Results tagged ‘ IL South ’

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

G-Braves Can’t Slow Down Indianapolis Offense

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA. – The Gwinnett Braves led 2-1 after the first inning, but ultimately fell 5-4 to the Indianapolis Indians in the first game of a four-game series on Monday evening at Coolray Field. Jose Lugo made the spot start for Gwinnett and allowed five runs, four earned, over 6.1 innings in the loss. As a result of their 15th loss in the last 20 games and Charlotte’s 5-2 victory over Columbus, the G-Braves find themselves a season-worst 5.0 games behind the Knights (42-30) for first place in the International League South Division.

Ernesto Mejia went 2-for-4 with a solo home run, but it would not be enough for the G-Braves. He crushed his 13th home run of the season, a solo shot to left in the third inning off VandenHurk, to cut the deficit to 4-3. The Gwinnett slugger went 2-for-4 with six total bases, a double, a home run, two runs scored and his team-leading 49th RBI.

The IL West leading Indians jumped out to an early lead almost immediately. The second hitter of the game, Gorkys Hernandez, scalded a triple into the gap and then scored when the following hitter Starling Marte drove him home on a sacrifice fly.

Gwinnett wasted little time responding with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the first. Luis Durango singled for his first of two hits on the night, and two batters later, Mejia doubled to put two runners in scoring position. Felix Pie came through with a clutch two-run double that gave Gwinnett their only lead of the night at 2-1.

Photo courtesy of Karl Moore

Lugo (L, 1-2) worked right into a jam in the top of the second. Georgia native Brandon Boggs led off with a double, then scored on an Anderson Hernandez single to tie the game. Pitcher Rick VandenHurk followed with a run-scoring single to put the Indians ahead, and four batters later, Marte drove in his second of three RBIs on the night when he singled home VandenHurk to raise the lead to….

To read the rest of Monday’s recap, simply click the link: Indianapolis Sneaks Past G-Braves, 5-4

Or visit the home of the Gwinnett Braves at: gwinnettbraves.com for everything G-Braves and more…

By: Tony Piraro

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