The first-place Braves finish the series in Chattanooga Friday night at 7:15. Lefty Kelvin Villa (3-3, 4.62) will go for Mississippi against fellow southpaw Luke Lockwood (1-5, 4.33). The Braves have won two in a row and are now 34-20 on the season, five games up on Jacksonville in the Southern League's South Division. After going 17-7 in April, the Braves were 17-13 in the month of May.
Several of the Braves' pitchers were solid in the second month of the season. Despite a 5.08 ERA in six games started, lefty Jo Jo Reyes was 5-0 in May. Francisley Bueno was 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five games (four starts). And Charlie Morton, who pitched very well Thursday night (one run on one hit in five innings, one walk, five strikeouts) in his first start of the season, had a 2.95 ERA in ten games (nine in relief). Morton had a 4.97 ERA in six games in April.
Matt Harrison will be back in the Braves' rotation Sunday against West Tennessee. He struggled a bit in May posting a 4.60 ERA in five games, which is much higher than the 2.45 ERA in April. Harrison has not pitched since May 24th, eight days ago.
Joey Devine has pitched in three games since returning from Atlanta last weekend. He's allowed one earned run in three innings, with four walks, and seven strikeouts. Devine has recorded saves in all three games. He still leads the Southern League with 13 saves. Devine has allowed only 16 hits in 25.1 innings of work, with 12 walks, and 34 strikeouts.
Matt Esquivel remains tied with Evan Longoria of Montgomery for the league lead in home runs with 12. Mississippi's outfielder also leads the Southern League with 44 RBI. Esquivel had 26 RBI in his 30 games during the month of May.
Carl Loadenthal really busted out in May, hitting .345 (38-110) with 15 stolen bases. He now leads the Southern League with 18 on the season. Loadenthal's teammate, shortstop Brent Lillibridge, is tied for third in the league with 14 swipes. The Braves' team has 83 stolen bases on the season, which are 30 more than the next closest team.
Mark Jurich really broke out in May as well, hitting .288 with two home runs and 17 RBI. He's split time so far with Greg Creek, who is hitting .264 with 13 RBI in 159 at bats.
Mike Rozema has done very well since coming up from Myrtle Beach. The infielder has played second, short, and third and has hit .302 with two home runs and five runs batted in for his first 53 at bats. Rozema hit .294 in the Carolina League.
Brandon Jones hit .301 in April, but slowed to .256 in May. He did have four home runs and 17 RBI. And Van Pope's struggles continue. He hit .176 in April in 85 at bats, and then only .122 in 82 at bats in the month of May.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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