What a difference a week makes, as the Braves beat up on bad teams and open up a shiny new baseball park and people in Braves Nation just generally seem to feel better. Welcome to a happy week-in-review.
Atlanta Splits With Miami, Then Opens SunTrust Park With Three Wins
After an off-day on Monday, the Braves traveled to Miami for a two-game series. The Braves split it with the Fish, with left fielder Marcell Ozuna going nuts with home runs off Bartolo Colon and Mike Foltynewicz, who was forced to the bullpen to get in some work with the crazy schedule. In game two, the Braves would secure their second win of the season thanks to home runs from Ender Inciarte (a theme of the week) and Freddie Freeman and some lock-down bullpen work.
After yet another off-day, the Braves finally opened up SunTrust Park in front of a sell-out crowd on Friday night, and the home team would send them off happy. Julio Teheran kept the game together for six innings and once again the bullpen turned in pristine work. It helped that the Braves scored early, getting 2 in the 1st inning on a Nick Markakis 2-RBI double. Ender Inciarte would ice the game in the 6th with another home run, a 2-run shot.
Another sell-out crowd on Saturday, another win. This time is was back-to-back solo shots by Brandon Phillips and Adonis Garcia that provided the winning margin for R.A. Dickey and yet another 3 innings of scoreless relief work.
Sunday’s Easter match-up was just a few thousand fans short of a sell-out, but the result was a 9-2 laugher as Bartolo Colon fooled the Padres for 7 innings, giving up just one hit on a solo homer. Phillips, Tyler Flowers, and Inciarte all had multi-hit games, including Inciarte’s 4th home run of the season. Note: Inciarte has now passed his 2016 home run total. His career high in a season is six.
This week the Braves will finish up with Padres on Monday looking for a rare four-game sweep, then will welcome in division rivals the Walgreen Nationals before heading up to Philadelphia for a weekend series against the Phillies.
It has been a great weekend. To review the SunTrust Park firsts:
First Hit: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta (infield single to third, 1st inning, April 14)
First Home Run: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta (2-run shot, 6th inning, April 14)
First Strike Out: Adonis Garcia, Atlanta (by Jhoulys Chacin, Padres, 1st inning, April 14)
First Walk: Travis Jankowski, San Diego (by Julio Teheran, Atlanta, 1st inning, April 14)
First Run Scored: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta (on RBI double by Nick Markakis, April 14)
First Run Batted In: Nick Markakis, Atlanta (2-run double, April 14)
First Single: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta (infield single to third, 1st inning, April 14)
First Double: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta (left-center gap, 1st inning, April 14)
First Triple: TBD
First Stolen Base: Travis Jankowski, San Diego (off P Julio Teheran and C Tyler Flowers, 1st inning, April 14)
First Caught Stealing: Manuel Margot, San Diego (at second base, C Tyler Flowers to SS Dansby Swanson, 2nd inning, April 14)
First Hit-By-Pitch: Erick Aybar, San Diego (by Julio Teheran, 2nd inning, April 14)
First Win: Julio Teheran, Atlanta
First Save: Jim Johnson, Atlanta
First Balk: Miguel Diaz, San Diego (7th inning, April 16)
First Error: Hunter Renfroe, San Diego (Fielding error, 3rd inning, April 15)
First Put-Out: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta (Manuel Margot fly-out to center, 1st inning, April 14)
First Assist: Dansby Swanson, Atlanta (Wil Myers ground-out to shortstop, 1st inning, April 14)
First Double Play: Brandon Phillips to Dansby Swanson to Freddie Freeman (Hunter Renfroe ground-out to second base, 2nd inning, April 14)
Matt Kemp, Chaz Roe Get Disabled
After what was first thought to be a mild hamstring pull, the Braves and Matt Kemp decided to play it cautiously and the outfielder was placed on the 10-day DL, retroactive to April 9. Kemp could return to active status Tuesday against the Nationals. Infielder Johan Camargo was recalled from AAA Gwinnett to take his spot on the roster, but left field has been filled by Jace Peterson and Emilio Bonifacio. Get well soon, Matt.
Chaz Roe apparently had his right lat flare up. His spot was filled by right-hander Jason Hursh for 24 hours before he was sent down in favor of right-hander Luke Jackson. Neither pitcher appeared in a game this week.
Bullpen Rights The Ship
Until lefty Ian Krol allowed an unearned run in the 8th inning of Sunday’s game against the Padres, the Braves bullpen had been unscored upon for 13 consecutive innings, stretching back to Mike Foltynewicz’s two runs allowed against the Marlins on April 11. In fact, the bullpen that many fans were panicking over after Opening Day now has a 3.00 ERA for the season.
