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Thursday, 08 September 2016 14:54

The Braves Made The Playoffs...Not Those Braves!!

Written by  Kurt Johnson/Guest Contributor
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As the Atlanta Braves continue to improve their team for the 2017 regular season in their new home, Sun Trust Park, the team that’s 35 minutes northeast of Turner Field is making a HUGE statement that will help build the excitement of a Braves fan base that hasn’t seen their team go to the World Series since 1995.


The Gwinnett Braves won the Southern Division of the AAA International League to advance to the Governor’s Cup Playoffs where they will face the Columbus Clippers, winner of the Western Division of the IL.


The Clippers won all three of the games between the clubs this season when the teams squared off at Coolray Field more than four months ago (April 29th- May 1st). Columbus outscored Gwinnett by a 17-8 count in the series.

In the prior series, the starting pitching for the G-Braves was solid but the bullpen struggled on the way to surrendering 10 of the 17 runs that the Clippers plated in the series.

The Gwinnett Braves are coming into this playoff series (2nd playoff appearance since their 2009 inaugural season in Gwinnett) with a below .500 record of 65-78 (4-6 record in the last 10 games). With major shake ups in the Atlanta farm system this season (including former skipper Brain Snitker moving down 85 South to become the interim manager of the major league club), Gwinnett has several players that will need to continue to play well if this team wants a chance to win the Governor’s Cup.

Three key players that must play well if Gwinnett is to move on in the Governor’s Playoffs are:

(SP) Tyrell Jenkins

Tyrell has been the most consistent pitcher this season for the G-Braves. Since returning to the club after a brief stay with Atlanta, he has been solid on the way to a 9-3 season mark with a 2.47 ERA. I would strongly suggest him as the Game 3 or 4 starter, depending on the game count situation.

(3B) Rio Ruiz

WHY IS THIS GUY NOT IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES ALREADY? While the general consensus is that Adonis Garcia is the 3rd baseman of the future, he can also play left-field, which would open the door for Ruiz to become Atlanta’s opening day starter at the hot corner in 2017. The left handed batter has been the “superstar” of the Gwinnett Braves this season. With his 126 hits, 10 HRs, 62 hits, and batting average of .271, he will need to be the leader of the team as they continue their 2016 season. With his talent, these may be the final games Ruiz will play as a regular at the AAA level.

(LF) Ronnier Mustelier

   I know his name is hard to pronounce, but this powerful right handed hitter is a force to deal with in the middle of the lineup for Gwinnett. As the only representative for the Braves in the 2016 AAA All-Star Game, he has had a steady season for the Gwinnett Braves. With his 50 RBI’s and a batting average of .291, there is little doubt that he will be invited to spring training with Atlanta next season, but it may be another season before he makes Atlanta’s opening day roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Braves were to include Mustelier in a trade this offseason.

The Gwinnett Braves sub-500 season record this season has not helped declining attendance numbers, but a competitive effort against Columbus would do much to add to the fans excitement ahead of the 2017 season for both Gwinnett and Atlanta.

Due to the lack of solid starting pitcher outside of Jenkins, the defense is going to have to be stellar to help out some of the inconstant pitchers on the staff. Most believe the Columbus Clippers are the better team on paper, but the G-Braves play with heart and passion which results in the team NEVER giving up. It is because of their never say die attitude that I am believe Gwinnett will win the series in four games.

*Kurt Johnson is a former radio programming intern at Atlanta Sports Radio 92-9 The Game and is currently the host of a sports radio show entitled “The KJ Experience.” He has also been a reporter for the Atlanta Stem of the Legends Football League for the last two seasons. In his spare time, he loves bowling, cooking, and spending time with his amazing fiancé, Melissa!

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