ALLENTOWN, PA- The Gwinnett Braves (50-50) used a 14-hit attack and a fine pitching effort from starter Andrew Albers and the bullpen to beat the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (62-40) by a 9-3 score on Monday night in the opening game of the four-game series at Coca-Cola Park.
With the win, Albers becomes Gwinnett's first 10-game winner since 2011, when Julio Teheran (15-3) and Todd Redmond (10-8) each posted double-digit win totals.
Gwinnett wasted no time getting on the board as Ozzie Albies led off the game with a double off Lehigh Valley starting pitcher Zach Eflin and scored from second when Ronald Acuna followed with a single to left. Acuna moved to second on a throwing error by Eflin on a pickoff attempt and then advanced to third on a ground out to first by Jace Peterson . Dustin Peterson then cracked a two-out double to left, scoring Acuna for a 2-0 lead.
The lead went to 4-0 in the second as back-to-back singles by Matt Tuiasosopo and David Freitas put two on to begin the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Albers moved runners to second and third. Albies brought home Tuiasosopo with a sacrifice fly to center, and Freitas, who moved to third on the sacrifice fly, later scored on an Eflin wild pitch.
The Gwinnett lead grew to 5-0 in the top of the third when Micah Johnson doubled to deep left, scoring Rio Ruiz from second, The G-Braves added two more in the top of the fifth as a triple to left by Johnson scored Dustin Peterson from first for a 6-0 lead and a sacrifice fly by Freitas to right plated Johnson for a 7-0 lead. In the top of the sixth, Acuna (3) belted a leadoff solo homer to right off reliever Cesar Ramos to increase Gwinnett's lead to 8-0.
In the bottom of the sixth, after J.P. Crawford blooped a double to right, Rhys Hoskins (23) drilled a two-run homer to left, cutting the lead to 8-2. Following the homer, Albers got into an argument with home plate umpire Ryan Clark, As a result, Albers and Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill were both ejected from the game. However, the bullpen of A.J. Minter , Jason Hursh and Enrique Burgos finished out the game, giving up only one unearned run the rest of the way. The final run of the game came in the top of the ninth, when Freitas plated Dustin Peterson from third with a sacrifice fly to right.
Albers (W, 10-3) tossed 5.1 innings with four hits, two earned runs and five strikeouts. Minter pitched 1.1 innings with one strikeout. Hursh went 1.1 innings with one hit, one unearned run, one walk and four strikeouts. Burgos finished the win by retiring the IronPigs in order in the ninth.
Eflin pitched 5.0 innings with 10 hits, seven earned runs, two walks and nine strikeouts. Ramos worked 2.0 innings with two hits, one earned run, one walk and three strikeouts. Michael Mariot tossed 1.0 inning with one hit and Colton Murray went 1.0 inning with one hit, one earned run, one walk and one strikeout.
Acuna paced the Gwinnett offense with a 4-for-5 night including a homer, two runs and two RBIs. Dustin Peterson was 3-for-3 with two runs a double and an RBI. Johnson was 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, a run and two RBIs. Albies went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
For the IronPigs, Hoskins was 1-for-4 with the two-run homer.
The G-Braves and IronPigs play game two of the four-game series Tuesday morning in Allentown. First pitch is scheduled for 11:35 a.m. Lehigh Valley will pitch right-hander Jake Thompson (4-11, 5.36) while Gwinnett has yet to name a starter. Air time is 11:05 a.m. with Tony Schiavone on 97.7 FM "The Other Side of the River."
The G-Braves return home for game one of a three-game series against the Norfolk Tides on July 31. 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.