Fri: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (3-2, 3.58 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (1-0, 2.93 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sat: LHP Manny Banuelos (4-0, 2.39 ERA) vs. LHP Everett Teaford (3-4, 6.34 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: RHP Matt Wisler (3-3, 3.58 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Floro (5-4, 3.36 ERA), 2:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves return to Coolray Field from what was supposed to be a three-game road trip against the Norfolk Tides, but their game Tuesday was postponed because of rain and made up in a doubleheader of seven-inning games Wednesday that the teams split. Norfolk won the opener 11-1, and Gwinnett took the nightcap 2-1 in eight innings. Rain again postponed action Thursday. That game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Wednesday, September 2 in Norfolk.
The Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, enter the series in a three-way tie with Norfolk and the Charlotte Knights for first place in the International League South Division. Durham took two of three games from the Knights at home in their last series and has won 10 of its last 12 games dating back to May 22. The Bulls hold a 4-3 advantage over the G-Braves in the team’s first seven meetings of the season across two series. The IL South rivals split a four-game series at Coolray Field to open the season April 9-12, and the Bulls won two of three games April 24-26 in Durham.
Pitching: The Gwinnett pitching staff begins the six-game homestand with the league’s third-lowest team ERA at 3.19, while the Bulls feature a 3.35 ERA that ranks sixth-lowest in the 14-team IL. Durham pitchers have walked the second-fewest batters in the league with 155, three behind Norfolk for the lead in that category, but their 25 wild pitches are the fifth-most. G-Braves’ pitchers have allowed 176 free passes, the sixth-most in the league. However, the 21 home runs Gwinnett has allowed are the fourth-fewest in the league, and Durham has allowed 27, which is good for sixth.
Wisler, the Atlanta Braves’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, won the IL Pitcher of the Week award for May 25-30 after going 1-0 without a run allowed in 10.1 innings across two starts. He gave up four hits, walked two batters and struck out eight to earn his second such award of the year. He also took home those honors for the week of May 4-10.
Banuelos continues to pace all IL qualified pitchers with a 4-0 record that accompanies a 2.39 ERA, which is the fifth-lowest among qualified pitchers in the IL. The Braves’ No. 10 prospect as ranked by MLB.com has pitched at least 5.0 innings in eight of his 10 starts, although his shortest outing of the year came in his first start as a G-Brave on April 10 vs. Durham when he lasted 3.2 innings with two runs allowed (one earned) on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
Durham right-handed closer Ronald Belisario is tied for the league lead in saves with 14 in 15 opportunities, and he has converted a save in each of his last seven outings. Belisario is 0-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 22 games, which is tied for the second-most appearances of any pitcher in the league. Friday’s starter Andriese has made four starts for the Bulls after he began the season on the Tampa Bay pitching staff. He made seven appearances (three starts) for the Rays, going 0-1 with a 4.79 ERA and two saves with five walks and 13 strikeouts.
Hitting: The G-Braves and Bulls both rank in the bottom half of the league in team batting average. Gwinnett holds a .257 mark that is eighth in the IL, and Durham’s .245 batting average is 11th. Yet, the Bulls are tied for fifth in the league with 91 doubles. Gwinnett has the third-fewest doubles with 77 and the fewest homers with 15 as opposed to Durham’s 39, which are two behind the Pawtucket Red Sox for the league lead in that department. Gwinnett and Durham are also two of the most prolific base stealing teams in the league. The G-Braves hold the lead in that category with 58, and the Bulls’ 54 are the third most in the league.
G-Braves’ outfielder Eury Perez leads the IL in stolen bases with 25, six more than second-place Leury Garcia of Charlotte. Perez is also tied for second in the league with 30 runs scored despite two runs in his last seven games in a stretch that followed a nine-game hitting streak during which he batted .351. Infielder Adonis Garcia holds a .320 batting mark that is good for seventh among qualified IL hitters.
Durham outfielder Taylor Motter is 10 steals behind Perez and sits in fourth among the league leaders in that department. Motter also leads the team in nearly every offensive category, including hits (51), runs (26), doubles (14), RBIs (26) and total bases (76). The only Durham hitters who have played more than 10 games with a batting average higher than Motter’s .266 are infielder Alexi Casilla (.327) and outfielder Eugenio Velez (.278).
