Results tagged ‘ Christian Bethancourt ’

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (70-61) vs. Norfolk Tides (73-58)

Pitching probables

Thurs: RHP Victor Mateo (2-2, 5.47 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Wright (8-0, 2.41 ERA), 6:35 p.m.

Fri: LHP Greg Smith (6-4, 2.39 ERA) vs. RHP Elih Villanueva (3-3, 4.36 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Sat: RHP Jake Brigham (3-1, 5.19 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Belfiore (5-11, 5.61 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Sun: RHP Ryan Weber (4-3, 2.31 ERA) vs. RHP Terry Doyle (2-1, 3.24 ERA), 2:05 p.m.

Cedric Hunter (Taylor Botta)

Cedric Hunter (Taylor Botta)

The Gwinnett Braves and Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, will engage in a four-game battle at Coolray Field that features the top two teams in the International League South Division. The Tides lead the division by 3.0 games over the G-Braves, but both teams enter the series on three-game losing streaks.

The G-Braves lost every game of their three-game road series against the Charlotte Knights, and the Tides lost a home game to the Toledo Mud Hens on Monday before the Durham Bulls swept a two-game set from them at home. Gwinnett is also in contention for the IL Wild Card spot, but the Columbus Clippers have won their last three games to extend their advantage over the second-place G-Braves to 4.5 games.

The Tides have not been to the Governor’s Cup Playoffs since they won the division in 2005, and Gwinnett’s last trip to the postseason was in 2009 as the Wild Card team. The G-Braves and Tides have eight games remaining against one another. They will complete their season series with four games from Sept. 2-4, including a doubleheader on Sept. 2. The teams have split their first 14 meetings with seven wins apiece.

The G-Braves have closed the gap on the Tides in the division from 8.0 games at the end of July. Gwinnett has gone 15-10 so far in August, while Norfolk is 11-15. The G-Braves’ record for the month is the second-best in the league behind the Syracuse Chiefs (17-7). Gwinnett has gone on its hot streak thanks to an offensive surge that includes a league-high .294 team batting average through those 25 games despite nine home runs, which is tied with the Buffalo Bisons for the fewest in the league during that stretch.

Pitching: The series also includes two of the top pitching staffs in the league. Norfolk has the second-best team ERA in the league at 3.08, and the G-Braves are close behind in fourth with a 3.19 ERA. The Tides have allowed the fewest runs in the league with 435 and is tied with Columbus for the most saves with 44. Gwinnett relievers have 41 saves, which are tied for third in the league with three other clubs. The Tides and G-Braves are also tied for the fewest hits allowed with 1,043. Neither staff has struck out an abnormally high number of batters, but they have also limited the number of home runs they have allowed. Norfolk hurlers are ninth in the IL with 922 strikeouts, and the G-Braves follow in 10th with 911 whiffs. The Tides have given up the fourth-fewest home runs with 67, and the G-Braves have allowed 72, the fifth-fewest.

G-Braves’ lefty Smith has given up one earned run or fewer in five of his six starts since he rejoined the starting rotation on July 28, and his 2.39 ERA (28 ER in 105.1 IP) for the season is the second-lowest among qualified pitchers in the IL. He leads the league with a 1.12 WHIP. Brigham and Weber both entered the rotation during Gwinnett’s series at Charlotte. Baltimore right-hander Wright will open the series with his first start of a Major League rehab assignment with the Tides. Wright has bounced between Norfolk and Baltimore this season. He last pitched on July 31 and tossed a scoreless 1.0 inning of reliever vs. the Detroit Tigers.

Hitting: Gwinnett holds a slight advantage offensively with a 2.62 team batting average that ranks second in the IL. Norfolk is fifth with a .260 mark, although the Tides have outslugged the G-Braves with 70 home runs on the season compared to a league-low 45 for Gwinnett. The G-Braves are on pace for a franchise-low 49 homers, which would also be the fewest for any team in the IL since the Tidewater Tides hit 43 in 1980. Gwinnett has also yet to homer off of a Norfolk pitcher this season. Despite their even head-to-head record, the Tides have hit eight home runs against the G-Braves and outscored them 48-35. Norfolk has batted .256 in its games against Gwinnett this season compared to a .230 batting average for the G-Braves in those contests.

