The Danville Braves returned home Friday night after a 3-3 road trip against Johnson City and Greeneville, but couldn’t find the home magic as the Bluefield Blue Jays welcomed the Braves back to Danville with a 2-0 defeat Friday.
Ricky DeVito got the start for Danville, just his third of the summer, but he came in with the mindset to give the Braves a chance to get a win and delivered on that. DeVito worked a season-high four innings and allowed just two hits and no runs with a season-high five strikeouts.
“Every outing I’m just trying to challenge hitters more and more,” DeVito said. “Every game I go out there all I want to do is I want to do my best job I can to put my team in position to get a win.”
The Braves pitching staff delivered exactly what Danville needed, but Bluefield's did too, and then some. Blue Jays sarting pitcher Alejandro Melean left the game after facing just three batters from what appeared to be an arm injury. Juan Acosta was the reliever that came in on short notice and delivered 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball.
The bats were quiet, but Danville manager Anthony Nuñez was pleased with the effort he got out of his arms.
“It was really important for us because they’re the ones that set the tone for the team,” Nuñez said. “It’s really important when we come back from a long road trip… and see your pitchers battling and give you the chance and compete really well. That’s really good to see.”
One of the positives for Danville’s bats was designated hitter Connor Blair extending his hitting streak to eight games. Blair had two of the Braves's four hits.
But it doesn’t matter if it was the hitters or the pitchers, nobody in the Danville dugout was making any excuses.
“Last night, we had a long bus ride home, got home real late. Honestly, I did not sleep a minute on the bus and fell asleep at 5 a.m. It is what it is,” DeVito said. “I’m not going to think about it. Everybody else on the team, it’s the same thing. No one got a perfect night of sleep. There’s nothing to complain about.”
“It’s really tough, but they’re doing their best and I’m really impressed right now the way they’ve been playing because they go after it. Every day they go after it,” Nuñez said. “It’s part of the game. Being in a struggle is part of the, it’s part of the life. What I do like about my team is they don’t make excuses. They battle. They compete. It doesn’t matter where they’re at… We’re in a slow time right now, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to switch at some point.”
GETTING COMFORTABLE ON THE ROAD
The Braves have had a seven game road trip earlier this season, and then just completed a six game trip away from Danville. For a lot of the players, this is their first experience in this type of season as professionals.
“It’s kind of tough when you’re coming from another place where you’re playing two times a week, three times a week and now you have to get used to playing every single day,” Nuñez said.
Danville is 9-10 on the road, one of the best road marks in the Appalachian League. For the players, it's about realizing that no matter where they rest their heads at night, they still play the game they know and love.
“I really try not to think about it too much because no matter what we’re still on a baseball field,” DeVito said. “I’m just trying to prepare for everything the same way.”
JUST KEEP WORKING
The season stillhas a month left, with Danville’s final regular season game scheduled for August 28. The record (15-22) isn’t where anybody wants it to be, but for Nuñez and the coaching staff, their main focus is to just keep working to develop the players for the next stage of their professional careers.
“As a coaching staff the only thing we look at is to develop. That’s our main priority - to develop and get those guys ready for the next level and hopefully soon they get ready to help our big league team,” Nuñez said. “If that part of the development comes from winning, that’s awesome.
“It’s been kind of up-and-down… it’s just part of the game. I know my guys. They will be there and they will battle.”
Danville faced off against the Blue Jays at home Saturday night. Results were too late for publication. They will wrap up a quick homestand Sunday at 4 p.m. against Bluefield before Monday’s day off, the team’s first day off since July 9. The Braves will then be in Pulaski Tuesday-Thursday before returning home to face Princeton on Friday night.