G-Bites: The G-Braves received catcher Ryan Lavarnway during their last homestand May 30 during a three-game series with Columbus. Lavarnway signed a minor league contract with Atlanta earlier in the day. He has gone 1-for-8 with two walks in three games with his new club…The Braves also recalled right-handed pitcher Cody Martin on June 1, the day before right-handed reliever Peter Moylan joined the team after he was activated from the Class-A Rome disabled list. Martin went 1-1 with a 0.96 ERA and a save in three appearances (two starts) for the G-Braves after he had begun the season with Atlanta as a reliever. Moylan, who pitched out of the Atlant a bullpen for seven years from 2006-12, had not pitched since 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He escaped a bases-loaded jam created by a hit and two walks to hold Norfolk scoreless with one strikeout in his lone inning of work on June 3 in the first game of a doubleheader, which the G-Braves lost 11-1…Gwinnett extended its streak of victories in which it allowed two or fewer runs to 18 with its game two victory Wednesday over Norfolk…The G-Braves will host the Tides for three games following the Durham series before they begin a seven-game road trip that includes four games against the Indianapolis Indians and three vs. the Louisville Bats.
Fri: RHP Cody Martin (0-1, 2.08 ERA) vs. RHP Jhoulys Chacin (1-1, 3.86 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sat: RHP Matt Wisler (2-3, 4.21 ERA) vs. LHP T.J. House (0-1, 2.70 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: LHP Greg Smith (1-3, 3.55 ERA) vs. LHP Nick Maronde (0-6, 6.34 ERA), 2:05 p.m.
After a rain-plagued series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs that culminated with 29 innings in the last two days, the Gwinnett Braves begin a three-game weekend series vs. the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The G-Braves took three of four games from the IronPigs to move back within four games of the .500 mark, while Columbus enters the series losers in three of their last four games and seven of their last 10.
The Clippers sit in second place in the International League West Division, 2.0 games behind the Indianapolis Indians. They won the division a year ago and were beaten in the first round of the playoffs by the IL South champion Durham Bulls. The G-Braves remain last in the four-team IL South, but they have closed to within 5.5 games of the first-place Charlotte Knights with five wins in their last eight games. The Clippers and G-Braves alternated victories to split a four-game series in their first meeting of the season from May 21-24 in Columbus.
Pitching: The G-Braves own the fourth-lowest team ERA in the league at 3.18 and have not allowed more than two runs in any of their least 15 victories dating back to April 27. However, they are 15-15 in that stretch and gave up at least four runs in all but one of the losses in that span. Columbus has the league’s sixth-lowest team ERA with a 3.27 mark. The Clippers also have the second-most shutout victories with seven and have given up the third-fewest hits among the 14 IL teams with 382. Gwinnett pitchers have allowed eight more hits but four fewer runs and half of the Clippers’ league-leading total of 40 home runs allowed, which is seven more than second-place Charlotte in that category.
G-Braves’ left-handed starter Manny Banuelos (4-0) lowered his ERA to 2.39, which is good for fourth-lowest among qualified pitchers, with 5.0 shutout innings Thursday. He is also the only qualifying starter yet to lose a game this season. Martin will make his first home start of the season with Gwinnett on Friday after he began the season with the Atlanta Braves and made 17 relief appearances (2-2, 4.12 ERA). Columbus’ Friday starter Chacin will make his fourth start of the year for Columbus after the Colorado Rockies released him March 22 despite six years and 109 starts with the team.
Hitting: Columbus and Gwinnett have scored nearly the same number of runs through their first 48 games of the year (203-197), but the teams go about their run production in vastly different manners. The Clippers have the third-lowest team batting average (.245) in the IL but still lead the league with 37 home runs. The G-Braves, meanwhile, hold the sixth-highest team batting average at .259 but are tied for last in the league in home runs (15) while leading in stolen bases (56). Columbus has stolen 32 bases, the fifth-fewest total in the league.
Yet, the G-Braves held Columbus batters to one home run during their four-game series May 21-24 in Columbus and hit three themselves, including top-ranked Atlanta prospect Jose Peraza’s first two career Triple-A long balls. Gwinnett outfielder Eury Perez leads the IL in steals with 24 and in runs scored with 29, while Peraza begins the series tied for fourth in stolen bases with 14. Outfielder Cedric Hunter is tied for third in the league with 13 doubles, and infielder Adonis Garcia has the league’s third-highest batting average at .342 among qualified batters.