G-Braves’ outfielder Cedric Hunter opens the series on a team-best 20-game hitting streak that is also the longest in the IL this season. He surpassed Austin Romine of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for the top spot on Wednesday with a second-inning double into right-center field. Hunter has batted .345 (29-for-84) with four doubles, two triples, two of his team-leading 11 home runs, 16 RBIs, which padded his team lead to 65, and nine runs scored during that stretch. Hunter’s streak is the longest active hitting streak in Triple-A and is tied with Franklin Gutierrez of the Tacoma Rainiers for the longest Triple-A streak of the season.

Outfielder Dariel Alvarez and first baseman Christian Walker have been stalwarts for the Tides, offensively. Alvarez is third in the IL with 141 hits, third in total bases with 217 and fifth in RBIs with 72. Walker is fifth in the league with 46 extra-base hits and 200 total bases. Overall, Norfolk’s bats have slowed in August. The team has combined for a .241 batting average that is the third-lowest in the league through their first 26 games of the month.

G-Bites: The G-Braves lost significant contributors in the last week, as the Atlanta Braves’ traded outfielder Eric Young, Jr. to the New York Mets on Saturday before they called up catcher Christian Bethancourt and right-handed pitcher Sugar Ray Marimon on Monday. Young had batted .248 (58-for-234) with 23 stolen bases in 67 games for the G-Braves after Atlanta outrighted him to Gwinnett on June 11. He was also Gwinnett’s June Player of the Month. Bethancourt hit a team-best .327 (66-for-202) with four home runs, 19 doubles, 31 RBIs and 25 runs scored in 52 games after he began the season with Atlanta. Marimon is in his fourth stint with Atlanta. He had gone 5-4 with a 3.31 ERA (30 ER in 81.2 IP) in 17 appearances (14 starts) for Gwinnett…Among those moves, outfielder Eury Perez rejoined the club when Atlanta optioned him on Monday. Left-handed reliever Hunter Cervenka and catcher Braeden Schlehuber were promoted from Double-A Mississippi, while outfielder Mycal Jones was sent down…The G-Braves will play a two-game series on Monday and Tuesday at Durham before they travel to Norfolk for their four-game tilt with the Tides. Gwinnett finishes the regular season with a three-game home series vs. Charlotte from Sept. 5-7 at Coolray Field.

-JM

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (66-58) vs. Louisville Bats (60-65)

Pitcher probables

Thurs: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (4-4, 3.62 ERA) vs. LHP Brandon Finnegan (0-1, 5.79 ERA), 6:35 p.m.

Fri: RHP Kanekoa Texeira (6-3, 3.61 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Lorenzen (3-1, 1.93 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Sat: RHP Jake Brigham (3-0, 5. 11 ERA) vs. RHP Donn Roach (2-3, 5.20 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Sun: LHP Greg Smith (6-4, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Smith (3-4, 3.88 ERA), 2:05 p.m.

LHP Greg Smith (Karl Moore)

LHP Greg Smith (Karl Moore)

The Gwinnett Braves return to Coolray Field to begin a four-game series against the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, after a 10-game road trip during which they went 5-5. They remained in second place in the International League Wild Card standings throughout the road trip and sit 3.5 games behind the Columbus Clippers for the lead. The G-Braves are also 6.0 games in back of the Norfolk Tides for first place in the IL South Division. The Clippers and Tides are in the middle of a three-game series at Norfolk. Columbus won the series opener 4-3 on Wednesday.

Louisville hovered around the .500 mark for much of the season and was 57-56 on August 5. However, the Bats have gone 3-9 in their 12 games since to drop to 60-65 and 10 games out of a playoff spot. They were outscored 48-20 in those contests, and the offense has struggled mightily during that stretch. The team has not scored more than four runs in any of those games, and it scored two runs or fewer eight times, including eight of their nine losses. The Bats also suffered three consecutive shutout losses from August 9-11. The first loss was 9-0 on the road to the Durham Bulls, and the final two were 2-0 and 3-0 home defeats to Columbus.

Pitching: The Bats also are tied for the second-highest ERA of any team in the 14-team International League with a 3.97 mark that equals the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Gwinnett, meanwhile, has a 3.19 team ERA that is the fourth-lowest in the league. The G-Braves’ pitching staff has also allowed the second-fewest hits in the IL with 994, which is 11 more than Norfolk for the lead in that category. Both teams rank toward the bottom of the league in strikeouts but in the top half in walks allowed. Gwinnett has the fifth-fewest strikeouts with 864, and Louisville has the second-fewest with 814. The G-Braves have walked 407 batters, which is the fifth-most in the IL, and Bats pitchers have issued 430 to have the fourth-most in that department.

