MOOSIC, Pa. - Van Pope didn't talk his way into the Gwinnett Braves lineup. In fact, he almost talked his way off Friday.
"I told him on the bus to the airport that I'd put him in the lineup if he'd keep quiet for 40 minutes," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. "He didn't quite make it that long, but I'm glad I got him in there anyway."
Pope has long been considered one of the top defensive third basemen in the minors. But with at least three plays worthy of web gems, he may have been at his best ever as Gwinnett beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 8-5 on Friday night to stay alive in the International League Governors' Cup playoffs.
"I don't know how he made that play," Brundage said of a backhand stab behind the bag.
Pope wasn't sure that was his top grab, though. Asked his favorite, he said, "Probably the play to my left."
Pope, who also made another diving stop, actually had almost every kind of defensive play imaginable, including one on a bunt and another on a lost pop foul. The Yankees felt that Pope cost them three runs at least.
Just a .202 hitter during the regular season, Pope also contributed at the plate for a change. He had a single and a walk, scored twice and put down a sacrifice bunt. Not bad for a player anchored to the bench in the first two games of the series.
"He hasn't had the best of seasons," Brundage said. "But his defense means a lot to this team."
"I had a rough year at the plate," said Pope, who helped Mississippi to the title in the Class AA Southern League last year. "That's over and done with. In the playoffs, you get a chance to make up for it."
Hernandez regains stroke
Diory Hernandez finished the regular season with a .319 average, but had just four hits in his final 31 at-bats. In the playoffs, though, the G-Braves shortstop heated back up.
The native of the Dominican Republic was 3-for-4 with three RBIs in Game 4, lifting his playoff average to .545. One of the hits was a double.
"His swing looks good again," Brundage said.
Hernandez was hitting .355 when promoted to Atlanta in May. But he got few at-bats with the Braves and batted .277 after returning to Gwinnett in August.
Heyward draws a crowd
G-Braves right fielder Jason Heyward was swamped by autograph seekers at PNC Field on Friday, the day he was named minor league player of the year by Baseball America. Before boarding the Gwinnett team bus, he signed for dozens of people who had waited outside the ballpark.
Heyward had just had a game worthy of attention, scoring three times and hitting a two-run single. He drew walks his last three times up.
The 20-year-old certainly wasn't overwhelmed by the jump to Class AAA. He batted .364 in the final three regular-season games and then hit .333 in the first three playoff games.
SideBar: Redmond helps Team USA in World Cup
MOOSIC, Pa. - Gwinnett's winningest pitcher wasn't available for the G-Braves in the Governors' Cup playoffs, but it looks like he will help Team USA in the World Cup.
Todd Redmond took a perfect game into a seventh inning in his first World Cup start as the U.S. defeated Germany 9-1 in Regensburg, Germany.
The right-hander ended up giving up two hits and struck out seven over eight innings. The first hit was an infield single with two outs in the seventh inning.
Redmond, 24, was 9-6 with the G-Braves, leaving the team on Sept. 1. He had a 4.41 ERA in 27 games and tied for the International League lead with 21 home runs allowed.
The pitcher of the year in the Class AA Southern League in 2008, Redmond struck out 106 and walked 47 over 145 innings in his first Class AAA season. He was unbeaten in July and August, winning five straight decisions.
- Guy Curtright