Results tagged ‘ durham bulls ’

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (16-18) vs. Louisville Bats (14-20)

Pitching probables

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.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (6-11) vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (9-9)

Pitching probables

Mon: LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.77 ERA) vs. RHP Jaron Long (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

Tues: RHP Williams Perez (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Chase Whitley (2-0, 2.12 ERA)

Wed: RHP Matt Wisler (0-2, 4.60 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Davies (1-1, 6.75 ERA)

Williams Perez (Karl Moore)

Williams Perez (Karl Moore)

The Gwinnett Braves open a seven-game homestand with three 6:35 p.m. contests against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Railriders have finished fifth in the six-team International League North Division in each of the past two seasons, but they have had Gwinnett’s number. The G-Braves are 4-12 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since 2012 and have not won any of the eight games between the two clubs at Coolray Field. This will be the G-Braves’ first foray outside of the IL South Division this season. They were 32-46 against non-divisional opponents in 2014.

Pitching: Gwinnett and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are evenly matched statistically in the pitching department. The G-Braves’ staff enters the series with the league’s sixth-lowest earned-run average at 3.31 (55 ER in 149.1 IP), while the RailRiders sit in seventh with a 3.35 ERA (61 ER in 164.0 IP). The teams are also extremely similar in terms of their pitching staffs’ control. The G-Braves have a 2.39 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (146/61). The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre staff’s rate is 2.55 (153/60).

However, the G-Braves hold the advantage in individual stats. Tuesday’s starter, Perez, boasts the seventh-lowest ERA in the league at 1.69. In the bullpen, left-hander Donnie Veal enters the series tied for the league lead in holds (four) and appearances (nine). Righty Aaron Kurcz is tied for fourth in saves with four.

Batting: The larger differences between the two teams in this series show up in their offensive approaches. The G-Braves use a speed-based game to score runs. The RailRiders’ lineup, meanwhile, produces more power and hardly ever attempts to steal bases.

Gwinnett has a league-low three home runs through 17 games, but it leads the league with 21 stolen bases. Ten of those swipes have come from outfielder Eury Perez, who has been caught twice and was 27-for-31 in steal attempts in 2014 while playing in the Washington Nationals’ and New York Yankees’ organizations. Outfielder Todd Cunningham hit a team-best .429 (12-for-28) with two doubles and a triple during the nine-game road trip and returns to Coolray Field on a seven-game hitting streak.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has eight home runs, which is tied for the seventh-most in the league, but has stolen four bases in eight attempts. RailRiders outfielder Ben Gamel leads the league with a .404 batting average (19-for-47), ranks second with a .472 on-base percentage and sits behind teammate Ramon Flores (.611) for fourth in slugging percentage with a .596 mark. Flores is also tied for second in the league with four home runs.

G-Bites: Gwinnett returns home with a new-look bullpen compared to when it left town April 16. RHP Kanekoa Texeira went on the disabled list along with infielder Sean Kazmar on April 17. That opened a spot for RHP Mitchell Boggs, who the Atlanta Braves signed to a minor-league contract April 20. The Braves also re-signed LHP Greg Smith the next day to join the G-Braves’ corps of relievers. The G-Braves activated catcher Jose Yepez off of the disabled list to fill Kazmar’s roster spot.

RHPs John Cornely and Michael Kohn got the call to Atlanta on Friday, April 24, while RHPs Sugar Ray Marimon and Juan Jaime returned to Gwinnett. Marimon made one appearance for the G-Braves before Atlanta called him up on April 13. Jaime saved 18 games for Gwinnett in 2014 and began the 2015 season with the Braves.