For Columbus, Tyler Holt ranks fifth in the league with a .397 on-base percentage, and James Ramsey has drawn the fourth-most walks with 26.
G-Bites: Atlanta Braves’ third baseman Chris Johnson got one at-bat with the G-Braves in a rehab assignment that was cut short when rain suspended play Monday and postponed all action Tuesday. He lined out to center field in his lone plate appearance before he rejoined Atlanta on Wednesday…Gwinnett received a couple of pitchers during the week, as right-handers Ryan Kelly and Ryan Weber joined the club from Double-A Mississippi. Kelly led the M-Braves with 10 saves at the time of his promotion Sunday, and Weber struck out 24 batters with one walk in 11 outings (three starts) for Mississippi. This is Kelly’s first stint with the G-Braves. Weber made one start for Gwinnett on May 17 and shut out the Louisville Bats on two hits across 5.0 innings…The G-Braves will get an off day Monday before the begin a three-game road series June 2-4 against the Norfolk Tides. They will then return to Coolray Field for a six-game homestand that begins Friday, June 5. They will play the Durham Bulls for three games before another three-game set with the Tides.
After he began the season with the Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta Braves’ outfielder Todd Cunningham got his call to the Major Leagues on May 14 and quickly took advantage of the opportunity to play in the big leagues.
He started each of his first five games as the Braves’ left fielder after he had played 30 games in Gwinnett to begin the 2015 season.
“I just kind of walked into a very fortunate situation where I was playing every day in Triple-A, get called up and have a chance to play for the most part,” Cunningham said. “That’s about as smooth of a transition as you can ask for.”
The 26-year-old switch hitter began the 2015 season with a .286 batting average, five doubles, a triple, 11 RBIs and six stolen bases for Gwinnett, but he caught fire once he joined Atlanta.
He had three hits in both of his first two games and batted .600 (9-for-15) during his first four, with three road games against the Miami Marlins before a home contest May 19 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. He posted a .357 batting average through his first 10 games, which included three doubles, five runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base.
“It’s not like it was a complete fluke, I’ve done that in the past. I had a feeling a couple days before I got called up where I felt like I was about to start clicking,” he said. “It happened at a really good time, getting to step in and play right away and ran into a couple early and just kind of fed off of it through the whole series.”
Cunningham spent the majority of April and early May as either the G-Braves’ No. 3 hitter or leadoff batter so he found pitchers attacked him differently as he batted fifth, sixth or seventh in his first four games with the Braves.
“When I was in Miami, they were going right at me throwing balls over the plate,” he said. “Now I’m starting to see the adjustments start to happen so I’ll have to kind of adjust with the pitchers.”
He also changed defensive positions from the minors to the majors. Cunningham was primarily a center fielder in Gwinnett, but he played left field exclusively during his first 10 games in the majors.
“In Spring Training, I got a chance to kind of bounce around and play a lot so it’s not the first time I’ve taken balls over there, but it definitely is different,” he said. “Center is probably my favorite just because balls stay truer and you can open it up and run for a couple, but as long as I’m on the field I can’t really complain, especially when we’re putting together some wins.”
Cunningham had played eight games with Atlanta in 2013, going 2-for-8, but otherwise spent the past two seasons in Gwinnett. He hit a combined .276 with 41 doubles, seven triples, 10 home runs, 96 RBIs and 39 stolen bases with the G-Braves in 2013-14.
He said he spent his time at Triple-A with the mentality that he was already in the big leagues to help him prepare for his eventual promotion. That has also helped him transition to a new level of competition in the big leagues, he said.
“It’s been fun,” Cunningham said of his time as a big leaguer this season. “I definitely can’t complain.”