If you panicked though, don’t fret. The bullpen’s probably not this good in the long run either, so there will be more opportunities to pull out your hair.
After stumbling out of the gate with three losses before getting into the win column last Sunday, it couldn’t have gotten much better for the G-Braves this week as they went 6-1 on the week. Even more impressive is that Gwinnett spent the whole week on the road, winning 3-of-4 against the Norfolk Tides and then sweeping the Durham Bulls over the weekend.
While the pitching has been good, the offense has really come alive. Second baseman Ozzie Albies now has a 10-game hitting streak, and he stirred the drink by hitting .333/.345/.481 with 4 doubles and 2 stolen bases out of the lead-off spot. Outfielders Lane Adams and Xavier Avery and first baseman Matt Tuiasosopo have also been offensive heroes this week.
On the mound, righty Aaron Blair shook off a shaky Opening Day to spin two solid starts. Sean Newcomb, Matt Wisler, and spot-starter Andrew Albers also all posted quality efforts, but the team had to overcome a shaky Lucas Sims start on the 14th to beat the Bulls. The bullpen has been largely excellent to date, with Jason Hursh, David Hernandez, David Peterson, and the recently acquired Jason Motte unscored upon for the season.
This week’s surge pushed Gwinnett’s record to 7-4, tied for first place in the International League South Division.
With the exception of one nightmare 9th inning on April 13, the Mississippi Braves have to feel great about their first full week of the season as they go 4-2 with some superlative pitching performances under the team’s belt.
Righty Mike Soroka bookended the week with a 5 inning, 0 run outing on Monday and a 6.2 inning, 1 run outing on Saturday, striking out 7 batters in each outing. I know it’s early, but I suspect his stuff will play at the AA level just fine.
Patrick Weigel and Matt Withrow also spun good starts, which brings us to Kolby Allard. Allard had one start this week and again was very strong, going 5 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks and striking out 3. Lefty Jesse Biddle followed up with 2.1 scoreless innings of relief. Biddle got into a little bit of a jam in the 8th, so righty Evan Phillips came in the game to relieve Biddle and did a real nice job of slamming the door shut on the inning, getting a pop up to the catcher and a strikeout. Phillips remains in the game for the bottom of the 9th, with Mississippi enjoying a commanding 7-0 lead.
Remember at the top of this section, I mentioned a nightmare inning? Well, this is how it goes.
Hit by pitch.
Single. Two runs score (2)
Sac fly. Run scores (3).
Pitching change, journeyman right-hander Danny Reynolds relieves Evan Phillips.
Walk. Run scores (4).
Walk. Run scores (5).
Single. Two runs score (7). Tie game.
Single. Run scores (8). Tennessee wins the game.
Death by a thousand shallow cuts is far worse than a single deep sword thrust. Mississippi is now 6-4 on the season, one game back of Pensacola in the Southern League South Division.
The Fire Frogs went 3-4 on the week, with the four losses bunched up into a losing streak. Right-hander Touki Toussaint got the week and his season off on the right foot, pitching 5 scoreless innings in a 4-0 shutout on Monday. On Tuesday, infielder Alay Lago and first baseman Carlos Castro lead the team for a late-inning score pull out a 5-4 victory.
Wednesday was the start of the losing streak, as Tyler Pike, Sean McLaughlin, and Corbin Clouse were roughed up for an 11-5 loss, though Austin Riley did his his second home run of the season. On Thursday, it was lefty Drew Harrington‘s turn to get knocked around, allowing 6 runs and 12 hits in 4.1 innings leading to a 6-2 loss. Friday was the opposite of Thursday, with the bullpen wasting a good start by Ricardo Sanchez, 7-3 the final score. Saturday was the fourth loss of the streak, with Toussaint returning to the mound but allowing 5 runs in 5 innings, the final score 9-5.
The Fire Frogs were able to rise up on Easter however, crushing St. Luice 10-1 in what had to be a very satisfying day. Starter Luiz Gohara went 5 innings and allowed one run, and relievers Taylor Lewis and Devan Watts combined for 4 scoreless innings in relief. The offense pounded out 15 hits and 7 walks, with Ray-Patrick Didder and Alejandro Salazar each getting three hits.