The G-Braves will finish their homestand with a four-game series Thursday-Sunday against the Toledo Mud Hens at Coolray Field.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (3-3) vs. Charlotte Knights (3-3)

Pitching probables

Wed: LHP Manny Banuelos (0-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Beck (0-0, 5.79 ERA)

Thurs: RHP Williams Perez (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. LHP Carlos Rodon (1-0, 1.80 ERA)

Manny Banuelos (Chris Roughgarden)

Manny Banuelos (Chris Roughgarden)

The Gwinnett Braves finish their season-opening, eight-game homestand with two games against the International League South Division rival Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Charlotte and Gwinnett have both alternated victories through their first six games and are part of a division-wide tie for first place at 3-3 with the Durham Bulls and Norfolk Tides. The two-game set features 6:35 p.m. contests Wednesday and Thursday at Coolray Field. Both teams will then travel Friday to Charlotte to begin a three-game series at BB&T Ballpark.

Pitching: With two pitchers who were ranked in the top 30 in the Atlanta Braves’ system in the 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Gwinnett will look to continue its early success on the mound. None of the G-Braves’ five starting pitchers has allowed more than two runs in a start through the season’s first six games. The rotation has posted a 2.03 ERA with a combined 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 26.2 innings but has yet to garner a win, as RHP Chien-Ming Wang is the only starter to last past 5.0 innings. The Gwinnett bullpen, meanwhile, has an equally impressive 2.23 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 14 walks in 32.1 innings. Overall, the G-Braves’ pitching staff is ranked third in the International League with a 2.14 ERA and 58 strikeouts.

Charlotte comes to Gwinnett in the cellar of the International League pitching rankings. The Knights have allowed seven or more runs in each of their three losses and carry an IL-worst 5.17 ERA and seven home runs allowed, three more than any other team. Wednesday’s starter Chris Beck received a no-decision in his first start of the year Friday vs. Norfolk (4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO). Thursday starter Carlos Rodon provided the Knights’ most impressive start of the early season the following day with nine strikeouts (2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2BB) in 5.0 innings during a 4-2 win over the Tides.

BattingWhile Gwinnett holds a significant statistical advantage in the pitching department, the opposite is true offensively. The G-Braves’ .224 batting average ranks 11th in the 14-team IL and they are one of two teams (Buffalo)  that have yet to hit a home run. Infielder Pedro Ciriaco leads the team with seven hits and four RBIs with a double. Two of the G-Braves’ wins have also come on Ciriaco’s game-winning hits. He singled home the winning run Friday in the 11th inning to beat Durham 5-4 and bounced a grounder off of first base in the 10th inning Monday to score two runs and give Gwinnett a 5-4 victory over Norfolk.

Charlotte leads the league with a .296 team batting average and a .427 slugging percentage that includes five triples. Outfielder Trayce Thompson is second in the league with a .429 batting average and has three runs scored to go with three RBIs. Infielder Tyler Saladino also leads the league with five stolen bases, while outfielder Engel Beltre is tied for the league lead in runs scored with six.

G-Bites: The Atlanta Braves called up right-hander Sugar Ray Marimon from Gwinnett on Monday, and he made his Major League debut the following day. He entered Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins with one out in the third inning and the bases loaded. He struck out the first batter he faced, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and got Adeiny Hechavarria to ground out to escape the jam. Marimon pitched a total of 4.0 innings (4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) after opening the season on the G-Braves roster. He made one appearance with Gwinnett, throwing 3.0 hitless innings with two strikeouts against Durham on Opening Night, Thursday, April 9 … Left-handed reliever Ian Thomas joined Gwinnett from Double-A Mississippi to replace Marimon on the triple-A roster. Thomas pitched 2.1 innings with nothing more than one hit allowed Tuesday vs. Norfolk.

Spring Training Report 4.2.15

The Atlanta Braves extended outfielder Joe Benson a non-roster invitation to Major League Spring Training camp on Thursday, and he wasted little time to take advantage of the opportunity.

Benson, 27, had spent the entire spring in minor league camp yet played in nine big league games as a reserve. He received the non-roster invite after hitting a solo home run Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, and then had the game-winning hit Thursday to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

But his ninth-inning single to left field to drive in center fielder Eric Young, Jr. was far from the only act from his standout performance. Benson played left field and had three other singles and finished the day 4-for-5 with a run scored, an RBI and a strikeout. His spring batting average now stands at .412 (7-for-17) with a home run, three runs scored and three RBI as he bids for a spot on the Braves’ Opening Day roster.

