Right-hander has Moore to give Rome

Starter throws six hitless innings in Sally playoff opening win

By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com | September 5, 2012 7:43 PM ET

ROME, Ga. -- Navery Moore has been Class A Rome's top pitcher all season, but he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen for most of the second half.

The Braves wanted to limit the number of innings their No. 15 prospect threw, and now when Rome needs him the most, Moore is fresh and pitching his best baseball.

The right-hander pitched six hitless innings and Rome held on in the ninth inning after the no-no bid was broken up for a 5-3 victory Wednesday night over the Tourists in the opening of their best-of-3 South Atlantic League playoff series.

"He threw a gem," Braves manager Randy Ingle said. "He's been good all year, but this had to be his best."

"He kept the ball down and attacked," catcher Cory Brownsten added. "He's been really good since he went back in the rotation. He had four no-hit innings in his first start."

Limited to 80 pitches, Moore allowed just two baserunners while striking out four in his six innings. He walked a batter in the fourth and another reached on a throwing error in the sixth by shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was on a one-game injury rehab assignment with Rome.

"I stuck to my gameplan and got in a rhythm," said Moore, a 14th-round pick by Atlanta in the 2011 Draft out of Vanderbilt. "I worked off the fastball and moved it in and out. The second and third time around, we mixed in some first-pitch curves and changeups."

Rome was no-hit twice this year, including Saturday in Lexington, and until the ninth, it looked like the Braves might get to celebrate a pitching masterpiece of their own this time.

Ivan Thomas kept the no-hitter going by retiring Asheville in order in the seventh and eighth, but Nathan Hyatt issued a leadoff walk, a single to Trevor Story and another walk to load the bases.

Reliever David Peterson allowed a three-run double to Jordan Ribera after striking out the first batter he faced, but then struck out the next two for the save.

"You're always nervous when the tying run is at the plate," Ingle said. "But I had confidence in the guy I had out there."

Ingle has even more in Moore, who was 8-3 with a 3.86 ERA in the regular season.

"He's really been our most consistent pitcher all year," the skipper said. "We wanted to keep his innings down, so that is why we had him in the bullpen. But we needed him to start now in the playoffs." Brownsten delivered a two-RBI double and Tony Mueller hit a two-run single in the second, and Robby Hefflinger lofted a sacrifice fly in the third.

Asheville's Ben Alsup, who tied for the league lead with 14 victories, didn't allow a run in 21 innings while winning his last three regular-season starts. But Rome got to him for four runs in the second and another in the third.

Alsup allowed seven of his eight hits in the first four frames of his 5 2/3-inning outing. The right-hander walked one and didn't notch any strikeouts.

The Tourists had the best record in the Minors during the regular season.

The series will resume Friday in Asheville, with left-hander Tyler Anderson -- Colorado's No. 3-ranked prospect -- pitching for the Tourists against Rome right-hander Greg Ross. Taken with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Anderson was 12-3 and led the circuit with a 2.47 ERA.

A Game 5, if necessary, will be Saturday in Asheville.

Simmons, who was 1-for-4, won't be with Rome the rest of the series. He is scheduled to play for Class A Advanced Lynchburg on Thursday in a Carolina League playoff game and could rejoin Atlanta during a weekend series against the Mets in New York.

Coming back from a broken right finger, Simmons started his rehab Monday for Double-A Mississippi in its final Southern League game and was 1-for-3 with a single in his first at-bat since July 8.

Simmons, who turned 23 on Tuesday, was the National League Rookie of the Month for June and hit .296 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games while playing stellar defense after being promoted from Mississippi. He was hurt trying to hustle a single into a double at Philadelphia.

Rome's 18-52 record in the first half was the worst in the Minors. But the Braves enjoyed a complete turnaround in the second half and are a win away from a spot in the Sally League Championship Series.

"We got a clean slate after the first half and we took advantage of it," Moore said. "We knew we had it in us."

"It's been quite a ride," Ingle added. "It was pretty bad in the first half, but the team never quit, and all of a sudden, we got some confidence. I couldn't be prouder of them."

In other Sally League playoff action:
Greensboro 3, Hagerstown 1

Andrew Heaney, Miami's first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings to help defending-champion Greensboro earn a 1-0 series lead over Hagerstown. The left-hander struck out eight and walked one for the visiting Grasshoppers.

Aaron Senne was 3-for-3 with a walk for Greensboro. Billy Burns and Bryce Ortega each had two hits for Hagerstown.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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