Gwinnett takes series opener in rain-shortened six-inning game
LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – With a solid pitching performance from Aaron Blair, timely hitting and an assist from mother nature, the Gwinnett Braves (37-35) defeated the Norfolk Tides (31-43) 4-3 in a rain-shortened six-inning game to open up a three-game series at Coolray Field on Friday night.
Blair (W, 5-4) turned in a quality start for the G-Braves, tossing 6.0 innings with three runs – two earned – on three hits, three walks and two strikeouts. His fifth win of the year was also Gwinnett’s first complete game of 2017.
In the top of the first inning, Norfolk got the early lead thanks to some defensive miscues from Gwinnett. With a runner on first, first baseman Kyle Kubitza misplayed Chance Sisco’s ground ball for an error to put runners on the corners. Later in the inning, Johnny Giavotella came home to score on a passed ball charged to catcher Anthony Recker as the Tides took a 1-0 lead.
The G-Braves wasted little time getting the run back in the bottom of the second against Tides’ starter Jordan Kipper (L, 2-4). On the second pitch of the inning, Matt Tuiasosopo belted a solo home run, his sixth of the season, an estimated 440 feet to left-center field to even the score. Following the home run, Kubitza and Sean Kazmar Jr. each hit singles to put runners on the corners, and Recker put Gwinnett in front 2-1 with a sacrifice fly to right scoring Kubitza.
Gwinnett extended their lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Kubitza singled to right. Kazmar Jr. followed with a single to center, and the ball was misplayed by Norfolk center fielder Logan Schafer for an error, allowing Kubitza to score all the way from first.
Norfolk tied it at 3-3 in the fifth as Mike Yastrzemski hit a two-run home run, his fourth of the season, just over leaping Gwinnett left fielder Dustin Peterson.
In the bottom of the fifth, Gwinnett took advantage of another defensive miscue to plate the winning run. With one out, Stephen Gaylor reached on an infield single. Ozzie Albies followed with a single of his own to center to extend his team-leading on-base streak to 21 games. On the play, Schafer attempted to throw Gaylor out at third, but his throw was errant and went into the G-Braves’ dugout, allowing Gaylor to score for a 4-3 lead.
Blair returned to the mound and induced a double play from Sisco to get the first two outs of the sixth. After issuing a walk to Pedro Alvarez, Blair got Drew Dosch to fly out to Gaylor in center, ending the inning.
Following a one-out walk to Tuiasosopo in the bottom of the sixth, the skies opened up and the game was eventually called after a delay of an hour and three minutes.
Offensively for the G-Braves, Kubitza went 2-for-2 with two runs scored, while Kazmar Jr. also went 2-for-2.
Norfolk was led by Yastrzemski, who went 1-for-2 with the homer and two RBIs. Kipper pitched a complete game in the loss, yielding four runs – three earned – on eight hits over 5.1 innings.
In game two of the series on Saturday night at Coolray Field, the G-Braves are scheduled to send left-hander Andrew Albers(6-2, 3.29) to the mound while the Tides are expected to start left-hander Paul Fry (2-1, 6.25). First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 5:35 p.m.
Saturday’s game is “First Responders Night,” sponsored by Gwinnett Medical Center. All G-Braves’ players and coaches will be wearing special jerseys honoring Gwinnett County First Responders, and game-used, autographed jerseys will be available for auction during the game. The first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a replica t-shirt modeled after the jerseys the G-Braves will be wearing, courtesy of Gwinnett Medical Center. The night concludes with Post-Game Fireworks.For tickets, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.