RF: 0-4, .524 OPS
  • Wendell Rijo, 3B: 2-4, 2B, RBI, .596 OPS
  • Victor Vodnik, SP: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2.57 ERA

The surprising anemic Mississippi offense continued its struggles on Friday evening as they fell to Chattanooga by the score of 4-1. Victor Vodnik got the start for Mississippi and he continues to be VERY good in that starter role as he pitched into the seventh inning while giving up just one walk and striking out six. The fastball continues to look good and he has gotten more and more efficient with each start this season. The command has certainly improved as well even though that isn’t showing up in all of the numbers quite yet, but when he has been missing the zone, its been largely close or just missed calls from umpires who can’t seem to see the velo he is chucking. Chris Nunn made his Mississippi debut after spending time in extended spring and unfortunately he gave up a run on a hit and a pair of walks, although the two strikeouts were nice in an inning of work. Josh Graham closed the game out for Mississippi and it was his worst appearance of the season as a pair of runners crossed under his watch, although some suspect defense and umpiring calls made those runs unearned and ultimately got Mississippi’s manager, Wyatt Toregas. ejected in the ninth inning.

Offense was again tough to come by as the only extra-base hit on the evening came off the bat of Wendell Rijo. Drew Lugbauer walked three times to keep his OPS looking reasonable-ish and Riley Unroe, who was just recently assigned to Mississippi, had three hits to at least give the Braves some opportunities. Unfortunately, the guys that you would expect to create some offense...well, haven’t really done so. Trey Harris went 0-4 and has just two hits in his past six games, Shea Langeliers is hitless in his past five games, and Braden Shewmake hasn’t hit this whole season up until now and was out of the lineup on Friday. Definitely not what we were expecting to see from this Mississippi roster this season and while we expect these guys will turn things around, it would be good if that was sooner rather than later.

Next Game: 5/22 vs Chattanooga at 7:05 PM EST. Probable Starters: Mississippi - Odalvi Javier, Chattanooga - TBD

Rome Braves 6, Bowling Green Hot Rods 1

Box Score

  • Michael Harris, CF: 1-4, 2B, RBI, .932 OPS
  • Beau Philip, SS: 1-4, 2B, SB, .533 OPS
  • Bryce Elder, SP: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 3.66 ERA
  • Davis Schwab, RP: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 4.05 ERA

Rome was the sole Braves affiliate to win a game last night (spoiler alert for Augusta) as Bryce Elder looked strong on the mound and the Rome offense pulled away for a 6-1 win. Elder and his offspeed stuff cut through Bowling Green hitters all evening as he logged his best start of the season by pitching into the seventh and striking out seven batters. Usually, this is the part where the Rome bullpen makes things unnecessarily interesting, but the duo of Davis Schwab and Marrick Crouse combined for 2.2 innings of fairly uneventful relief to close the game out for Rome.

It would be a minor league recap here at Talking Chop if there wasn’t some mention of Michael Harris doing something good and tonight was no exception. He had an early RBI double in the game and he now sports a .932 OPS through his first 15 games in full season ball which seems good. He has also hit safely in all but two games this season and has triple the multi-hit games (6) as he does hitless games. Kid’s good. The rest of the lineup did their job in helping out including from Beau Philip and Riley Delgado. Philip was causing havoc on the basepaths including scoring after stealing second base thanks to a throw down to second that was...not great. Rome certainly got some help scoring elsewhere thanks to suspect defense and wild pitches, but overall it was a good night.

Next Game: 5/22 vs Bowling Green at 6 PM EST. Probable Starters: Rome - Tanner Gordon, Bowling Green - Peyton Battenfield

Augusta GreenJackets 10, Fayetteville Woodpeckers 11

Box Score

  • Braulio Vasquez, 2B: 1-4, 2 BB, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB, .674 OPS
  • Cade Bunnell, SS: 1-2, R, 3 BB, SB, .815 OPS
  • Brandon Parker, LF: 0-3, 3 BB, .406 OPS
  • Roddery Munoz, SP: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 7 K, 5.54 ERA
  • Tyler Owens, RP: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 6.75 ERA

Full stop...this was a very weird game and it is pretty remarkable that Augusta actually lost, but that is what happened as Fayetteville won by they score of 11-10. Roddery Munoz got the start and there was some good and bad. The fastball still looked great and he still has one of the best arms in the system, but a couple of the Fayetteville hitters seemed to be seeing his pitches well which led to some longer at-bats and harder hit balls than you would expect. Still, we will take seven strikeouts in four innings as something to build upon. After a forgettable relief appearance from Carter Linton and a short appearance from Zach Seipel, Tyler Owens entered the game in the sixth inning and...things did not go well. The sixth inning was a little bit of an adventure, but no runs crossed the plate. However, in the seventh inning, a pair of errors and a wild pitch led to three runs crossing the plate under Owens’ watch and when he was relieved by James Acuna (no relation to Ronnie), he immediately gave up a two-run double to allow two inherited runners to score. While they weren’t earned runs because of the defensive whoopsies, it wasn’t great and ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.

So why was it remarkable that Augusta lost this game other than the Looney Tunes seventh inning outlined above? Well, it is because Augusta drew a whopping 20 walks in this game. No, that is not a typo...they walked 20 times in addition to seven hits and five stolen bases. However, it was mostly light contact other than a double from Drew Campbell and a homer from Braulio Vasquez (who also stole two more bases on Friday including stealing home), so there were scoreless innings where, well, there probably shouldn’t have been. Augusta did manage to plate 10 runs, but it wasn’t enough and overall it was a rough game to watch.

Next Game: 5/22 @ Fayetteville at 6:05 PM EST: Probable Starters - Both TBD