A solo home run by Jean Carlo Encarnacion in the sixth was all the scoring it took to lead Rome to a 1-0 victory Thursday, while the Braves’ pitching staff held the visiting Tourists to just two hits and struck out 12 in the team’s first game at State Mutual Stadium 10 days.
Starting pitcher Bruce Zimmermann threw a career-high seven innings while striking out nine and walking one for Rome. The southpaw retired the first 10 hitters he faced and leads the league with 57 strikeouts over 45 1/3 innings.
Asheville’s Casey Golden singled with two outs in the fourth inning, ending the 23-year-old’s no-hit bid. Brandon White came on in the eighth and threw two shutout innings while striking out three more batters.
“It was a well-pitched game by Zimmermann. Whitey came in and closed the door. Encarnacion came in and got the home run. That’s all we needed today,” Rome manager Rocket Wheeler said.
Encarnacion finished 3 for 4 while Jefrey Ramos went 2 for 4 as the Braves had nine hits but left six stranded in the pitcher’s duel. Wheeler said the game reflects how this season has gone so far.
“We have a little speed, a little power, and our defense is pretty good. Our offense is up and down, but it seems like we get the hits when we need it,” Wheeler said.
Rome remained a half-game back of Southern Division-leading Augusta prior to the second game of the Asheville series. The team’s variety of top hitters and solid stable of pitching has given it a boost as the season hits its stride.
“You’ve got a different guy every night chipping in,” Wheeler said. “Our pitching has been tremendous. Dan Meyer has done a tremendous job with these guys. Our defense has been solid all year. Everybody is contributing, and it’s what makes it fun. It’s fun to watch this team play.”
Thursday’s game also featured Atlanta Braves infielder Dansby Swanson in a rehab assignment. The young star shortstop is working his way back to the Major League club after going on the disabled list on May 4 with left wrist inflammation.
Swanson went 2 for 4 with two singles on Thursday night in the lead-off spot for Rome. He said afterwards that he feels ready to rejoin Atlanta after not having any problems.
“I feel great. They did a great job with all of the rehab and everything and just keeping me in shape, keeping my legs in shape, so I could kind of hit the ground running again, which is kind of what happened tonight,” Swanson said.
“My biggest goal the last two weeks was to basically minimize every gap possible as far as not having played. I did everything I could and I feel ready.”
Swanson was not in Rome for Friday night’s game against Asheville. He was still on the DL and not in the Braves’ lineup Friday night against the Marlins.
The Braves are home for just a short time as they will be in Lexington on Monday to start a eight-game road trip. Rome returns to State Mutual Stadium on May 29 hosting Asheville once again.