On a night capped off by fireworks, the Rome Braves found it tough to break out with some explosions of their own.
Offense was scarce for both teams as Rome dropped the first of a three-game series with Greenville, 2-0, at State Mutual Stadium on Tuesday. The Independence Day game drew a sellout crowd to see a pitchers’ duel play out on the diamond.
The Braves managed just two hits and four base runners in the opener of a seven-game homestand. Randy Ventura singles on a slow-roll bunt back to the mound to lead off the Braves’ bottom of the fourth, but he was later caught stealing third.
Carlos Martinez sent a scorcher toward third base that took an awkward hop in front of Greenville’s Mitchell Gonsolus to put up a second hit for Rome with two outs in the eighth. Jordon Rodgers then struck out swinging to end the inning.
It’s the third loss in a row for the Braves, who have now gone 19 innings without scoring a run.
Pitching was the featured attraction, as Rome’s Jeremy Walker, Matt Custred and Taylor Lewis combined to allow seven hits and two runs to the visiting Drive. The Braves’ pitchers have allowed only six earned runs in the last four games.
But it was Greenville’s arms that took control early and often.
Jay Groome, the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft by Boston, got his first start for Greenville since leaving a game with an injury in April and faced the minimum in his five innings of work. The 6-foot-5 southpaw struck out seven and walked one while allowing just one hit.
Robby Sexton rode out the last four innings on the mound for the Drive, notching three strikeouts.
Greenville scored in the first inning as Ryan Scott hit a sac fly to score Tyler Hill. It would be eight innings later before the Drive would score again when Tucker Tubbs doubled on a line drive down the left field line to bring in Roldani Baldwin, who had hit the first double of the game off the left field wall two batters earlier.
Rome has now lost six of its last nine after its second shutout in a row. The Braves are 4-7 in the second half of the South Atlanta League season and are just above Greenville in the Southern Division standings.
The Drive, which won the first-half SAL Southern Division title, are struggling as well, with Tuesday’s win improving their record in the second half to 4-9, putting them a game behind Rome.
Rome for rehab
Atlanta Braves infielder Sean Rodriguez joined Rome on Tuesday as part of his MLB rehab assignment as he continues to work on coming back from surgery on his left rotator cuff.
Rodriguez didn’t get a hit on Tuesday, but he did initiate a double play in the fifth. He is scheduled to be with Rome “over the next few days,” according to the Rome Braves, although his exact rehab schedule was not known.
The former Pittsburgh Pirate was signed by the Braves in the offseason but was injured in a car wreck in January that also involved his wife and children.