LAWRENCEVILLE, GA - Time and time again on Friday night, the Gwinnett Braves (43-43) put runners on base. But more often than not, the Indianapolis Indians (49-38) pitched out of the jam on the way to a 6-4 win over the G-Braves in game one of their three-game weekend series.
The G-Braves stranded 10 runners on base on a night that included a rain delay of an hour and 14 minutes in the middle innings.
Making the first start of his professional career, Evan Phillips got off to a shaky start. The first four batters he faced reached as RBI singles from Danny Ortiz and Eric Wood put the Indians up 3-0.
Gwinnett got a run back in the bottom of the inning against Indianapolis starter Nick Kingham. With one out, Xavier Avery extended his on-base streak to 22 games with a walk. He then stole second for his 13th steal of the year and advanced to third on an error. Rehabbing Atlanta Braves infielder Sean Rodriguez cut the Indians' lead to 3-1 with a sacrifice fly to plate Avery.
Phillips was pulled with runners on the corners and one out in the second. Jason Hursh came out of the Gwinnett bullpen and induced a lineout and ground out to end the inning with Gwinnett still down two. At the plate, Hursh got his first career Triple-A hit in the bottom of the third, but the G-Braves would leave the bases loaded in that inning against Kingham.
In the bottom of the fourth, Gwinnett stormed in front. With two on and two out, Ozzie Albies hit a sinking line drive to right field. Indians right fielder Jordan Luplow dropped the ball for an error, allowing the tying runs to score as Albies advanced to second. Avery put Gwinnett in front 4-3 by driving a triple to deep center field to score Albies.
Indianapolis tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth off rehabbing Atlanta pitcher Dan Winkler as Ortiz hit a sacrifice fly. In the bottom of the inning, Gwinnett put runners on first and second for Kyle Kubitza . With a 1-2 count and rain intensifying, the umpires put the game into a delay with Kubitza still at bat.
Following the delay, David Peterson and A.J. Minter each pitched scoreless relief innings as the game remained tied going into the eighth. Rhiner Cruz couldn't keep it that way in the eighth. After a single and a walk put a pair of runners on base, Eric Wood hit a sinking line drive into the right field corner. Sean Kazmar Jr., playing his first game in the outfield since 2012, dove to try and make the catch but missed as the ball rolled to the wall for a triple that scored both runners to give the Indians a 6-4 lead.
After getting the lead, the Indians turned to Johnny Barbato (S, 3) out of the bullpen and the reliever tossed 2.0 scoreless innings to finish off the win. Angel Sanchez (W, 3-4) pitched 2.2 scoreless innings and struck out five in relief.
For the G-Braves, Avery went 1-for-3 with a triple, RBI, and run scored. In his first rehab game with Gwinnett, Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with an RBI and a walk. Rio Ruiz and Dustin Peterson also contributed multi-hit games in the loss.
The Indians were led by three RBIs each from Ortiz and Wood.
In game two of the series on Saturday night, Aaron Blair (6-4, 5.11) is scheduled to start against Indianapolis right-hander Clay Holmes (6-3, 3.90). First pitch at Coolray Field is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Dave Lezotte has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 5:35 p.m.
As part of Beach Night at Coolray Field, the first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a limited edition G-Braves Beach Towel, sponsored by Coolray Heating & Cooling. Also, specialty drinks will be available at Niekro's Craft on Draft and a large sandbox will be on the outfield berm for all to enjoy. 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.