Veterans Texeira and Smith have led the G-Braves’ pitching staff in the second half of the season. Texeira has won a career-high six consecutive starts since July 20 and has a 3.63 ERA (14 ER in 34.2 IP) in that span. The G-Braves have won each of Smith’s five starts since he rejoined the rotation on July 28 from a stint in the bullpen. He has tallied wins in three of those starts with a 1.95 ERA (6 ER in 27.2 IP). His 2.45 ERA (27 ER in 99.1 IP) for the season ranks second in the IL among qualified starters, and his 1.10 WHIP leads the league.

Finnegan, Lousville’s starter for the series opener on Thursday, was acquired by the Reds from the Kansas City Royals on July 26 as part of a four-player trade that sent right-handed starter Johnny Cueto to Kansas City. Finnegan, a 22-year-old, has made four starts for Louisville since the trade. He also appeared in 14 games for the Royals earlier this season, going 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA (8 ER in 24.1 IP). Finnegan made his Major League debut with the Royals on September 6, 2014 after they selected him in the first round (17th overall) of the June free agent draft earlier that season out of Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX). He also pitched in seven postseason games for Kansas City during its run to the World Series a year ago.

Hitting: The Gwinnett offense was dominant in the five victories during the road trip. The G-Braves scored eight or more runs in four of their five wins, but they were held to three runs or fewer in each of their losses. Overall, the G-Braves have a .260 team batting average that ranks fifth in the league but is .001 behind three teams tied for second in that department. Louisville ranks ninth in that category with a .255 average.

Gwinnett is still in the basement of the league home run totals with 43. The G-Braves are on pace to hit 50 this season, which is still fewer than any other IL team has at this point and would be the fewest since the Tidewater Tides hit 43 in 1980. Louisville has the fourth fewest homers with 59. The G-Braves lead the league in stolen bases, however, with 149, which is three in front of the second-place Indianapolis Indians in that category. The Bats have the fifth-fewest steals in the IL with 76.

Center fielder Mallex Smith hit .381 (16-for-42) with six steals and nine runs scored from the leadoff spot during the road trip, but that was just the third-highest average on the team during that stretch. Catcher Christian Bethancourt led the club with a .424 average (14-for 33), and outfielder Cedric Hunter batted .395 (15-for-38). Bethancourt also had six doubles, a home run and seven RBIs during the trip, while Hunter two doubles, a home run and 10 RBIs to push his team-leading total in that category to 64. Hunter also leads the club with 11 homers. Additionally, Smith is 25-for-29 in steal attempts through 50 games with the G-Braves and has 48 stolen bases on the season combined with Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi, where he began the season.

Louisville’s top hitter has been outfielder Brennan Boesch, who boasts a .331 batting average (59-for-178) in 48 games with the Bats, although outfielder Ryan LaMarre leads the team with 88 RBIs and is tied with infielder Yorman Rodriguez for the team lead in home runs with eight. The Bats’ offensive struggles in August have led to a league-low .203 average during the month, and they do not have a batter who has hit better than outfielder Juan Silva’s .244 mark during through the first 17 games of the month.

G-Bites: Infielder Joey Terdoslavich has returned to Gwinnett after his fourth stint with the Atlanta Braves this season to open a spot on the Major League roster for first baseman Freddie Freeman, who completed his rehab assignment with the G-Braves on Tuesday. Freeman batted .375 (3-for-8) with a double, two RBIs, two walks and three strikeouts in two games with Gwinnett…The G-Braves also added three relief pitchers during the road trip, although two had been with the team previously this season. Right-hander Ryan Kelly was optioned from Atlanta on August 13, and fellow righty Brigham was optioned on August 16 when the Braves recalled right-hander Peter Moylan. The Braves also claimed Danny Burawa off of waivers from the New York Yankees on August 14, and he joined the G-Braves’ bullpen on Monday but has yet to make an appearance…Once their four-game set against Louisville is complete, the G-Braves will go back on the road for a three-game series against the Charlotte Knights at BB&T Ballpark. They will come back hom on August 27 to start a four-game series vs. Norfolk.