Mon: RHP Matt Wisler (2-3, 4.40 ERA) vs. LHP Anthony Vasquez (1-0, 1.69 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Tues: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (1-4, 4.70 ERA) vs. LHP Joely Rodriguez (2-3, 5.18 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Wed: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (2-2, 4.05 ERA) vs. RHP Jason Berken (3-2, 4.29 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Thurs: LHP Manny Banuelos (3-0, 2.64 ERA) vs. RHP Phillippe Aumont (2-1, 1.64 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves return to Coolray Field for a seven-game homestand that begins with four games against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Gwinnett went 3-4 on its most recent road trip that included series against the Toledo Mud Hens and Columbus Clippers. The Mud Hens took two of three games for the G-Braves, while Gwinnett and Columbus split their four-game series.
Lehigh Valley enters the series vs. Gwinnett on its best roll of the season. A 7-5 home loss Sunday to the Charlotte Knights ended a season-high, six-game winning streak that lifted the IronPigs out of the basement in the International League North Division. They now sit fifth in the six-team division ahead of the Syracuse Chiefs (17-26). The G-Braves remain in the cellar of the IL South, 5.5 games behind division leading Charlotte (24-19).
Pitching: G-Braves’ pitchers have combined for the sixth-lowest ERA on the season with a 3.22 mark and has held opponents to two runs or fewer in each of the team’s last 12 wins. However, the G-Braves have also lost their last 14 games when they give up more than two runs. The club’s eight saves are tied for the second-fewest in the league with Syracuse and one ahead of Toledo, while its 19 home runs allowed are tied for the fourth-fewest. Gwinnett pitchers have walked the third-most batters of any IL team with 159, but their 10 combined wild pitches are the fewest in the league. The G-Braves are also one of six teams with at least 330 strikeouts (331) and sit six strikeouts behind the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, which hold the lead in that department. Individually, Banuelos has risen to ninth among qualified pitchers with a 2.64 ERA (14 ER in 47.2 IP), and he is one of three qualifying pitchers who has yet to suffer a defeat.
The IronPigs’ staff held opponents to one run in four games during the recent winning streak to lower the team ERA to 3.90, which ranks 10th in the 14-team league. Lehigh Valley had limited its opponents to one run twice before that stretch and is the only team in the league yet to record a shutout victory, and it has issued the most walks with 192 (4.26 per game), 32 more than second-place Toledo in that category. The IronPigs’ 286 strikeouts are the second-fewest in the league, five more than Syracuse. Aumont’s 1.64 ERA (8 ER in 44.0 IP) through 10 outings (six starts) is the second-lowest in the league among qualified pitchers, although his 24 walks are tied for the second-most in the league.
Hitting: The G-Braves and IronPigs have identical .259 team batting averages, and they are the two most power deprived squads in the league. Gwinnett’s 13 long balls for the season are one fewer than the 14 homers Lehigh Valley has launched. The G-Braves have scored nine more runs (178) than the IronPigs and stolen 21 more bases (Gwinnett has a league-leading 53). The G-Braves’ 231 strikeouts are the fewest in the league, while Lehigh Valley’s 296 are the fifth fewest.
Gwinnett outfielder Eury Perez continues to lead the league in stolen bases with 22, while second baseman Jose Peraza remains with 14 (tied for fourth). Peraza has yet to steal a base since his return to the lineup Thursday after missing a week, although he did hit his first two home runs of the season at Columbus. Perez also leads the league with 27 runs scored, while infielder Adonis Garcia is fourth in batting average at .338 and outfielder Cedric Hunter is tied for second in doubles with 13.
G-Bites: The G-Braves received a new pitcher in their starting rotation during the road trip. Right-hander Cody Martin (0-1, 2.08 ERA), who won the team’s Most Outstanding Pitcher award after going 7-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 2014, joined the club May 19 from the Atlanta Braves. He went 2-2 with a 4.12 ERA (9 ER in 19.2 IP) in 17 relief appearances to begin the year with Atlanta…The Braves traded right-handed reliever John Cornely (2-2, 4.42 ERA, 1 save, 12 appearances) to the Boston Red Sox on May 20, and he was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket…Garcia returned to the G-Braves on May 22 after a four-day stay with Atlanta in his first Major League experience (0-1, 1 BB, 2 games), while left-handed reliever Ian Thomas got called up to Atlanta for the second time this season…The G-Braves will close their homestand with three games Friday through Sunday vs. Columbus, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
After making his Major League debut in 2014 as a reliever with the Houston Astros, right-hander Mike Foltynewicz has established himself as a key member of the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation after he began the year as a Gwinnett Brave.