Other possible Gwinnett Braves position players’ stats from Thursday vs. Baltimore:

Todd Cunningham (RF), 1-for-1, RBI.

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

The Orioles scored four of their five runs off of potential G-Braves right-handed starter Chien-Ming Wang (BS, 1), who entered the game as a reliever in the sixth inning.

Baltimore pushed across one run in the sixth and added three in the seventh, including a two-run, pinch-hit home run by right fielder Travis Snider. Wang lasted 1 1/3 innings with four runs allowed (three earned) on five hits with a walk and a strikeout.

Also, G-Braves’ right-handed reliever Arodys Vizcaino has been suspended for 80 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. The Braves had optioned him Monday to Gwinnett.

The Braves and Orioles will meet for the second of three games to finish their Grapefruit League schedules at 6:05 p.m. Friday in Sarasota, Fla. They will then return to Champion Stadium for a 3:05 p.m. contest Saturday.

Atlanta opens its regular season schedule at 4:10 p.m. Monday against the Miami Marlins in Miami. Gwinnett’s Opening Night game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against the Durham Bulls at Coolray Field.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (48-61) at Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (53-56)

Probables

Tues: Kanekoa Texeira (1-3, 6.00) vs. LHP Nik Turley (1-2, 6.23)

Wed: Gus Schlosser (6-5, 3.58) vs. LHP Matt Tracy (1-3, 3.76)

Thu: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (6-11, 4.67) vs. Bruce Billings (4-5, 4.94)

Cody Martin

Cody Martin

Fri: Cody Martin (6-6, 3.45) vs. Bryan Mitchell (2-1, 2.70)

Gwinnett and SWB meet up for the second time in the last five days. In their latest matchup, the RailRiders swept a four game series from the G-Braves at Coolray Field. The G-Braves enter play with the worst record in the IL and are 10.5 games behind the Durham Bulls in the IL South, while the RailRiders are in fifth in the IL North and are 9.0 games behind the Syracuse Chiefs.

Pitching: The matchup feature boasts the No. 9 and No. 10 ranked pitching staffs in the IL. Gwinnett enters at No. 9 with a combined 4.22 ERA, while SWB ranks tenth with a 4.34 ERA.

Rodriguez has been on fire of late for the G-Braves. In his last two starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA (0 ER in 12.0 IP). Rodriguez has not allowed a run in over 12.0 innings.

Schlosser has been solid as well. In five appearances (three starts) during the month of July, the righty is 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He hasn’t allowed a run since July 13, spanning over 10.2 innings. He did not face the RailRiders last time around, as he was recalled by the Atlanta Braves.

SWB will counter with two lefties and two righties. Turley struggled against the G-Braves, while Tracy missed them at Coolray Field.

However, Billings and Mitchell were lights out for the RailRiders. Billings went 7.0 innings, scattering six hits and allowing one run in the no decision.

Mitchell was better, going 5.0 scoreless innings to record his first win of the season. The Reidsville, NC native was even sharper in his last start against the Pawtucket Red Sox on July 27, tossing 7.0 innings of scoreless baseball with a season-high six strikeouts. Mitchell hasn’t allowed a run since July 17.

Batting: Gwinnett lost their most consistent hitter on Saturday night as Phil Gosselin was recalled by the Atlanta Braves. The Braves will rely Todd Cunningham and Jose Constanza to lead the offense. Cunningham enters play with a .277 (99-for-357) batting average with 19 doubles, two triples, five homers and 44 RBI. He leads the squad in hits, doubles, triples, RBI and is four in homers and third in runs scored (41).

Constanza has missed parts of the season, but still leads the team in hitting with a .288 (93-for-323) batting average. He has 21 stolen bases and 27 RBI from the leadoff spot.