-JM

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (59-52) vs. Buffalo Bisons (58-54)

Pitching probables

Fri: LHP Greg Smith (4-4, 2.34 ERA) vs. RHP Phillippe Aumont (3-4, 2.54 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Sat: RHP Victor Mateo (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. LHP Jeff Francis (5-0, 1.41 ERA), 7:05 p.m.

Sun: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (3-3, 3.92 ERA) vs. RHP Scott Copeland (8-3, 2.11 ERA), 2:05 p.m.

Victor Mateo (Jim Lacey)

Victor Mateo (Jim Lacey)

The Gwinnett Braves begin a three-game series against the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, off of their best stretch of the season. The G-Braves had their season-high, six-game winning streak snapped in a 7-5 loss on Thursday to the Rochester Red Wings. Still, they have won 11 of their last 13 games to move from last place to second in the International League South Division and put them in the runner-up spot in the IL Wild Card race, 2.5 games behind the Columbus Clippers.

Buffalo entered the All-Star break on July 13 one game below the .500 mark at 45-46, but the Bisons won eight of their first 11 games after the break and have climbed into second place in the IL North, 3.5 games behind the division-leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Buffalo is also in fourth place in the Wild Card standings and 1.5 games behind the G-Braves. Gwinnett swept a three-game road series from the Bisons in  the team’s first meeting this season from June 29 through July 1. The G-Braves have won the season series between the clubs in each of the past two seasons, going 11-4, overall, and 5-3 at Coolray Field during that stretch. This will be the final regular-season series the teams will play against one another this season.

Pitching: Two of the top pitching staffs in the IL will face off this weekend at Coolray Field. The Bisons boast a 3.07 team ERA that ranks second in the league behind only the Norfolk Tides, and the G-Braves follow in third with a 3.11 ERA. Both staffs go about their work in much the same way. Buffalo has a 2.29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (804 strikeouts/352 walks), while Gwinnett has a 2.14 mark (784 strikeouts/366 walks). G-Braves’ pitchers have given up five more home runs than Buffalo, but their 54 homers allowed still are the fourth-fewest in the league. August has been particularly good for Gwinnett hurlers, as they have combined for a 2.17 ERA through the first six games of the month, which is the second-lowest in the league, to help the team to a 5-1 record in that span. In five games during which the team is 2-3, Buffalo has a 4.50 ERA.

The Buffalo rotation is led by the current IL ERA leader in Copeland, who is scheduled to pitch the series finale. He has won three of his last four starts and has not allowed more than one earned run in that span. He has given up more than two earned runs in two of his 15 appearances (14 starts) for the Bisons this season. He made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays in May and has made five appearances (three starts) for Toronto, going 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA.

Gwinnett pitchers held opponents to three runs or fewer in 10 of the 13 games during their hot streak despite five strikeouts or fewer in nine of those contests. The G-Braves also got seven quality starts from its starting rotation in that time span, and right-hander Peter Moylan has become a stopper at the end of games. He has gone 4-for-4 in save opportunities across his last six appearances and has not allowed a run in his last eight while he gave up three combined hits in that span. Overall, Moylan is 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA (9 ER in 25.0 IP) with four saves in 24 outings since he joined the team on June 2.

Hitting: Outfielder Todd Cunningham and catcher Christian Bethancourt have caught fire of late. They have combined to hit at a .411 rate (.476 for Cunningham, .371 for Bethancourt) in the team’s last 10 games. Cunningham has driven in five runs and scored four during that span, while Bethancourt has a home run, seven RBIs and a seven runs scored. The team batting average has risen to .256 for the season, which ranks eighth in the IL. Buffalo has a .262 team batting average that is tied with Norfolk for the second-highest in the league. The Bisons do not hit for much power, however. Their 49 home runs are the third-fewest in the league, although Gwinnett’s 38 are the fewest in the league, overall. The G-Braves hold a distinct advantage on the bases with their 126 stolen bases that are the second-most in the IL. Buffalo baserunners have swiped 61 bags, which ranks 11th in the league.

