G-Braves set records as they just missed the playoffs

A day after rain soaked out the Gwinnett Braves' final game, and Lehigh Valley did just enough before the same storm drenched Syracuse to end the G-Braves' season on the final day, the eighth player of the season picked up a weekly honor from the International League.

Eight player of the week awards tied a season high for the league and set a new G-Braves record. Just like the team did with individual home runs and pitcher wins. But when the music stopped, Gwinnett was the last team standing without a chair, a game and a half out of the wild card, a record of 78-65 and packing its bags for offseasons in Arizona, Mexico, the Dominican Republic or back home.

"It was kind of a disappointing way to end a pretty good season, a pretty productive season," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. "It was disappointing how it all went down, trying to beat Mother Nature and trying to beat the IronPigs as well. We lost out on both."

But the team gave itself a chance with a win the day before, a late rally after trailing 5-2 in the seventh. By that point, the players on the G-Braves roster knew chances were slim of a big-league call-up.

"That second to last game that we played was our season in a nutshell," Brundage said "Our backs were against the wall, we were down 5-2 in the seventh and yet we didn't fold up our tents and pack it in and say let's start packing our bags, boys.

"It was pretty good to see, knowing you have triple-A guys and everyone was playing for a common goal and that was to play for a triple-A championship."

In game 144, the final game, they had chance, albeit slim. And that chance doesn't just happen.

It happens likes this.

Top pitching prospect Julio Teheran led the International League with 15 wins, was second in batting average against at .232, allowed just under 11 baserunners per nine innings and was fourth in walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) at 1.18. Closer Jairo Asencio led the league with 26 saves, despite pitching six games over three separate stints with the Atlanta Braves. Stefan Gartrell led the league with 94 RBIs, was second with 26 home runs, third in extra-base hits with 58 and fifth with 229 total bases. The 26 home runs set a new G-Braves team record and fell one shy of Gartrell's 27 from a season ago, but his 32 doubles showed an increase in his overall performance as the plate.

As a team, the G-Braves led the league with a 3.33 ERA as major league pitchers rolled through the roster.

Along with Teheran, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor all started plenty of games for the G-Braves. All three are on the Atlanta roster now. But the team never got to showcase the rotation's abilities in any one stretch.

The only sure thing in the G-Braves rotation was Todd Redmond. And unlike the previous two seasons, it wasn't just a sure thing he'd make every scheduled start, he became a sure innings-eater with consistent results. He finished just behind Teheran with a 2.92 ERA, third best in the IL, his 1.17 WHIP was a tick better and he led the league with 169 innings pitched.

Pitching coach Marty Reed attributed all the success to his improved fitness that showed from the first days of spring training. Brundage saw the improved condition as an indicator of more than just working out.

"I think we've all know all along when Todd puts forth the effort and dedicates himself he is capable of more," Brundage said. "Part of it is maturity, part of it is growing up and part of it is understanding you don't get nine lives in this game."

The starting rotation gave way to a bullpen in equal parts constant flux but probably more consistent. Along with Asencio, Anthony Varvaro, Corey Gearrin and Jaye Chapman among others went 59-2 when the team led after seven innings. Aside from Chapman, the other three spent time in the big-league Braves' bullpen.

"When you have four guys that are throwing the ball well, they are going to feed off each other," Brundage said. "They are going to push each other to do better."

At the pate, Gomez and Gartrell were All-Stars, and Brandon Hicks improved as the season wore on. Tyler Pastornicky made the lead to Class AAA and despite a nagging ankle injury hit .365 in 27 games in Gwinnett and after a rocky first game at shortstop became a solid defensive threat. Matt Young shook off the disappointment of not sticking in the big leagues and returned to the G-Braves turning in another solid year at the top of the lineup and across the infield and outfield.

In the final game, in the rain, he stole a base and went first-to-third on a single.

"I am proud of our team, they played 143 games and it came down to game 144," Brundage said. "I think any manager would be pleased."