Series Preview: Syracuse Chiefs (52-36) at Gwinnett Braves (42-47)
Sun: LHP Aaron Laffey (10-4, 2.93) vs. LHP Daniel Rodriguez (4-10, 4.79)
Mon: Josh Roenicke (3-4, 5.09) vs. Yunesky Maya (3-2, 2.60)
Tue: Taylor Hill (9-2, 1.90) vs. Gus Schlosser (4-4, 4.33)
Wed: A.J. Cole (0-0, 2.53) vs. Aaron Northcraft (0-0, 6.10)
The Gwinnett Braves welcome the best team in the International League, the Syracuse Chiefs, for a four-game series starting on Sunday, July 6. Syracuse owns a 2.5 game lead on the Rochester Red Wings atop the IL North, while the G-Braves trail the Durham Bulls by 5.0 games in the IL South.
Pitching: Syracuse owns the second-best ERA in the IL with a 3.37. The staff has thrown a league-high 12 shutouts. Anchoring the staff is MLB veteran Aaron Laffey. The southpaw is 10-4 with a 2.93 ERA. He has won five straight games. In the month of June, he went 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA. He struck out 20 batters in 39.0 innings and he will face the G-Braves in game one of the series.
Laffey has been sharp of late, but Hill has dominated the IL all season. The righty leads the league in ERA and is second to Laffey in wins. He was elected to the All Star game on Wednesday and will likely start the mid-summer classic for the IL. He will pitch game three.
The G-Braves will counter with Rodriguez, Maya, Schlosser and Northcraft.
Wednesday’s game will feature two of the top prospects in the organization. Cole, who was recently called up from Double-A, will make his third start of the season. In 10.2 innings, he has fanned seven, while allowing three earned runs.
On the other hand, Northcraft will make his fourth start of the season. The right-hander had his best start of the season last time out. He went six innings, allowing two runs-one earned- on five hits on July 4 against the Durham Bulls.
Northcraft is No. 27 ranked prospect in the Braves system according to Baseball America, while Cole is the No.2 prospect in the Nationals organization.
Batting: All things start and end with Phil Gosselin. The infielder is having a banner season, hitting .317 with 21 doubles, three triples, four homers and 24 RBI. After hitting over .300 in his first three months of the season, IL All Star is off to a slow start in July. He is hitting .176 (3-for-17) with one double, one homer and three RBI.
Brandon Boggs enters the series with a ten-game hitting streak. He is batting .259 (38-for-147) with nine doubles, one triple, six homers and 18 RBI. In five July games, he is hitting .313 (5-for-16) with two RBI.
Syracuse will counter with two of the best hitters in the league, Steven Souza and Brandon Laird. Souza is leading the league in hitting with a .350 batting average. He has 13 homers and 51 RBI. He ranks among the league leaders in many offensive categories.
In addition to Souza, the Chiefs will have Laird in the middle of the lineup. The younger brother of Gerald Laird, is hitting .311 (85-for-273) with eight homers and 47 RBI. He is sixth in the league in hitting and ranks eighth in RBI.