The 23-year-old Foltynewicz came to the Braves’ organization via a five-player trade January 14 in a deal that sent Evan Gattis to the Astros. Foltynewicz did not get a win in his four starts to open the season with the G-Braves (0-3), but he still posted 2.08 ERA (5 ER in 21.2 IP) with an International League-leading 30 strikeouts at the time of his promotion to Atlanta on May 1.
He won both of his first two starts for Atlanta and has gone 2-1 with a 5.32 ERA (13 ER in 22.0 IP) and 23 strikeouts in four starts in his first opportunity to be part of a Major League starting rotation.
“It’s been really fun so far,” Foltynewicz said.
Foltynewicz and G-Braves’ pitching coach Marty Reed had worked on his mechanics during his month in Gwinnett to try to help his timing, and thereby his control. He walked 10 batters in his four starts in Gwinnett and has walked 11 during his time with Atlanta, although he walked one batter and posted his third consecutive start with seven strikeouts in his most recent outing May 19 in a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
“The first couple of games weren’t as good as I’d have liked them to be, but the last two I’ve really been pounding the zone,” Foltynewicz said. “In the later innings I kind of get a little amped up and try to throw a little to hard, and that’s when the walks tend to happen.”
Although he pitched in 16 games for Houston in the second half of last season, Foltynewicz said he has still had to make adjustments to find success in the big leagues compared to what had become a dominating routine at Gwinnett.
“Both mentally and out there playing, I’m getting settled in,” he said. “‘Every day it’s getting better. You get the learn the guys and just making friends and getting to work with (pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) every day, too, has been pretty fun.”
Infielder Pedro Ciriaco nearly made the Atlanta Braves’ Opening Day roster out of Spring Training this season, but the April 5 trade that sent right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres for center fielder Cameron Maybin bumped Ciriaco to the Gwinnett Braves.
He instead became the first player from the G-Braves’ Opening Day roster to get promoted to the Atlanta Braves in 2015. After he made several spectacular defensive plays at third base and shortstop to go with a .234 batting average (18-for-77), a double, a home run and seven RBIs, which tied for second-most on the team in April.
Atlanta called up the 29-year-old on May 2, and he has batted .214 (3-for-14) in 10 games with two starts.
“It’s going pretty good,” Ciriaco said of his experience with the Braves this season . “I’ve got the opportunity to be here, and I love it. We’ve got a good ballclub, and you just try to help them win games.”
Two of Ciriaco’s Major League hits this season have been as a pinch hitter (.333 pinch-hitting batting average) and each have gone for extra bases. His first hit of the year was a two-run double off of Washington Nationals’ right-handed starter Doug Fister on May 9 in an 8-6 road loss. He hit an eighth-inning triple in his next appearance May 13 against Cincinnati Reds’ right-handed starter Raisel Iglesias. Ciriaco came around to score the Braves’ only run of the game in a 5-1 defeat at Cincinnati.
Ciriaco has spent parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues with five different teams. He entered 2015 with a .270 career batting average in 188 MLB games. He said he has especially focused on how to be consistent at the big-league level after his latest callup.
“Every time I get a chance to play I try to play good defense…help our pitching staff out and try to win more games,” he said.
Ciriaco’s playing time has been limited in Atlanta compared to Gwinnett, where he played in 20 of Gwinnett’s first 21 games. It has been a change of pace, but it has also made him focus on every chance he gets at the plate or in the field.
“It’s a little bit different, but you just have to adjust and when you get the opportunity to play take advantage that I have here and continue to make things happen every chance I get to play,” he said.
Fri: RHP Matt Wisler (2-3, 4.59 ERA) vs. RHP Jon Moscot (5-0, 2.35 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sat: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-4, 5.70 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod (1-3, 3.57 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (2-1, 1.96 ERA) vs. RHP Donovan Hand (0-1, 3.06 ERA), 2:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves complete their seven-game homestand with three contests vs. the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The G-Braves dropped three of four games to the Syracuse Chiefs at Coolray Field earlier in the week, although none of the four games were decided by more than three runs. Louisville comes to Gwinnett after losing three of four road games to the Charlotte Knights.
