The Braves play the final game of the series at Grayson Stadium in Savannah tonight at 7:05 pm ET. Deunte Heath (1-2, 2.20) will start for Rome and be followed by Kyle Cofield (2-5, 5.14).
These two have been in the piggyback situation all season, with each pitcher starting five games and relieving in five games. Surprisingly, both pitchers have done better coming out of the bullpen. Heath has a 0.45 ERA as a reliever and a 3.60 ERA as a starter, while Cofield has a 3.18 ERA as a reliever, but a 6.48 ERA as a starter.
Rome (19-35 overall, 18 games back of Augusta in the Sally League's Southern Division) played much better in May (13-17) than in April (6-18). And the offense is finally showing some signs of life after a disastrous start to the season.
The offense showed signs of improving off its April numbers. The Braves are next to last in the league with a .243 team batting average and have scored only 220 runs in the 54 games (4.1 per game).
Outfielder Concepcion Rodriguez hit .247 in May with 5 homers and 15 RBI. He hit only .187 in April and did not have a home run. The Braves think Rodriguez can really have a good season in Rome this year.
Larry Williams hit .242 in April, but he's bounced back with a .294 average in May. And third baseman Danny Brezeale is getting going a bit. Brezeale hit only .200 in April with no home runs and 13 runs batted in, but he hit .269 in May with four home runs and 17 runs batted in. Jon Mark Owings has done well since coming off the disabled list, hitting .316 (12-38) with 5 runs batted in.
The pitching was much better in May than in April. The Braves' team ERA is 3.84, fifth best (out of 16 teams) in the South Atlantic League. The staff has allowed the fewest number of home runs (15) in the league and has the most strikeouts (459).
Jeff Lyman, who returned this year for his second season in Rome, is really turning the corner. He was 1-2 in his six starts in May, but Lyman had a 2.70 ERA. This follows a 5.91 ERA in his first five starts in April.
Jamie Richmond struggled a bit in the first month of the season, posting a 4.64 ERA in his first five games. But in May he was outstanding, with a 2.28 ERA in five starts.
Right-hander Tim Gustafson has struggled a bit recently. He had a 5.52 ERA in six starts in May, after having a 3.33 ERA in April.
And Kris Medlen has now established himself as Rome's closer. Medlen had a shaky first outing for the Braves, but in his last seven games he's given up only one run in eight innings, with one walk, and 13 strikeouts.
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.