The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, blew an early 4-0 lead in a 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Gwinnett Braves on Thursday night from Coolray Field. Third baseman Rusty Ryal lined a walkoff single against Christian Garcia in the bottom of the tenth, leading the Braves to the win in the first game of a four-game series.
Syracuse (63-70) took control early against 22-year-old Braves left-hander Sean Gilmartin, as the Chiefs batted around and scored three runs in the first inning. With two outs and Jarrett Hoffpauir on first base, Chris Marrero walked to put two runners on. Third baseman Carlos Rivero then doubled to left field after falling behind 0-2 in the count, scoring Hoffpauir for a 1-0 Chiefs lead. After a Sandy Leon walk, shortstop Zach Walters doubled high off the left-field fence for a two-run double. Walters, who missed a grand slam by a few feet, gave the Chiefs a 3-0 advantage.
The Chiefs added a second-inning run thanks to another double. With Hoffpauir at first base with two outs, Marrero lined a double up the gap at right-center field. That extended Syracuse's lead to four runs.
Left-hander Zach Duke would shut out the Braves on no hits through four innings, but Gwinnett (60-73) finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth. Jose Yepez, Rusty Ryal and Josh Wilson laced three straight singles to load the bases with no outs. After a Brian Friday fielder's-choice ground ball scored a run, though, Duke beared down and retired pitcher Buddy Carlyle and left fielder Jose Constanza to end the inning without a second run.
But the Braves would get that second run and more in the seventh inning. With one out, Ryal singled and Wilson walked to put two runners on base. After a Friday line out, pinch-hitter Terry Tiffee elevated an 0-2 pitch over Eury Perez's head in left field for a two-run double. That cut the Chiefs' lead to 4-3.
Duke would exit after seven innings, allowing five hits and three runs. He turned the game over to reliever Erik Davis in the eighth. Luis Durango singled and was forced out at second base on a fielder's choice groundout by Lyle Overbay, and after a Stefan Gartrell fly out, Davis was one out away from escaping the inning. But Yepez singled to right field, putting two runners aboard, and Ryal followed with a game-tying single to right field. On the play, however, Yepez was thrown out in between third base and home plate, due to a rundown caused by Ryal advancing too far off of second.
Two innings later, the Braves claimed the win. With one out, Garcia walked Lyle Overbay before Stefan Gartell and Yepez followed with singles, loading the bases for Ryal. The third baseman lined Garcia's first pitch into center field, scoring Gartrell for the win. Ryal collected singles in each of his final four at-bats in the game.
Syracuse and Gwinnett will play the second game of a four-game series on Friday night at 7:05. Chiefs right-hander Yunesky Maya is scheduled to throw against Braves right-hander Randall Delgado.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.