SWB is led by Jose Pirela since Zoilo Almonte has been called up by the New York Yankees. The slick-fielding infielder is batting .310 (126-for-407) with 15 doubles, five triples, eight homers and 42 RBI. He was selected to the IL All-Star game.

In the four game series against the G-Braves last week, the RailRiders outhit the home squad 44-to-28 and outscored the G-Braves 24-to-6.

G-Bites: Atlanta Braves’ right-hander Shea Simmons was placed on the DL on Tuesday afternoon. Right-hander Juan Jaime will take his place on the activate Atlanta roster.

-Jd-

 

 

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (20-17) at Buffalo Bisons (21-14)

Pitching Probables

Tues: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (3-3, 3.08) vs. LHP Sean Nolin (2-1, 2.34)

Wed: Gus Schlosser (0-1, 9.82) vs. LHP Ricky Romero (0-1, 6.00)

Thu: Yunesky Maya (0-0, 2.55) vs. Kyle Drabek (3-2, 4.04)

Maya (Chris Roughgarden)

Maya (Chris Roughgarden)

Fri: Zach Stewart (2-2, 4.65) vs. Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.51)

The Gwinnett Braves and Buffalo Bisons will matchup for the final time this season at Coca-Cola Field from May 13 through May 16. Last weekend, the G-Braves took three of four from the Bisons at Coolray Field. Buffalo enters the contest seven games above .500 and in first place of the IL North, while Gwinnett is one game back of the Durham Bulls in the IL South. G-Braves have lost two straight games, while the Bisons have a three-game win streak.

Pitching: Buffalo enters the series with a league-best 3.09 ERA, allowing a league-low 123 runs (107 ER) in 35 games. Gwinnett is at the bottom of the ERA standings, holding a 4.30 ERA (12th in IL) in 37 games.

Buffalo will lean on Nolin and Hendriks to anchor the staff during the series. Nolin will make his second start of the season against Gwinnett. On 5/8, Nolin recorded the loss against the G-Braves, allowing four runs on 12 hits in 5.2 innings. Nolin was tough for the first five frames, as he tossed five scoreless before being chased in the sixth. On the season, Nolin is 2-1 with a 2.34 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.

Hendriks fared a lot better against the G-Braves in his start last week, as he went 7.0 innings, allowing seven hits and one unearned run on 5/6. He did not factor in the decision as Gwinnett scored two in the eighth to clip the Bisons on Tuesday night. Hendriks enters the series leading the league in wins and is second in ERA (1.51). He will pitch the finale on Friday night.

Schlosser will pitch in game two for the G-Braves. Since he was optioned to Gwinnett, the right-hander has been roughed up for eight runs in 7.1 innings. He has allowed four home runs, while striking out seven. Right-handed batters are hitting .333 (6-for-18) with five extra-base hits (two doubles & three homers) against him. In his last start, he tossed a season-high 4.0 innings, allowing four runs on four hits and struck out a season-high five.

Maya will enter Thursday’s contest with the best ERA on the G-Braves. He will make his fourth start of the season since taking over for Mitch Atkins on 4/17. In three starts, he is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA. He has scattered 13 hits, allowing three earned runs and recording three strikeouts.

Batting: G-Braves enter the series with the best-hitting team in the IL, hitting .275 (354-for-1286) as a team. Despite connecting for 24 homers (10th in the IL), the G-Braves have scored 180 runs (2nd in the IL).

Phil Gosselin continues to pace the squad with a .333 (43-for-129) average. He is second on the team with ten doubles and leads the squad with two triples. He is working on a five-game hitting streak, batting .400 (8-for-20) with four runs scores, three doubles and two RBIs during that span.

Despite snapping his eight-game hitting streak in a pinch-hit appearance Monday afternoon, Todd Cunningham enters the series red hot. In 12 May games, he is batting .373 (19-for-51) with nine runs scored, four doubles, one homer and six RBIs. He is perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base chances.

