Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (37-39) vs. Toledo Mud Hens (37-41)
Tue: Aaron Northcraft (0-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Duane Below (6-1, 3.94)
Wed: Cody Martin (4-6, 3.17) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (4-7, 3.62)
Thu: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (4-8, 4.55) vs. Drew VarHagen (3-7, 4.07)
Fri: Yunesky Maya (3-1, 2.39) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (4-3, 3.08)
The Gwinnett Braves and the Toledo Mud Hens open a four game series on Tuesday, June 24 at 6:35 PM at Coolray Field. Both teams enter the series playing right at .500 baseball. Gwinnett is 4-6 in their last ten games, while Toledo is 5-5.
Pitching: Toledo will run three lefties against the Braves this week. Duane Below has the best record, winning a team-high six games and sporting a 3.94 ERA in 14 starts. He is on a three game winning streak, tossing three straight quality starts from June 8 through June 19. In the month of June, he is 3-0 with a 4.21 ERA.
Below has more wins, but Ray is the most promising lefty of the three. Ray was traded along with Steven Lombardozzi and Ian Krol for Doug Fister in the offseason. The lefty has enjoyed his time in the Detroit system, as he was called up on May 6 and made four appearances for the Tigers. He went 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA. With the Mud Hens, Ray is 4-3 with a 3.08 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. Prior to the start of the season, Ray was ranked the 5th-best prospect in the Washington Nationals organization. He will take the ball in the finale.
The Braves will counter with three right-handers and one southpaw. Aaron Northcraft will make his Triple-A debut on Tuesday night. The right-hander went 7-3 with a 2.88 ERA (21 ER in 65.2 IP) over 13 appearances, 12 starts for the M-Braves. In five starts during the month of May, he went 4-1 with 1.98 ERA (6 ER in 27.1 IP). His success in the first half of the season earned him a Southern League All-Star Game roster spot.
While, Northcraft makes his debut on Tuesday, Maya will hope to continue his recent success on Friday night. Maya has turned six straight quality starts. In the month of June, he is 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA in five starts.
Batting: The G-Braves offense has sputtered during the month of June, batting a combined .254 with 64 runs scored in 22 games. The power has also been in short supply, clubbing seven total homers during the month. Ernesto Mejia, who left the team in early May, still leads the team with eight homers on the season.
With most of the position players around the diamond struggling, the catchers have held it together for the Braves. Christian Bethancourt enters playing batting .314 (22-for-70) with three doubles, one homer and seven RBIs for the Braves, while Steve Lerud is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles and one triple.
Toledo will counter with Ezequiel Carrera. The outfielder is hitting .305 (73-for-239) with 10 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 25 RBIs. He leads team in hitting, while his 32 stolen bases lead the IL.