Along with Copeland atop the IL pitching ranks, Buffalo also has the league’s top hitter with Matt Hague. The first baseman/third baseman leads the league in batting average (.342), hits (145), RBIs (79), total bases (202), on-base percentage (.424) and is tied for the league lead in walks (54). He also ranks second in slugging percentage (.476) and third in doubles (28). Hague played 33 games in the Majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates combined in 2012 and 2014, hitting a combined .222 with no home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs. He combined to hit .282 with 23 doubles, 15 homers, 76 RBIs and 60 runs scored in 106 games between the Indianapolis Indians and Buffalo in 2014, including a .377 batting average in 13 games for the Bisons.

G-Bites: The G-Braves lost utilityman Joey Terdoslavich and right-handed reliever Ryan Kelly to Major League promotions on Tuesday with the Atlanta Braves. They are both on their fourth stints with Atlanta this season…Kelly’s move opened a roster spot for right-hander Jason Hursh to make his Triple-A debut on Thursday with the G-Braves. The Braves’ first-round pick (31st overall) in 2013 threw a perfect ninth inning in his first appearance on Thursday. He began the season as a starter for Double-A Mississippi and made 15 starts, going 2-6 with a 5.63 ERA. He moved to the bullpen on 7/10 and went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in nine relief outings for the M-Braves before his promotion…The G-Braves will embark on their longest remaining road trip after the Buffalo series. They will travel to three cities in nine days for four games against the Charlotte Knights, three vs. Columbus and two against the Toledo Mud Hens…After their final day off of the regular season on August 19, the team will come back to Coolray Field for a four-game series against the Louisville Bats.

-JM

Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Catching Coordinator discusses Bethancourt, catching philosophies

Christian Bethancourt (Jim Lacey)

                                               Christian Bethancourt (Jim Lacey)

Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Catching Coordinator Joe Breeden was at Coolray Field during the Gwinnett Braves’ most recent homestand against the Charlotte Knights and Durham Bulls that lasted from July 24-29. As part of his travels through the Braves’ entire minor-league system, Breeden spent time with G-Braves’ catcher Christian Bethancourt, as the 23-year-old backstop refines his game in preparation for a possible return to Atlanta, which is where he began the 2015 season as a big-league rookie.

Bethancourt batted .198 (20-for-102) with six doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, 12 runs scored and a stolen bases in 29 games for the Braves before they optioned him to Gwinnett on June 15. He also threw out 37.5 percent (6-of-16) of attempting base stealers, committed three errors and had five passed balls.

“Always when you’re a young guy, you’re still learning game-calling and handling the staff,” Breeden said. “That becomes the biggest part, especially when you get up to the big leagues, handling that staff, putting in your work.”

Since the return to Gwinnett, where he played 91 games in 2014, Bethancourt has one error and one passed ball to accompany a 47.8 percent (11-of-23) caught-stealing rate. He also immediately began to hit again at the Triple-A level. He had at least one base hit in nine of his first 10 starts for the G-Braves for a .354 batting average (17-for-48) in that span, which included three doubles, a home run, six RBIs, five runs scored and three stolen bases.

Christian Bethancourt (Karl Moore)

                                               Bethancourt (Karl Moore)

Breeden said Bethancourt has the best arm he has seen for a catcher in his 28 years in professional baseball, but he was pleased to see the effort Bethancourt has put into his video study with Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed since he rejoined the G-Braves because the catcher position demands mental preparation and game-planning on the defensive side of the game that is similar to pitchers.

He said he was also was impressed to learn Bethancourt is now running the meetings the pitching staff has at the start of each series to go over the opposing hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.

“That’s where, to me, he is really taking steps to get better,” Breeden said. “You can always get better at it. It’s an on-going process.”

Breeden said he has known Bethancourt since the Panama native signed with Atlanta when he 16 years old and a member of their affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. In the proceeding eight seasons, Breeden has watched him grow both physically and mentally into a player whose athleticism reminds Breeden of former catcher Benito Santiago, who played 20 years in the Major Leagues and Breeden worked with when both were members of the Florida Marlins’ organization in 1993-94.

“His hands work well, he’s a sharp guy, speaks fluent English,” Breeden said of Bethancourt. “He’s a bright, bright kid. Offensively, he’s gotten stronger. Now he’s getting at-bats regularly, and you can see he is swinging the bat well.”

Through his first 32 games with the G-Braves this season, Bethancourt batted .309 with 10 doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs, 13 runs scored and five stolen bases. He leads the team in batting average and doubles since he was optioned.