Buffalo’s lineup has a little bit of everything to offer. Dan Johnson provides the power in the middle of the order (.306 BA, 7 HR, 28 RBI), while Kevin Pillar adds speed and versatility at the top of the order. In 34 games, Pillar is hitting .305 with 13 doubles, three triples, one homer, 19 RBIs and five stolen bases. Pillar leads the team in doubles, triples and is second in RBIs and stolen bases. In four games at Coolray Field last week, Pillar went 6-for-14 with one double, one triple and three RBIs.

South Invasion: Buffalo enters tonight’s contest with an 8-4 record against the South Division in 2014. Three of those losses came to the Braves last week at Coolray Field.

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and want most.” -Abraham Lincoln

-JD-

 

 

Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (11-14) at Gwinnett Braves (15-10)

Martin (Taylor Botta)

Martin (Taylor Botta)

Probables Pitchers

Thu: Zach Stewart (1-1, 4.98) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (0-2, 3.97)

Fri: Cody Martin (2-1, 2.66) vs. Jonathan Pettibone (1-0, 4.09)

Sat: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (3-2, 2.67) vs. David Buchanan (3-0, 3.45)

Sun: Mitch Atkins (1-3, 5.01) vs. LHP Greg Smith (2-0, 1.82)

The Gwinnett Braves return home after a solid 4-4 road trip, while the Lehigh Valley IronPigs begin their eight-game swing with a four-game set at Coolray Field. Gwinnett enters the game with a one game lead in the Wild Card lead and two games behind the Durham Bulls in the South division. Lehigh Valley is tied for fifth in the North division and is four games behind the front-running Pawtucket Red Sox.

Pitching: Lehigh Valley comes into the contest with a team ERA of 3.80 through 25 games. The duo of Buchanan and Smith has led the IronPigs rotation. Buchanan leads the league with six starts and his tied for second in wins. He has fanned 19 batters in 28.2 innings. He will get the ball in game three.

Smith has been even better. The southpaw is a perfect 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA. He has recorded three quality starts in four attempts. On April 17, he tossed a complete game shutout against the Syracuse Chiefs. He is one three pitchers in the IL to toss a complete game shutout. He has 18 punch outs in 24.2 innings.

Gwinnett will counter with Stewart, Martin, Rodriguez and Atkins.

Martin has been sensational in his last three starts. The righty has gone 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA over his last three. On April 26, he fanned a season-high ten batters at Toledo. In 23.2 innings, he has recorded 33 punch outs. He will get the ball in game two.

Rodriguez will pitch game three. Through five starts, Rodriguez has recorded three wins, tying his mark from 2013. He has been solid, striking out 28 batters in 27.0 innings. He is coming off of his strongest outing of the season on April 27, as he tossed 7.0 scoreless innings at Toledo.

Batting: The Braves have had to live life without Ernesto Mejia since being released on Saturday to pursue other opportunities. In his absence, Joey Terdoslavich has carried the load. The switch-hitting outfielder has been on a tear of late, recording a hit in his last ten games. On Monday morning, the IL named him the Batter of the Week after posting a .500 average with one homer and three RBIs from 4/21-4/27. On the season, he is batting .330 (30-for-91) with two homers and 10 RBIs.

Tommy La Stella continues to impress in his first season of Triple-A ball. The infielder is hitting .310 (27-for-87) with two doubles and 15 RBIs. He leads the team in RBIs. In 99 plate appearances, the lefty has fanned six times.

Lehigh Valley is off to a slow start at the plate, posting a team batting average of .235 through 25 games. Highly-touted prospect Maikel Franco is having a nightmarish start to the season. The third baseman is hitting .172 (15-for-87) with one homer and seven RBIs. The No.1 prospect in the Phillies organization according to Baseball America has fanned 18 times and has committed two errors on the field.

Bacon Bites: Former G-Braves manager Dave Brundage returns to Coolray Field for the second time in his career as an opposing manager. Last season he took three of four from Gwinnett.

