Fri: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 2.08 ERA) vs. LHP Brian Johnson (7-4, 2.51 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sat: TBA vs. LHP Henry Owens (2-5, 3.45 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: TBA vs. TBA, 2:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves open their homestand with a three-game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The G-Braves had an off day Thursday, which followed a 3-4 road trip that took them to Indianapolis and Louisville. The PawSox are on a four-game losing streak after a 15-5 road loss Thursday to the Charlotte Knights and have fallen 6.5 games behind the International League North Division-leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for third place. The G-Braves remain in fourth in the IL South and trail the first-place Durham Bulls by 5.5 games.
Pawtucket has gone 6-10 in June despite a league-leading 17 home runs. The PawSox have the second-lowest team batting average of any IL team in June at .239 and the second-highest team ERA at 4.56. Gwinnett has hit a league-low three home runs through its first 15 games in June, but the G-Braves are 8-7 with a team batting average of .263 (eighth in the IL) and 3.33 team ERA (sixth).
This is the first meeting between the clubs this season. The PawSox took five of eight games from Gwinnett in 2014, and the G-Braves have not won a season series over Pawtucket since 2009, their first season in Gwinnett. The teams split their eight contests in 2010 and 2011, respectively, but the PawSox have gone 17-7 against Gwinnett in the past three seasons. They will meet again at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket June 26-28 for their final meeting of the season.
Pitching: Foltynewicz will open the series for Gwinnett in his first start back with the G-Braves after the Atlanta Braves optioned him from their roster on Wednesday, June 17. The 6-3, 220-pound right-hander went 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA in nine starts for Atlanta after the Braves called him up on May 1. With the G-Braves, Foltynewicz was 0-3 with a 2.08 ERA that led the team at the time of his promotion. He will face the PawSox’ Johnson, who enters the start with a 2.51 ERA that is the fourth-lowest among qualifying starters in the league. His seven wins are tied for tops in the IL, his 1.06 WHIP ranks second, his opponent batting average of .211 is tied for third and his 66 strikeouts rank third. G-Braves’ left-handed starter Manny Banuelos leads the league among qualified pitchers with a 2.29 ERA.
As a team, the G-Braves have the third-lowest ERA in the league with a 3.11 mark, but they have allowed four or more runs in seven of their last nine games during which they posted a 4-5 record. They are also tied for the fewest wild pitches among IL teams with 21. Pawtucket hurlers have thrown 25 and have combined for a team ERA of 3.51 that ranks seventh in the league. Gwinnett is tied for the third-fewest home runs allowed with 26, while the PawSox are tied for fifth in that category with 33 given up.
Hitting: Gwinnett also holds an advantage on offense, statistically. The G-Braves have batted .260 as a team through their first 65 games, which places them in a four-way for the fifth-best in the league. Pawtucket has the second-lowest team batting average in the IL at .237. However, the Paw Sox are tied for the league lead in home runs with 53.the G-Braves have the fewest of any Triple-A team with 18, which is eight behind the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the second-fewest.
Four of the G-Braves’ last five wins have been by one-run, and they have scored more than four runs four times in their last 21 games dating back to a 4-1 win over Lehigh Valley on May 27 at Coolray Field, but they went 11-8 during that stretch. In that same span, the PawSox have eclipsed the four-run mark eight times but are 8-11. Individually, outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. ranks third in the IL among qualifying hitters with a .320 batting average, a .391 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage. Fellow outfielder Quentin Berry is third in the league in stolen bases with 21. Infielder Adonis Garcia continues to lead the Gwinnett offense with a .309 batting average that is good for ninth-highest among qualifying batters in the IL.
G-Bites: Shortstop Daniel Castro joined Atlanta for his Major League debut Wednesday and got a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning to drive in the go-ahead run in the Braves’ 5-2 win over the Red Sox…He returned to Gwinnett the following day, while outfielder Eury Perez got his first call-up with Atlanta. Perez batted .296 with a league-leading 28 stolen bases and a team-best 34 runs scored in 60 games to open the season with Gwinnett…The G-Braves also return home with four players who were with Atlanta during the last homestand from June 5-10. Outfielder Eric Young, Jr., catcher Christian Bethancourt, infielder Joey Terdoslavich and outfielder Todd Cunningham all joined the team during the road trip…Young hit his first G-Braves’ home run on Monday, June 15 at Louisville, and Bethancourt went 5-for-10 with an RBI in his first two games of the year with Gwinnett…The G-Braves will finish their homestand with four games against the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, from Monday, June 22 to Thursday, June 25.
Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Outfield Coordinator Bobby Mitchell Helps Jose Peraza Transition to Center Field
Atlanta Braves Minor League Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator Bobby Mitchell stopped by Coolray Field during the Gwinnett Braves’ most recent homestand to help the organization’s top prospect transition from the brown dirt of the infield to the vast stretches of green grass in center field.
Along with his regular duties at second base, the G-Braves have used Jose Peraza as an outfielder during the past two weeks to give him more chances at a promotion should Atlanta have a need in the outfield more than the infield, Mitchell said.
“We’re trying to get his offense into the big leagues, too,” Mitchell said. “We’ve done a lot of basic stuff with him because we’re just starting out, but he seems to be picking it up really well.”
Peraza reached Triple-A for the first time in his career to begin the 2015 season and batted .282 in his first 52 games. He spent his first 39 games with Gwinnett as a second baseman, although he had primarily played shortstop from the time Atlanta signed him as a non-drafted free agent in 2012 until he shifted to second base for a 2014 season he split between Advanced-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi.
G-Braves’ manager Brian Snitker inserted Peraza into the lineup as a center fielder for the first time May 27 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Coolray Field.
The Braves first had Peraza take some fly balls in the outfield during Spring Training but didn’t want put him in the outfield immediately when the season started because he is still not far removed from the switch from shortstop to second base, Mitchell said.
“We don’t want to take that away from him, either,” Mitchell said of Peraza’s spot on the infield, “But especially in the National League, if you can add versatility to your game then you’re a valuable player.”
Most of the work Mitchell said he did with Peraza focused on his footwork, how to take proper routes on plays and his throwing motion. Peraza uses a low arm slot to make his throws from second base, but he needs to throw more over the top in center field because that position requires much longer throws, Mitchell said.
While Mitchell said he understands it is a challenge for a player to move between the infield and outfield, he thinks Peraza’s speed could be a valuable asset in center because it would allow him to cover vast amounts of space and make plays others might not.
Also, Mitchell said he has been impressed by how well Peraza has taken instruction to learn yet another new position.
“He’s a smart kid and he works his butt off, so I think that’s a big plus for his development,” Mitchell said. “He seems to be able to apply what you teach him, and I think that is a huge part in moving forward.”
Atlanta Braves’ outfielder/infielder Kelly Johnson made his first start Monday with the Gwinnett Braves in his Major League rehab assignment from a right oblique strain that sent him to the disabled list May 14. He played the full game in left field for the G-Braves in their 1-0 win over the Norfolk Tides at Coolray Field.
Johnson went 0-3 with a strikeout but said after the game he was pleased with how his body felt in his return to full action.
“That’s the most important thing,” Johnson said of his health. “I got to play some games in extended Spring (Training) before I got here. Swings and misses, foul balls, things like that, check swings, are always kind of the tell-tale with the oblique, but my body feels great. I’ve just got to get some timing and some rhythm down.”
Johnson has been through several previous rehab assignments during his 10-year Major League career, and he tries to approach every game the same regardless of the magnitude of the contest.
“You’re not guaranteed anything so you want to treat it the same way and respect the game,” he said.
Johnson said one of the most difficult aspects of an injury to the oblique is that it prevents a player from being able to twist his body and take swings for an extended period of time, but he did not feel any pain during his at-bats Monday.
“Health-wise, if that’s what we’re looking at, I feel healthy. I feel great,” he said.
Johnson is the second Braves’ player to rehab with the G-Braves this season. Third baseman Chris Johnson started the team’s May 25 home game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs,but he got one at-bat before rain suspended the game and ultimately pushed it back two days later. Johnson returned to the big leagues before the game resumed.
The G-Braves and Tides will play the second game of their three-game series at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at Coolray Field. Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (2-5, 5.83 ERA) is scheduled to start on the mound for Gwinnett opposite righty Tyler Wilson (2-4, 3.00 ERA) of Norfolk. Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM and WSBRadio.com beginning at 6 p.m.
All Infield Box and Field Box seats are two for the price of one as part of “Two-For-Tuesday” night at the stadium. To purchase tickets, call the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.
