Despite leading for the majority of the contest, the Toledo Mud Hens bullpen faltered in the ninth inning, allowing the Gwinnett Braves to erase a three-run deficit and came back to win 5-4.
Michael Almanzar hit two home runs for the Hens in the losing effort.
In his first outing since June 2, Anibal Sanchez worked through early issues to finish a start for the Hens. He ended with 5.0 innings, one run, four hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts.
Sanchez ran into trouble right away in the top of the first as the Braves broke into the scoring column early. Ozzie Albies led off with a single and scored on a Dustin Peterson RBI knock to give Gwinnett a 1-0 lead.
After being set down in order in the first, the Hens tied the game up in the bottom of the second. John Hicks started things off with a routine ground ball to third, but the throw went high above the first baseman and Hicks was rewarded with second base. Jason Krizan followed with a bloop single to center that brought home Hicks.
Despite surrendering a double to Albies in the third, Sanchez settled in by striking out a pair of Braves batters.
Almanzar hit his first home run in the bottom of the fourth to give Toledo its first lead of the game. The no-doubt shot cleared the left-center field wall and into the netting for his fifth home run of the year. After four, the Hens led 2-1.
Sanchez finished off his five strong innings with a pair of strikeouts in the fifth as he stranded a two-out walk. After a nearly two-week layoff from his DL stint, Sanchez was strong on Wednesday night.
Logan Kensing pitched a perfect top of the sixth before Almanzar extended the lead to 3-1 with his second homer of the game on a ball hit to straight away left in the bottom half of the inning.
Gwinnett started Kris Medlen pitched the first 6.0 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, walking one, and striking out a pair.
In the top of the seventh, Blaine Hardy came on in relief and stranded a two-out walk in his shutout frame. The Hens threatened in the bottom of the seventh as two walks and an Argenis Diaz single loaded the bases with two outs. However, Caleb Dirks got Hicks swinging to end the inning and the Toledo threat.
Bruce Rondon came on in the top of the eighth and allowed a bunt single to Xavier Avery to lead off the inning. Avery stole second easily to put a man in scoring position with nobody out. Rondon struck out Albies and then made a nice play to get Jace Peterson at first. He left Avery at third when he threw a 98 mph fastball by Dustin Peterson to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Krizan led off with a double to the right field corner. Andrew Albers retired the next two Hens batters, but Omar Infante came through with two outs with a base hit up the middle the scored Krizan just ahead of the throw home. After eight, Toledo led Gwinnett 4-1.
Facing a three-run deficit, the Braves faced Arcenio Leon in the top of the ninth. It was the first outing for Leon with Toledo since May 25 after a brief callup to Detroit. He walked the first two batters and then a single to load the bases with nobody out. Kyle Kubitza followed with an RBI single that advanced everyone one base. Leon struck out the next two batters, but Albies reached on an infield single that scored a run, cutting the Toledo lead to 4-3.
With the bases still loaded, Edward Mujica entered to face Jace Peterson. On an 0-2 pitch, Peterson lined a pitch up the middle to score two and gave the Braves its first lead of the game since the first inning with two outs in the ninth. Mujica struck out the final batter of the inning to keep the game at 5-4 in favor of Gwinnett.
In the bottom of the ninth, JaCoby Jones fought off an inside pitch to single to center with one out. That's as far as he would get as the next two were set down.
The series finale will be played on Thursday as the Hens and Braves are set to start at 7:05 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.