The bright spots of the week was the offense coming from catcher Alex Jackson and first baseman Carlos Castro. Jackson went .273/.333/.545 with 2 home runs, while Castro has hit 346/.393/.385 last week. Outfielder Tyler Neslony has been pressed into service the last several games to spell Ronald Acuna, who has been held out the last couple of days after being hit in the hand with a pitch. Neslony has responded by hitting .455 with a homer in those three starts.
Top relief prospect A.J. Minter made an appearance early in the week for the Frogs and struck out two batters in a scoreless inning, but then went on the disabled list with a groin strain.
The Fire Frogs now have a 5-6 record, three games back of the front-running Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League North Division.
The R-Braves went 4-3 for the week to bring their season record to 8-3, good enough to maintain a one-game lead over Charleston atop the Sally League Southern Division standings.
Rome has been powered by a potent offensive attack built around getting on base by any means necessary and speed galore. Rome has a team .337 OBP, and five regulars with OBP of .349 or higher. Rome’s 23 stolen bases pace the Sally, and they have only been caught 3 times. In short, Rome is practicing the type of baseball that I think Commissioner Rob Manfred dreams of when he talks about Pace of Game.
Monday’s game: a 5-1 loss to Kannapolis that nonetheless featured four stolen bases from four different players, a runner gunned down out the plate by outfielder Cristian Pache, and a four-strikeout performance by lefty reliever Adam McCreery.
Tuesday’s game: A tight 2-1 contest that featured Rome pitchers Ryan Lawlor, Oriel Caicedo, and Thomas Burrows striking out 11 batters, and RBI triple by Pache, and another outfield assist, this time by right fielder Randy Ventura catching a hitter trying to stretch for a double.
Wednesday’s game: a 4-3 win that featured four more stolen bases, again by four different players and 11 more strikeouts by the pitching staff.
Thursday’s game: a defensively sloppy 14-8 home opener (on both sides) that saw Anfernee Seymour and Derian Cruz twice successfully execute double steals, including a Seymour steal of home in the 1st inning.
Friday’s game: belonged to right-handed pitcher Ian Anderson, who took a perfect game into the 5th and a no-hitter into the 6th. This kid is the real deal folks; he has control, command, three above-average pitches, and poise well beyond his 18 years. Oh, also Rome won 9-2.
Saturday’s game: tough loss as Joey Wentz goes 5 innings, allows one run, and strike out five, the offense generates 4 more stolen bases, but the bullpen can’t quite hold a 2-1 lead and the team falls 4-2.
Sunday’game: Rome kicks Charleston out of town with a 8-0 drubbing as Lawlor, Caicedo, and Jon Kennedy team up for a shutout. Rome goes easy on the RiverDogs and only steal one base.
OFR’s Players of the Week
Atlanta Player of the Week: It was a tough competition this week between Nick Markakis’s 10-game hit streak and the good work turned in by Brandon Phillips, Tyler Flowers, and Freddie Freeman, but the player of the week this week is centerfielder Ender Inciarte. After an ice-cold start to the season, the Encinerator ignited to a .400/.429/1.000 slash line with 4 home runs, 7 runs scored, 6 driven in, and a stolen base for good measure. Oh, also his typical brand of center field defense, making three catches that caught the attention of @Statcast including this one.
Ender Inciarte can do it all.
— #Statcast (@statcast) April 16, 2017
Atlanta Pitcher of the Week: The bullpen was dominant in this week so it seems appropriate to honor one of the Braves firemen. Jim Johnson and Jose Ramirez were both strong, but the honor this week goes to right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, who was called upon in three games, got nine outs, allowed only one hit, walked none, and struck out five.
Minor League Player of the Week: Offense exploded all through the Braves minors this week, especially in Gwinnett and Rome. The list of players considered is extremely long, so I will keep it simple by just saying Gwinnett outfielder Xavier Avery and his .500/.524/.850 slash line, 1 home run, 2 doubles, a triple, and 9 runs scored had stiff competition.
Minor League Pitcher of the Week: This week’s honors will go to Mississippi right-hander Mike Soroka whose first two AA starts couldn’t have gone much better: 11.2 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 0 walks, 14 strikeouts.
…And Knowing Is Half The Battle
Right-handed pitcher R.A. Dickey on Saturday became the only player known to have played in all three Atlanta home ballparks.
- Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium as a member of Team U.S.A during the 1994 Olympics.
- Turner Field as a member of the New York Mets.
- SunTrust Park as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Quote of the Week
Right now, everybody just wants to win as many games as we can because it will be fun to see us play in October here.
– Ender Inciarte, after Sunday’s 9-2 win over San Diego at SunTrust Park