The Bats are 4-7 in their last 11 games dating back to May 3 and are in third place in the four-team International League West Division, 5.5 games behind the division-leading Indianapolis Indians. The G-Braves remain in the cellar of the IL South despite a 3.5-game deficit to co-division leaders Charlotte and the Durham Bulls.
Pitching: Louisville enters the series with the second-highest team earned-run average in the league at 4.41, which is better than only the Toledo Mud Hens’ 4.87 mark. Bats pitchers have given up four or more runs in five of their last six games, and their 224 combined strikeouts are tied for the second-fewest in the league. Moscot, who will start the series opener, leads the league with five wins, and his 2.35 ERA is the seventh-lowest among qualifying pitchers, although he also leads the league with six wild pitches.
The Gwinnett pitching staff has held opponents in six of their last eight games, although the team is 4-4 in those contests. The G-Braves’ team ERA of 3.01 is the fourth-lowest in the league, and their nine home runs allowed are the fewest in the league, two behind the 11 given up by Buffalo Bisons pitchers. Wisler, the reigning IL Pitcher of the Week, will take the mound for Gwinnett in game one after going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA (2 ER in 13.1 IP), one walk and nine strikeouts in his latest two starts.
Hitting: The G-Braves’ team batting average dropped five points to .264 during their four-game series against Syracuse, but that still ranks as the third-highest in the league. Mycal Jones launched the team’s lone home run of the series. The club sits at the bottom of the league in that department with seven for the year, two behind Buffalo.
Louisville has slugged more than twice as many home runs with 15 through their first 34 games, but the G-Braves have scored more runs than the Bats (136 to 123). Louisville’s .248 team batting average is the fourth-lowest among the IL’s 16 teams. Their 257 combined strikeouts are the sixth-most in the league, while the G-Braves’ 179 are the fewest in the league, 31 fewer than second-place Buffalo in that category.
G-Bites: Infielder Sean Kazmar returned from the disabled list Thursday after the Braves called up outfielder Todd Cunningham. Kazmar entered the Thursday’s game as a pinch runner in the ninth inning…Gwinnett leads the IL with 43 stolen bases, six more than second-place Durham, and have the top two individual base stealers in the league with Eury Perez (18) and Jose Peraza (14), who also leads the league with eight sacrifice hits…Infielder Adonis Garcia’s .347 batting average ranks third in the league among qualifying hitters…Left-handed reliever Donnie Veal is tied for the league lead in holds with five.
Gwinnett will head out Monday on a seven-game road trip that includes three games against Toledo and four against the Columbus Clippers.
Mon: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-3, 5.64 ERA) vs. RHP Scott McGregor (2-2, 4.21 ERA)
Tues: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (2-0, 0.47 ERA) vs. RHP Bruce Billings (0-2, 4.01 ERA)
Wed: LHP Manny Banuelos (2-0, 3.06 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Jordan (1-2, 2.88 ERA)
Thurs: LHP Greg Smith (1-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Hill (2-1, 4.86 ERA)
The Gwinnett Braves begin a seven-game homestand with four contests vs. the Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The Chiefs roll into Coolray Field losers of four of their last six games and sit in fifth place in the six-team International League North Division. Most recently, they lost two contests of a three-game road series to the Durham Bulls.
The G-Braves won four of the six games on their road trip and outscored the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 14-2 in their final two games. The trip got Gwinnett back to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 3-3 April 14 but still are in last place in the IL South.
Pitching: The G-Braves’ team earned-run average of 2.96 ranks fourth in the league and is nearly a full run lower than the Chiefs’ 3.91 ERA, which is ninth in the IL. Syracuse has allowed the third-most home runs in the league with 21, as McGregor and Hill have both given up five. The 14 homers Gwinnett has allowed are tied for the fifth-fewest in the league.
However, Syracuse pitchers have displayed more control, as the team ranks fourth in the league in fewest walks with 86, while the 104 free passes Gwinnett pitchers have granted are tied for the sixth-most. Syracuse right-handed reliever Sam Runion leads the league among qualifying relief pitchers with a 0.64 walks-per-9.0-innings ratio (1 BB in 14.0 IP). Meanwhile, fellow right-handed reliever Rich Hill ranks second in the league with a 14.44 strikeouts-per-9.0-innings rate (23 SO in 14.1 IP).
