Let the battle for first place begin. Currently leading the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division, the Savannah Sand Gnats begin a four game series this evening, hosting the second place Rome Braves. With a 19-11 record, the Gnats hold a slim one game lead over the 18-12 Braves. Tonight’s pitching matchup at Greyson Stadium will feature Steven Matz for Savannah versus Rome’s Rafael Briceno.
With a .270 batting average, the Sand Gnats are the circuit’s second best hitting team. The Braves rank eighth with a .238 team average. So far, Savannah has scored the league’s third most runs, while Rome ranks tenth. Both are tied with eighteen team home runs.
On the hill, Savannah sports the SAL’s third best team ERA at 3.24. Rome is seventh with a 3.86 team earned run average. With a 1.14 mark, the Gnats are tied with Hagerstown for the league’s best WHIP, while Rome ranks sixth with a 1.31 WHIP. Savannah pitchers are third in the circuit with 270 total strikeouts. Rome ranks dead last with 202 strikeouts.
Savannah’s starting pitcher Steven Matz will be twenty-two years old at the end of May. He was the Mets’ second round selection of the 2009 amateur draft out of high school. Tonight he’ll be making his fifth start of the season. Matz has only surrendered four earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched, good for a 1.96 ERA. With eighteen hits and six walks allowed, his WHIP works out to a 1.31 mark. Matz has twenty-one strikeouts which averages to 10.3 per nine innings pitched. Steve is really in his first full season of pro ball, after having pitched in six games last year at Kingsport.
Gnats catcher Kevin Plawecki enters tonight’s game still batting an even .400 at the plate, which leads the league. He also leads with a .691 slugging average, while his team mate Jayce Boyd leads the SAL with a .474 on-base percentage. Jayce Boyd and Plawecki are both tied for second in the circuit with twenty-eight runs batted in each.
* Relief pitcher Bret Mitchell, 24, has appeared in ten games, with 14.1 innings pitched. He has four saves and a 1.88 earned run average. Bret has allowed nine hits and walked three for a 0.84 WHiP. He has twenty-one strikeouts which translates into a stellar 13.2 average per nine innings pitched. He additionally averages 1.9 W/9 and only 5.7 H/9.
* Relief pitcher Beck Wheeler has appeared in eight games. He currently sports a team leading 0.71 ERA with two saves. In 12.2 innings, he has only surrendered three hits, one being a solo home run, and one walk for a 0.32 WHiP which also lead the team. He has eighteen strikeouts for a 12.8 average per nine innings pitched.
* CF Brandon Nimmo has been placed on the disabled list, retroactive to May 7th. He had not played since April 29th due to a hand injury that’s been described as a contusion.