Christian Bethancourt (Chris Roughgarden)

                                            Bethancourt (Chris Roughgarden)

The work Bethancourt has put in during his time in Gwinnett also continues to mold him into the type of catchers Atlanta wants throughout its organization, Breeden said.

Those ideals include a player who is physically tough enough to withstand the summer heat and hazards that are inherent in the catcher position such as foul tips, he said. However, the organization also wants mentally tough players who can still guide a pitcher through a start even when the catcher is tired or beat up because of the rigors of a long season, he said.

“Being able to get a (pitcher) through when he’s having a hard time, that’s the thing we talk about,” Breeden said. “The good catchers can, when a guy’s having trouble, get him out of trouble. The guys who don’t do a good job, they’ll catch a guy into trouble when he’s going good.”

He said the organization has its catchers call their own games at every level to help them through the learning process of what works and what does not work for a variety of different pitchers.

“Everything is off the pitcher’s strength,” he said. “That’s the main thing. We’re concerned about the hitter’s weakness, but we’re more concerned with our guy’s strength. We’re going to pitch to his strength.”

Although catcher A.J. Pierzynski played well enough to earn the bulk of the playing time for Atlanta while Bethancourt was on the club, Breeden said he thinks the experience Bethancourt was able to gain during that time benefitted his development.

“We say this all the time, ‘We work, we work, we work, but sometime you’ve got to take the test, and the test is playing the game,'” Breeden said. “When you get Major League experience, that’s the highest level and when you get that it’s definitely going to help you, whether you stay up there or whether you come down.”

With the work Bethancourt has done since his first extended test in the Majors earlier this season, Breeden said he is optimistic Bethancourt will be a valuable piece of the organization for years to come.

“He works hard, and I think he’s going to be a big part of our future,” Breeden said.

-JM

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (42-42) vs. Norfolk Tides (47-35)

Pitching probables

Tues: RHP Kanekoa Texeira (0-2, 4.11 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Bowden (6-2, 2.17 ERA), 6:35 p.m.

Wed: LHP Greg Smith (3-3, 2.52 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Wright (4-0, 3.07 ERA), 6:35 p.m.

Thurs: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-5, 3.15 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Wilson (3-4, 3.18 ERA), 12:05 p.m.

Kanekoa Texeira (Karl Moore)

Kanekoa Texeira (Karl Moore)

The Gwinnett Braves finish their final homestand before the All-Star Break with three games against the International South Division-leading Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Gwinnett is back at the .500 mark after it lost four straight games to the Charlotte Knights from Friday through Monday. The final two losses were each by one run, and Charlotte has now taken eight of the 10 games between the clubs so far this season. The G-Braves have fared better against the Tides. They are 6-5 against Norfolk this year despite being outscored 41-31 in those contests. The teams split each of their first three series, and Gwinnett won two of three from June 8-10 at Coolray Field.

Norfolk was shutout by the Durham Bulls in the finale of their three-game series on Monday, but that was the third loss in the Tides’ last 13 games dating back to June 21. That hot streak has propelled them to a 0.5-game lead in the division over Charlotte, 4.0 games ahead of Durham and 6.0 in front of the G-Braves. Norfolk is also the only team in the division without a losing record in any month. The Tides went  a combined 33-23 in May and June, and they have gone 24-21 on the road. Gwinnett is an even 22-22 at home this year.

Pitching: The G-Braves hold the IL’s third-lowest team ERA at 3.17, but that is still shy of Norfolk’s league-leading 2.93 mark. Tides’ pitchers have thrown a combined 10 shutouts, which are tied for the most in the league, and their 244 walks are the third-fewest of any IL team. Gwinnett pitchers have issued the fourth-most walks in the league with 285. but they hold an advantage in strikeouts over the Tides, 605-577, and they have posted one fewer shutout than Norfolk with nine on the season. Neither team allows many home runs, as Norfolk’s 38 are tied for the third-fewest and Gwinnett’s 41 are the fifth-fewest.