Mon: LHP Greg Smith (1-3, 3.41 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Davies (3-3, 2.96 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Tues: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-5, 5.83 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Wilson (2-4, 3.00 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Wed: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (3-2, 3.26 ERA) vs. RHP Eddie Gamboa (4-3, 3.49 ERA), 12:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves will complete their homestand with three games against the International League South Division-leading Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The G-Braves took two of three games from the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, to begin the homestand. Gwinnett also broke a streak of 18 straight wins when they allowed two or fewer runs when they beat Durham 4-3 Friday in 11 innings, and their 2-0 loss Sunday ended a stretch of 19 straight losses in which they gave up at least three runs. The G-Braves have won 10 of their last 15 games, overall, to close within 4.5 games of Norfolk for first place in the division, although they remain in last place.
The Tides enter the series winners of 11 of their last 15 games to rise to the top spot in the IL South. They won two of three games in their last series on the road against the Charlotte Knights that followed a split of a two-game home series against the G-Braves. Gwinnett and Norfolk are even in their season series at 4-4. This will be the fourth of seven series between the division rivals this season.
Pitching: The Norfolk pitching staff has the lowest combined ERA of any club in the 14-team league at 2.76. The G-Braves come in at third in that department with a 3.07 ERA, and Gwinnett starters have not allowed more than two runs in 11 of their last 12 starts (2.72 ERA in that span). The Tides, meanwhile, lead the league with nine shutout victories compared to Gwinnett’s six. Norfolk has allowed the fewest home runs (20) and issued the fewest walks (160) of an IL squad. Gwinnett pitchers are tied for the fourth-fewest homers allowed with 23 but have walked the sixth-most batters (186).
Left-hander Manny Banuelos remains the only qualified pitcher in the league yet to lose a game. He is 5-0 through 11 starts with a 2.11 ERA that is the second-lowest among qualified pitchers. Norfolk’s Chris Jones is 1-4 on the year through 14 appearances (six starts) but his 2.58 ERA is the sixth-lowest among qualified pitchers. Tuesday’s Gwinnett starter Wang has allowed the most hits of any pitcher in the league with 80. He also led the league in that category a year ago with 200 hits given up. For the Tides, Gamboa’s six hit batsmen are the most in the league, and he is one of three pitchers to have balked twice this season.
Hitting: The G-Braves and Tides will start the series with identical .258 team batting averages, which ties them for sixth in the league in that department, although Gwinnett has scored 20 more runs (217-197). Gwinnett remains in the basement of the home run leaderboard with 17, but Norfolk also does not live by the long ball. The Tides have slugged 25 homers, which are the fourth-fewest in the IL. Perhaps the largest difference between the two offenses is the speed game. G-Braves baserunners have stolen a league-high 60 bases, while Norfolk has swiped the second-fewest in the league with 25, nine more than the last-place Rochester Red Wings in that category.
Outfielder Eury Perez has not stolen a base since Saturday, May 30 vs. the Columbus Clippers, but he still holds the league lead with 25 on the season, five more than second-place Leury Garcia of Charlotte. Third baseman Adonis Garcia sits 10th among qualified batters with a .308 batting average, but he has hit his roughest stretch of the season. Garcia has two hits in his last six games for a .087 average (2-for-23) with one run scored an no extra bases in that span.
The Norfolk offense is led by outfielder Chris Parmelee, who checks in with a .312 batting average that ranks eighth among qualified hitters to go with 90 total bases and 63 hits, both of which are the fourth-most in the league. In addition, outfielder Dariel Alvarez has played in each of the Tides’ 56 games this season and has the fifth-best strikeouts-per-plate-appearance ratio at 10.27.
G-Bites: Atlanta Braves’ outfielder/infielder Kelly Johnson will join Gwinnett to begin a Major League rehab assignment Monday. He is the second Atlanta player to rehab with the G-Braves this season. Third baseman Chris Johnson played in one game with Gwinnett on Monday, May 25, going 0-1 in his lone at-bat against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs…The G-Braves also added veteran right-handed reliever David Aardsma to their bullpen Sunday. He pitched the ninth inning and struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 inning for his G-Braves’ debut…Atlanta released right-handed reliever Mitchell Boggs to make room for Aardsma on the roster. Boggs was 1-1 with a 6.08 ERA in 13 relief appearances with Gwinnett…The G-Braves will go n a seven-game road trip after their series with Norfolk. They will visit the Indianapolis Indians for four games before moving to Louisville for three games against the Bats. Gwinnett will return to Coolray Field Friday, June 19 to start a seven-game homestand that includes three contests vs. the Pawtucket Red Sox and four against Indianapolis.
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.