For Gwinnett, left-handed reliever Donnie Veal is part of a three-way tie for the league lead in holds with five. Marimon’s 0.47 ERA (1 ER in 19.0 IP) would lead the league but he has not qualified with enough innings pitched.
Hitting: While the G-Braves still rank at the bottom of the IL with their six home runs, their team batting average is up to .269, which ranks third in the league. Syracuse is hitting a league-worst .233 but is tied for the fourth-most homers in the league with 20.
Gwinnett infielder Adonis Garcia enters the homestand with a 10-game hitting streak during which he has hit .439 (18-for-41) with five doubles and eight RBIs. That has boosted his batting average to .375, the second-highest in the league among qualifying batters, and he leads the team with 18 RBIs for the season. Outfielder Eury Perez continues to hold the top spot on the IL stolen bases leaderboard with 16, but G-Braves’ infielder Jose Peraza has climbed into a tie for second on that list with 12 steals.
Chiefs’ second baseman Ian Stewart is tied for the league-lead in home runs with sixth and is one off the lead in RBIs with 19. He is also tied for third with 14 extra-base hits but has the third-most strikeouts in the league with 36, four behind teammate Jason Martinson’s league-high 40.
G-Bites: The Atlanta Braves made a flurry of roster moves during the road trip that affected the G-Braves’ roster. Veal returned to the Gwinnett roster Friday after clearing waivers when the Braves designated him for assignment Tuesday, and the team activated catcher Jose Yepez from the disabled list. It also called up infielder Daniel Castro from Double-A Mississippi and placed infielders Elmer Reyes and Sean Kazmar on the disabled list.
Gwinnett also had a player receive a weekly award from the IL for the first time this season. The league named right-handed starter Matt Wisler the IL Pitcher of the Week on Monday after he went 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA (2 ER in 13.1 IP) with one walk and nine strikeouts in his last two starts. He is the Braves’ No. 2 ranked prospect according to MLB.com and is 2-3 with a 4.59 ERA (17 ER in 33.1 IP) through six starts this season, overall.
The G-Braves will play four games against the Chiefs to begin the homestand before the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, visit for a three-game series at Coolray Field.
Atlanta Braves Director of Player Development Dave Trembley spent four days last week at Coolray Field to work with the Gwinnett Braves for the first time this season in his position as the man who helps oversee the Braves’ farm system.
Trembley, who managed the Baltimore Orioles from 2007-10 and was a Houston Astros coach in 2013-14, joined the Braves in October. He offered his observations of the G-Braves’ heralded pitching staff that had four hurlers in MLB.com’s Top 30 prospect rankings of the Atlanta system before the Braves called up right-hander and No. 3 prospect Mike Foltynewicz to make his first Major League start on Friday, May 1.
“The Braves have always been successful because they’ve had a stable of good, young arms who have come through their system, and I think that’s what the Braves are doing now. They’re re-stocking their system with pitching.”
Gwinnett still has the Braves’ No. 2 prospect and their top pitching prospect Matt Wisler, a right-hander the club acquired from the San Diego Padres on April 5 as part of the six-player trade that sent right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Padres.
The G-Braves also feature No. 11 prospect, left-handed starter Manny Banuelos, and right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz at No. 30.
“You’ve got to have pitching,” Trembley said. “You’ve got to have guys who can give you innings, and that’s been the focal point and starting point. Guys like Foltynewicz give you a guy who you like to think you can pencil in and say ‘Hey, this guy is going to be part of your rotation for a long time.’”
Trembley said he was familiar with how the Braves approached construction of their pitching staffs, as longtime Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone was Baltimore’s pitching coach when Trembley took over the managerial post in 2007.
“I knew very well about (John) Smoltz and (Greg) Maddux,” Trembley said. “We’re in a position now where we’ve acquired some very good young pitchers.”
Atlanta also picked up left-handed starters Ricardo Sanchez and Max Fried in offseason trades. Sanchez, the team’s No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com, came from the Los Angeles Angels in January and started the 2015 season at Class-A Rome. The Braves got Fried from the Padres in a December trade that sent outfielder Justin Upton to San Diego. Fried is ranked as Atlanta’s No. 5 prospect by MLB.com but will miss the entire 2015 season after he underwent “Tommy John” surgery in August.