Gwinnett Braves (4-3) vs. Durham Bulls (5-3)

Series probables
Fri: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (1-0, 1.80) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (1-0, 0.00)
Sat: Mitch Atkins (0-1, 6.75) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 2.25)
Sun: Gavin Floyd (0-0, 5.06) vs. Nathan Karns (0-1, 13.50)

The Gwinnett Braves will welcome the Durham Bulls for a three game set starting on Friday, April 11 at Coolray Field.

Last weekend, the squads met for a four game set at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. They ended up splitting the series, as Durham took game one and four, while the Braves took care of business in game two and three.

Pitching: The home opener will feature two southpaws that shut down the respective opposition last weekend. Rodriguez tossed 5.0 IP, allowing two hits, one run and struck out nine as he recorded the victory on Saturday night; while, Montgomery dominated Sunday’s matinee, tossing 5.0 innings of scoreless baseball in the Bulls 8-1 victory. He allowed three hits, three walks and struck out seven.

Game three will feature Gavin Floyd, as he makes his third rehab start with the Gwinnett Braves. After a shaky first start, Floyd was solid on Tuesday night. He tossed 4.0 innings, scattering three hits, allowing one run and striking out two. He threw 60 pitches, 37 for strikes in the no decision victory by the Braves.

Former Nationals prospect Nathan Karns will get the ball in game three. The right-hander has got off to a slow start, allowing 11 runs in 7.1 innings (13.50 ERA). He has walked ten batters and struck out ten, so he has electric stuff but is hampered with control issues. He will look to get back on track on Sunday afternoon.
The Braves will have to get to the Bulls pitching staff early, as the back end of the bullpen has been tough on opponents. Right-hander Kirby Yates is a perfect 3-for-3 in save opportunities and has allowed one hit, no runs with four strikeouts in 4.0 innings.

Batting: Ernesto Mejia has headlined the G-Braves offense with five homers and 10 RBIs in seven games, but Phil Gosselin and Tommy La Stella are off to solid starts. Gosselin leads the team with a .500 (10-for-20) batting average with a team-high three doubles. In three games against Durham last weekend, Gosselin went 4-for-11 with three runs scored, one double and one RBI. La Stella has been just as good, batting .308 (4-for-13) with one double and three triples. La Stella has also drawn four walks in five games.

Durham is off to great start offensively, scoring 40 runs in eight games. They have relied on the long ball, slugging eight round trippers this season. Wilson Betemit, Justin Christian, Kevin Kiermaier and Jerry Sands have each clubbed two. Sands is off to the best start of the four of them, batting .333 (10-for-30) with six doubles and six RBIs.

Staying Figgy with it: Cole Figueroa is off to another great start for the Durham Bulls… The infielder is batting .463 (6-for-13) with two doubles. In his career, he has batted .356 (42-for-118) with 16 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBIs against the G-Braves. Last season, Figueroa batted .355 (27-for-76) with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs, while only striking out twice in 18 games against Gwinnett.

 

-JD-

Inside the Numbers: Cole Figueroa

The Gwinnett Braves (0-1) started off the season with another tough loss to the Durham Bulls (1-0) on Thursday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Facing a 6-2 deficit in the top of the third inning, the Bulls battled back, scoring one run in the fourth inning, three in the fifth and one in the seventh to claim the victory 7-6.

Bulls’ shortstop Cole Figueroa scored the game-winner, as he continued to haunt the G-Braves by going 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the contest.

In 30 games against the Braves, Figueroa has tallied a .354 (40-for-113) batting average with 15 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBIs. Last season, Figueroa batted .355 (27-76) with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs, while only striking out twice.

So, what makes Figueroa so good against the Braves?

In 113 official at bats, the infielder has fanned five times. His .044 strikeout per at bat average is well below his career strikeout per at bat average of .103 (225 K / 2180 AB). In addition to his low strikeout rate against the G-Braves, Figueroa has a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .358 against Gwinnett.

Some sabermetricians would suggest that Figueroa is getting lucky, as his BABIP is greater than his BA.

