LAWRENCEVILLE, GA - Todd Cunningham's seventh-inning grand slam broke a 2-2 tie and led the Gwinnett Braves (11-6) to a 6-3 victory over the Charlotte Knights (6-12) on Monday night at Coolray Field. The G-Braves swept the three-game series and extended their winning streak to seven games, matching the longest streak in Gwinnett club history.
Gwinnett, however, got off to a slow start for the third straight night as Charlotte jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring runs in the first and second innings. In the first, Carlos Sanchez reached on a one-out single off Cody Martin, stole second and scored on an RBI double by Josh Phegley. In the second, Denis Phipps walked, moved to third on a single by Dan Black and scored on a double play groundout by Tyler Saladino, making it 2-0 Knights.
Martin would settle down after allowing the two runs, tossing 5.0 scoreless frames to finish his outing. He worked 6.0 innings, scattering four hits and striking out five.
The G-Braves scored runs in the third and fifth innings to tie the game. In the bottom of the third, Jose Constanza tripled for the second straight night and scored on an RBI single by Phil Gosselin, cutting the deficit to 2-1. In the fifth inning, Edward Salcedo laced a double down the right field line to score Joey Terdoslavich, making it 2-2.
With the score still tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the G-Braves broke it open with four runs. Tommy La Stella started the inning with a walk and back-to-back singles by Ernesto Mejia and Terdoslavich loaded the bases for Cunningham. After working the count in his favor against reliever Ryan Kussmaul, Cunningham turned on a 3-1 fastball and deposited it over the right field fence for a grand slam.
"I got ahead of the count," said Cunningham. "Obviously with a 3-1 pitch, I knew he had to throw a strike and I just happened to barrel one up."
Cunningham's first career grand slam gave the G-Braves a 6-2 lead.
"It was awesome to see it go. It's the childhood scenario that you replay in your head over and over. It was my first one and it was a good one. Right when we needed it."
Charlotte clawed back in the top of the eighth, scoring a run on one hit. Pedro Beato walked Jared Mitchell and gave up a single to Blake Tekotte to put runners on first and second with no outs. After a sacrifice fly by Sanchez pushed a run across, Beato retired the next two batters in order.
Gwinnett closer Juan Jaime (S, 4) worked around two hits and struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning. Mark Lamm (W, 1-1) recorded his first victory of the season with a scoreless seventh inning.
Kussmaul (L, 0-2) took the loss for Charlotte, allowing four runs on three hits in 1.2 innings.
Cunningham led the way with a 1-for-4 night and four RBIs. His first home run of the season was also the first grand slam hit by a G-Brave since Felix Pie hit one against Durham on July 27, 2012 at Coolray Field. Constanza, Gosselin, La Stella and Mejia all had two hits each, with Mejia extending his hitting streak to nine games.
Phegley led the Knights, going 2-for-4 with two doubles.
The Gwinnett Braves will hit the road for an eight game road trip starting on Tuesday night at Huntington Park in Columbus, OH. Game one against the Columbus Clippers is scheduled for 6:35 PM. Left-hander Daniel Rodriguez (2-1, 2.40) will take the ball for Gwinnett as he matches up against highly-touted right-hander Trevor Bauer (1-0, 0.75) of the Clippers. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on wdun.com, GwinnettBraves.com, TuneIn Radio and the MiLB First Pitch app.
The G-Braves return home to Coolray Field on Thursday, May 1 with a 6:35 PM game against Lehigh Valley. To purchase tickets, call the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com
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The Gwinnett Braves are the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Follow the G-Braves at gwinnettbraves.com, facebook.com/GwinnettBraves1 and twitter.com/GwinnettBraves. Tickets for all 2014 home games are on sale now by calling the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visiting GwinnettBraves.com.