“The Braves have always been committed to player development and scouting,” Trembley said. “That’s been their trademark going back to the days when (Braves President) John Schuerholz started this (in 1990) with (former manager) Bobby Cox, with (former amateur scouting director) Paul Snyder, with all the guys that have been there for a long time. … There’s a nucleus of people who have been here for an awful long time, and they’ve done it by developing pitching.”
Trembley said he sees many similarities in how the Braves are building their pitching depth with talent at the Triple-A level in Gwinnett.
“What I like here is we have some youth in the starting rotation,” he said. “We have some really up-and-coming, young arms that are here that are learning that in order to be successful in the Major Leagues you have to refine and develop their secondary pitches. I think (Banuelos, Wisler and right-hander Williams Perez) are doing that, and they have very good mentors in (guys like Chien-Ming) Wang.”
“I see this staff learning how to pitch, making the adjustments to pitch at this level and to be in Atlanta,” he said.
Thurs: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-1, 6.23 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Belfiore (0-3, 7.05 ERA)
Fri: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 2.08 ERA) vs. RHP Buck Farmer (3-0, 3.00 ERA)
Sat: LHP Manny Banuelos (1-0, 4.43 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Ryan (0-2, 4.43 ERA)
Sun: RHP Williams Perez (2-0, 1.57 ERA) vs. RHP Tim Melville (1-2, 3.80 ERA)
The Gwinnett Braves continue their seven-game homestand with four contests against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The Mud Hens enter the series third in the four-team International League West Division after they dropped two of three road games to the Charlotte Knights on the first leg of their road trip. The G-Braves and Mud Hens split their four-game series at Coolray Field in 2014, but Gwinnett took the season series 5-3. Gwinnett has never lost a season series to Toledo, and the only year the G-Braves dropped a home series to the Mud Hens was in 2010 when Toledo won three of four games.
Pitching: While Gwinnett holds a 3.57 ERA and is tied for second in the league with 168 strikeouts, the Mud Hens enter the series with a 4.73 team ERA that ranks 13th in the 14-team league and has the second-most walks with 83 against 125 strikeouts (Gwinnett pitchers have 70 combined walks).
Perez is the only G-Braves pitcher to garner a victory in his last start. His 1.57 ERA is also tied for the ninth-lowest among qualifying starters in the league. Foltynewicz, meanwhile, leads the league with 30 strikeouts through his first four starts of the year.
Farmer leads the Toledo starting rotation in wins (three), ERA (3.00) and strikeouts (28). His strikeout total is also second in the league behind Foltynewicz, and his .173 opponent batting average is the fifth-lowest in the league.
Hitting: Toledo holds the statistical advantage on offense. The Mud Hens have the third-highest team batting average at .267 and have scored the second-most runs (91) in the league, four behind the Pawtucket Red Sox. They are also tied for the league lead in doubles with 40 but have hit five home runs, one more than Gwinnett and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
The G-Braves twice tied their season-high hit total with 13 Monday and Wednesday against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Also, outfielder Cedric Hunter launched the team’s first home run of the season at Coolray Field in walk-off fashion to win the series opener Monday, 6-5. The G-Braves are up to sixth in the league with a .256 team batting average and continue to lead the league with 26 stolen bases.
Outfielder Daniel Fields leads Toledo with a .349 batting average that ranks seventh in the league. He leads the league with five triples, and his 11 extra-base hits are good for second. Mud Hens third baseman Jefry Marte is also tied for third in RBIs with 14.
G-Bites: Gwinnett took two of three games from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to begin the homestand…The G-Braves each of the first two games by one run (6-5 and 3-2) before the RailRiders topped them 8-5 Wednesday…Outfielder Todd Cunningham begins the series on a team-best, nine-game hitting streak, and infielder Sean Kazmar is riding an eight-game streak…Outfielder Eury Perez leads the league in stolen bases with 12 after swiping two in the series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre…Left-handed reliever Donnie Veal leads the league with 10 appearances and five holds, while right-hander Aaron Kurcz is tied for second in the league with five saves.
After the series with Toledo, the G-Braves will have an off day Monday before they begin a six-game road trip that includes three games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre followed by three at Lehigh Valley. They will return home to face the Syracuse Chiefs at 6:35 p.m. Monday, May 11.