But, line drive hitters tend to have high BABIP’s. Figueroa is a great example, as he holds a BABIP of .312 in his career, opposed to a lifetime batting average of .291 (635-for-2180).

So, luck has nothing to do with it and the G-Braves will have to deal with Figueroa another three days at the DBAP.

Gwinnett will face Figueroa and the Bulls in game two of this four game series at 7:05 PM tonight.

Background Check: Stephen Cole Figueroa is a Tallahassee, FL native, but played his collegiate baseball at the University of Florida. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft by the San Diego Padres. In 2010, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with RHP’s Brandon Gomes and Adam Russell and LHP Cesar Ramos in exchange for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Figueroa is entering his fourth season with the Rays organization and his seventh in professional baseball.

G-Braves News & Notes: Ryan Buchter was optioned from Atlanta prior to last night’s contest. The southpaw tossed a scoreless eighth inning. Buchter made the Opening Day roster, but did not appear in a game in his first call-up to the big leagues.

 

-JD-

IL Preview: Durham Bulls

The Durham Bulls will begin their title defense with another star-studded team. Last season, the Bulls posted an International League best 87-57 mark and rolled through the IL playoffs to claim their fourth Governor’s Cup.

However, they would fall to the Omaha Storm Chasers 2-1 in the Triple-A Championship.

Charlie Montoyo returns to the helm to lead the Bulls for the eighth straight season. He will go on without outfielder Wil Myers and pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer, but he will have another loaded roster.

Pitching: Last year, it all started and ended with pitching. The Bulls posted a team ERA of 3.33 and had a 16-game winner in J.D. Martin. The IL All-Star has moved on and will be playing his baseball overseas, and with the 50-game suspension of Alex Colome, the IL champs will have four spots to fill in 2014.

Nathan Karns will take over one of the spots. The former Washington Nationals’ farmhand will be a big part of the rotation. Last year, Karns went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 23 starts for Harrisburg. He made his major league debut in September, making three starts for the Nationals. The right-hander is a fire-baller, featuring a mid 90-s fastball, hard sinker-splitter and wipeout curveball. He has some control issues, which will keep him from starting on the Rays to begin the season.

In addition to Karns, the Bulls will have Enny Romero. Romero was spectacular in the Southern League, going 11-7 with a 2.76 ERA in 27 starts for the Montgomery Biscuits. He made one start for Triple-A Durham (8IP, 0R, 2K) and one for Tampa (5IP, 0R) to end the season. He enters the season the No.6 ranked prospect in the Rays organization according to Baseball America.

If you add Merrill Kelly (8 wins), Mike Montgomery (7 wins) and MLB veteran Erik Bedard, the Rays rotation will be loaded once again.

Infield: The group around the horn will be led by Triple-A All Star Vince Belnome. The infielder hit .300 with eight homers and 67 RBIs last season. He recorded a team-high 133 hits.

Hak-Ju Lee will be another player to keep an eye on, as he will start the season recovering from a torn ACL, but will return to the Bulls lineup in 2014. Prior to tearing all three ligaments in his left knee, Lee was hitting .462 (19-for-45) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and seven RBIs for the Durham Bulls. He enters the season as the No.2 ranked prospect in the Tampa Rays organization according to Baseball America.

Outfield: Originally a 31st round pick in the 2010 draft, Kevin Kiermaier has exceeded all expectations in the Tampa organization. Regarded as one of the best outfielders in minor league baseball, Kiermaier has great instincts to the baseball and plus arm that allows him to play all three outfield positions. In 39 games with the Bulls, he hit .263 (36-for-137) with seven doubles, six triples, one homer and 13 RBIs. He enters the season as the No. 10 ranked prospect in the Tampa Rays organization according to Baseball America.

Schedule:
At Durham: April 3-5, July 2-3, August 22-25
At Gwinnett: April 11-13, July 17-20, August 26-27

Projected Depth Chart:

(Depth chart is not official, based on projections.)

(Depth chart is not official, based on projections.)

-JD-

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