LAWRENCEVILLE, GA - Behind a solid start from Aaron Blair and three clutch RBIs from Dustin Peterson , the Gwinnett Braves (24-22) defeated the Syracuse Chiefs (15-28) 6-2 to begin their four-game weekend series on Friday night at Coolray Field.
Pitching on the day of his 25th birthday, Blair (W, 3-3) tossed 6.0 strong innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three to earn his third win of the season. Peterson led the way offensively by driving in three runs, including the eventual winning run in the sixth inning.
After Blair set the Chiefs down in order in the first inning, the Gwinnett bats were quick to take the lead against Chiefs' starter A.J. Cole (L, 1-2). Johan Camargo laced a one-out triple to right, the first of his Triple-A career. Mel Rojas Jr. followed with a single to center, scoring Camargo to give the G-Braves an early 1-0 lead. The RBI was Rojas Jr.'s team-leading 30th of the season.
Blair pitched clean innings in both the second and third before giving up a one-out single to Adrian Sanchez in the fourth for the Chiefs' first hit of the night. Two batters later, Syracuse tied the game as Clint Robinson hit a double to left to plate Sanchez. The next hitter, Pedro Severino, gave the Chiefs the lead with an RBI ground out to short.
Gwinnett got even in the bottom of the fifth against Cole. Anthony Recker laced a one-out double to right, and Blair followed by hitting a ground ball between third and short for his first career Triple-A hit. Ozzie Albies tied the game with a single to left scoring Recker.
Blair worked into and out of trouble in the sixth. After retiring the first two hitters he faced, he gave up a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases with two outs. Irving Falu then hit a ground ball that bounced off the lip of the infield grass. Albies adjusted to field the ball and fire to first to get the out and help Blair escape the damage with the game still tied.
Rojas Jr. got the offense started in the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk off Cole. Two hitters later, Sean Kazmar Jr. laced a single to center to put runners on the corners with one out. Peterson put Gwinnett in front 3-2 by reaching on a fielder's choice ground out to score Rojas Jr.
Caleb Dirks (H, 6) came out of the Gwinnett bullpen and struck out three over 2.0 scoreless innings, holding the lead at 3-2.
Gwinnett put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth against Syracuse reliever Mike Broadway. Like he did in the sixth inning, Rojas Jr. began the frame with a walk. Lane Adams followed with a single to center and then stole second base for his 12th steal of the year. Two batters later, Peterson lined a single past a drawn-in Syracuse infield to score both Rojas Jr. and Adams, raising the lead to 5-2. Xavier Avery capped the night's scoring by crushing a pinch-hit RBI triple off the center field wall to score Peterson and give the G-Braves a 6-2 lead.
In the ninth, Rhiner Cruz came in and pitched a scoreless inning to finish off the win.
Ten different G-Braves notched a hit in the game, including Peterson, who went 1-for-4 with the three RBIs.
The G-Braves and Chiefs continue their series with a 6:05 p.m. game on Saturday night at Coolray Field. Left-hander Andrew Albers (3-1, 3.27) is scheduled to start for Gwinnett against Syracuse right-hander Kyle McGowin (1-2, 4.38). 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 is a Friends And Family Night Presented By Culver's. For $15, fans can get one field box ticket, one free G-Braves hat, and a voucher for a free Double Deluxe Butter Burger, courtesy of Culver's. For tickets, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.