None of pitchers who comprise the G-Braves’ current starting rotation have thrown enough innings to qualify for the league leaderboard, although Smith’s 2.52 ERA would be the third-lowest if he had enough innings. Norfolk’s Bowden leads that category with his 2.17 ERA to go with a 6-2 record. He edged out former Gwinnett left-handed starter Manny Banuelos for the top spot with 7.0 scoreless innings on July 1 vs. Charlotte. The Atlanta Braves called up Banuelos to make his Major League debut the following night. Norfolk pitchers hold three of the top six spots on the IL individual ERA leaderboard among qualified starters. Left-hander Chris Jones has a 2.59 ERA through 11 starts (19 appearances) that is good for third-lowest, and righty Zach Davies’ 2.70 ERA is the sixth-lowest. In the Tides’ bullpen, right-handed reliever Oliver Drake is third in the league with 14 saves, and righty Cesar Cabral leads the league with 10 holds.

Hitting: The Tides also hold an advantage offensively with a .260 team batting average that ranks fourth in the IL compared to Gwinnett’s .255 mark that puts them ninth in the league. Norfolk has scored five or more runs in half of their 16-game hot stretch, and the club has done so without a lineup that hits a bunch of home runs or steals many bases. The Tides rank 10th in the league with 41 homers and 13th in stolen bases with 33. Gwinnett has by far the fewest home runs in the league. It’s 26 are seven behind the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ for 13th in the league, but the G-Braves are one stolen base behind the Indianapolis Indians for the league lead in that department.

Jose Peraza leads the Gwinnett offense with 90 hits, which tie him for third in the IL in that category. He also is tied for fourth in the league with 22 steals and leads the team with 29 multi-hit efforts. The 21-year-old second baseman has hit safely in five of his last six games, going 8-for-25 (.320) in that stretch to put his season average at .288. Catcher Christian Bethancourt has been the G-Braves’ hottest hitter since Atlanta optioned him on June 15. He has batted .338 in 16 games with Gwinnett and has at least one hit in 13 of those contests to go with one home run, four doubles, seven RBIs, seven runs scored and five stolen bases without being caught.

Norfolk’s catcher Steve Clevenger has also been on fire of late. He has hit safely in seven of his last nine games and has a .337 average in 48 games with the club, although he does not have enough at-bats to qualify in the batting race. A left-handed hitter, Clevenger has pounded right-handed pitchers in the IL at a .387 rate with all three of his home runs, all seven of his doubles and 21 of his 22 RBIs. Lefties have held him to a .179 batting average. He has played four games for Baltimore this season, going 5-for-11 with a double, an RBI and a run scored from May 28 through June 3.

G-Bites: Atlanta traded right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz on Monday to the Oakland Athletics for International Bonus Slot No. 113. Kurcz had gone 4-3 with a 3.27 ERA and a team-high seven saves in 11 attempts in 31 relief appearances for the G-Braves this season…Gwinnett lost two other members of its bullpen to Major League promotions on Monday when Atlanta called up right-handers Arodys Vizcaino and David Carpenter… Vizcaino made two 1.0-inning appearances for Gwinnett after joining the club on Friday in his return from an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Carpenter began the season with the G-Braves and led the team’s relief corps with a 0.73 ERA in 27 appearances while holding opponents to a .183 batting average…In their place, the Braves acquired left-hander Mitch Lambson from the Houston Astros for cash considerations and activated righty Peter Moylan from the disabled list…Lambson had most recently been with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, going 0-0 with a 2.60 ERA in 13 outings. Moylan is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA in 12 appearances since he joined the team in early June…The G-Braves will finish their schedule before the All-Star break with three road games against Durham from Friday-Sunday.

-JM

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (32-33) vs. Pawtucket Red Sox (32-35)

Pitching probables

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.

Mike Foltynewicz (Karl Moore)

Mike Foltynewicz (Karl Moore)

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.

-JM

Spring Training Report 3.30.15

Possible Gwinnett Braves right-handed starter Mike Foltynewicz made what could have been his final bid for a spot in the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation Monday in a 4-2 Braves win over the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.

Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, the second batter Foltynewicz faced, put Detroit ahead 1-0 with a single that followed leadoff hitter Anthony Gose’s single and steal of second base. Foltynewicz gave up one hit in each of the next two innings but held the Tigers scoreless until left fielder Yoenis Cespedes hit a solo home run over the right-field fence with one out in the fourth.

Foltynewicz struck out the next batter, catcher Alex Avila, to finish his outing with 3 2/3 innings pitched and two runs allowed on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts. He did not factor in the decision.

Offensively, potential G-Braves outfielder Todd Cunningham batted in the leadoff spot and went 3-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. Possible Gwinnett infielder Pedro Ciriaco and catcher Jesus Flores both flew out to center field in their lone at-bats in the ninth inning.

