CHARLOTTE, NC -- Blake Lalli drove in four runs and Tyrell Jenkins tossed 7.2 two-run innings as the Gwinnett Braves (65-78) defeated the Charlotte Knights (65-79) 6-2 on Monday to secure the team's first-ever International League South Division championship and first Governors' Cup Playoff berth since 2009.
Gwinnett entered the day trailing Charlotte by a half-game for the IL South lead, setting up a "win-and-you're-in" season finale with the Knights at BB&T Ballpark.
Lalli staked the G-Braves to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning, lacing an opposite-field double into the left-field corner scoring both Mel Rojas Jr. and Sean Kazmar Jr., who had each reached on one-out singles.
The G-Braves raised the lead to 4-0 in the third. Emilio Bonifacio, Reid Brignac andRonnier Mustelier opened the inning with three-straight singles to load the bases. Rio Ruiz beat out a fielder's choice scoring Bonifacio, and Rojas Jr. lifted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Brignac.
The four early runs chased Knights' starter and former G-Brave Kameron Loe after 3.0 innings. Loe (L, 3-5) allowed the four runs on six hits, walked none and struck out two.
Jenkins (W, 9-3) was nearly untouchable early as he held Charlotte to a hit and a walk over the first four innings. The Knights ended the shutout on Jacob May's RBI double in the seventh and added a second run on Nicky Delmonico's RBI single in the eighth. That was the only damage against the G-Braves' right-hander, who scattered 10 hits over 7.2 innings, walked one and struck out two to earn his team-leading ninth win of the year.
After the Knights had cut the Gwinnett lead to 4-1 in the seventh, Lalli came through with a clutch hit to push the lead to 6-1 in the eighth. With the bases loaded on walks from Zack Burdi, Lalli lined a single to right, scoring Brignac and Rojas Jr.
Right-hander Stephen Janas (S, 1) stranded two inherited runners for Jenkins in the eighth and worked a perfect ninth to end the game. Janas struck out Vinny Rottino looking, got Eddy Alvarez to fly out to right and fanned Leury Garcia swinging.
Lalli went 2-for-4 with a double and four RBIs to lead Gwinnett's 10-hit attack. Bonifacio went 2-for-5 with a run scored and Brignac went 2-for-4 with two runs scored for the G-Braves.
Delmonico went 2-for-4 with a double, run scored and an RBI for the Knights. Blake Smith tossed 3.0 scoreless innings between Loe and Burdi, and Brad Goldberg pitched a scoreless top of the ninth.
The G-Braves are off on Tuesday before traveling to Columbus, OH, to open the 2016 Governors' Cup Playoffs against the IL West Division champion Columbus Clippers.Game 1 of the best-of-five first-round series is Wednesday, September 7 at Huntington Park, first pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. Gwinnett will host Game 3 at Coolray Field on Friday, September 9 at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets for Game 3 and Games 4-5 (if necessary) are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.
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 are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.