Members of the 2014 G-Braves, catcher Christian Bethancourt and infielder/outfielder Phil Gosselin, helped produce half of the Braves’ runs against Detroit. Bethancourt tied the game 2-2 with a solo home run in the seventh inning. Gosselin drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a single to right field.

Possible G-Braves outfielder Joe Benson tacked on Atlanta’s final run with a sacrifice fly in his only at-bat to score Alberto Callaspo. Benson and Cunningham were also both thrown out trying to steal second base.

The Braves finish March with a 6:05 p.m. game Tuesday against the Houston Astros at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The teams played to 2-2 ties in both of their first two meetings before the Braves topped Houston 14-10 in their most recent match-up March 23.

-JM

Spring Training Report 3.17.15

Former Gwinnett Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt exploded for three hits, including two doubles, with two runs scored and two driven in Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla.

And he did all that in the first five innings.

Bethancourt finished 3-for-4 to help lead the Atlanta Braves’ offense to its most prolific performance of Spring Training. The Braves pounded out 13 hits and defeated Boston 11-3.

Potential 2015 G-Braves Jace Peterson, Kelly Johnson and Joey Terdoslavich also doubled and scored a combined four runs with three RBI. Peterson also stole his first base of the spring with a swipe of second in the fifth inning. He advanced to third as the throw from Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart went into center field and scored on a base hit to left field by Bethancourt.

Possible G-Braves position players’ stats from Tuesday:

Peterson (2B), 1-for-3, 2B, 2 R, BB, 2 K, SB.

Johnson (1B-3B), 1-for-3, 2B, R, RBI, K.

Terdoslavich (LF-1B), 1-for-4, 2B, R, RBI, K.

Todd Cunningham (RF), 1-for-3, R, K.

Pedro Ciriaco (2B-3B), 1-for-1, RBI.

Jose Constanza (LF), 0-for-2, K.

Braeden Schlehuber (C), 0-for-1.

Joe Benson (CF), 0-for-1.

John Buck (DH, pinch hit), 0-for-1.

Phil Gosselin (SS), 0-for-0, BB, fielding error in the eighth inning.

Meanwhile, a trio of pitchers who could appear for the G-Braves this season were part of the relief corps that finished the game after starter Shelby Miller (W, 1-1) held the Red Sox scoreless through four innings.

RHP Brandon Cunniff, 1.0 IP, 3 H, ER.

RHP Juan Jaime (H, 2), 1.0 IP, BB, K.

RHP Sugar Ray Marimon, 1.0 IP, H, ER, BB.

Atlanta will return to their home Spring Training facilities to play the New York Yankees at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

-JM

Spring Training Report 3.12.15

A pair of potential 2015 Gwinnett Braves were the only Atlanta players to cross home plate Thursday, as the New York Yankees nipped the Braves 3-2 in Tampa, Fla.

Catcher Braeden Schlehuber pinch ran for catcher Christian Bethancourt in the fifth inning after Bethancourt drilled a one-out double to right field. Center fielder and possible G-Brave Todd Cunningham followed two batters later with a single to right to drive in Schlehuber and tie the game 1-1. Schlehuber grounded out to shortstop in his only at-bat, and Cunningham went 1-for-3, overall.

Infielder Pedro Ciriaco, a potential G-Brave who spent time Thursday at second base and shortstop, then led off the sixth with a base hit and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Alberto Callaspo. Ciriaco finished the game 1-for-3.

Other possible G-Braves players’ stats from Thursday vs. the Yankees:

Joey Terdoslavich (RF-1B), 1-for-3, K.

Cedric Hunter (LF), 0-for-1.

Jesus Flores (C), 0-for-1.

Jose Yepez (DH, pinch hit), 0-for-1.

Two potential Gwinnett pitchers also each threw a scoreless inning of relief. Right-hander Michael Kohn worked around one hit and a hit-by-pitch in the fifth. Fellow righty Sugar Ray Marimon allowed a two-out double in the eighth but also struck out the side.

Atlanta will play a couple of split-squad contests Friday. A portion of the team will play a home game against the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 p.m. at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The rest of the squad will travel to face the New York Mets at 1:10 p.m. in Port St. Lucie.

-JM

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (37-39) vs. Toledo Mud Hens (37-41)

Pitching Probables

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.

 

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