LAWRENCEVILLE - Two bad innings spelled disaster for the Gwinnett Braves on Saturday night.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees struck for seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings to rally from two early deficits and beat the G-Braves 7-6 before 9,127 fans at Gwinnett Stadium.
It was a trio of walks and two errors - plus Juan Miranda's two-run single - that helped open the door for the Yankees' decisive rally, a four-run fifth.
"In Game 1 (of the series), (Scranton) took advantage of our mistakes," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. "They did it again (Saturday) night."
Up until those two innings, it was a fairly strong Class AAA debut for G-Braves left-hander Jonny Venters, who had shut out Scranton on just two hits and five strikeouts over the first three innings.
And the offense gave him plenty of early support by plating three in the first on Alvin Colina's sacrifice fly and Clint Sammons' two-run single, and adding another on sac fly by Casey Kotchman - on a rehab assignment for the Atlanta Braves - in the second to take a 4-0 lead.
Even after Scranton came back with three in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-3, the G-Braves still looked in control when they answered in their half of the inning.
Brian Barton's lead-off double, followed by a single from Van Pope - his first hit in 10 days, breaking an 0-for-21 slump - a wild pitch and an RBI ground out by Kotchman led to two more runs, extending the Gwinnett lead back to a seemingly comfortable 6-3.
However, Venters and the G-Braves couldn't hold that lead thanks to the disastrous fifth.
The 24-year-old left-hander didn't do himself any favors by walking Kevin Russo to lead off the inning, and matters took an even more ominous turn when a possible double play grounder to short went through Kody Kirkland's legs.
Cody Ransom followed with an RBI single, Shelley Duncan walked and Juan Miranda drove in two more with a single, with another run coming home when the ball skipped past Barton in center.
When the smoke cleared, Scranton had tallied four runs in the inning and vaulted into a 7-6 lead.
"I thought the whole key was the fifth inning," Brundage said. "I thought we did a great job of countering when (Scranton) made it 4-3 (in the fourth) ... and kept the momentum on our side. But then we walk the lead-off guy and (can't turn) a potential double play."
The G-Braves still had their chances thanks to strong work by their bullpen.
Despite taking the loss, Mariano Gomez (3-2) gave up just one run and one hit over three innings, while Jon Hubers added two perfect innings with three strikeouts.
However, Scranton's bullpen was equally effective. Romulo Sanchez improved to 2-0 by pitching around three walks and a hit in two shutout innings, while Zach Kroenke also shut down the G-Braves on a hit in 22/3 innings and Mark Melancon closed out the final 11/3 innings with two strikeouts for his third save of the season.
Note: Todd Linden is on his way to Japan, leaving a large hole in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees lineup. The outfielder signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League after passing a physical. He had been put on SWB's temporary inactive list Friday.
SWB-Yankees 7, G-Braves 6
What happened: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre did most of its damage in the middle innings, scoring all seven of its runs and four of its six hits in the fourth and fifth frames. Juan Miranda was 3-for-3 with two RBIs - both of which came in the decisive fifth inning where the Yankees scored four times to erase earlier G-Braves leads.
Stats of the day: A bad trend worsened for the G-Braves as they fell to 0-22 when trailing after seven innings. While Saturday's game extended that streak, it also went against two more positive trends. Gwinnett had been 26-7 when scoring first and 27-10 when scoring more than four runs - both of which the G-Braves did in Saturday's loss.
Web gem: After Scranton took a 7-6 in the fifth, Reid Gorecki ran down Eric Duncan's deep drive to the right-center and snagged it before it hit the wall. The catch not only robbed the Yankees' leftfielder of an extra-base hit and likely kept two runs from scoring, but also allowed the Braves to escape further damage when Mariano Gomez got Kevin Cash to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Pivotal moment: With the G-Braves having answered one Scranton rally, they couldn't hold a 6-3 lead heading into the fifth inning. Two errors and three walks were the catalysts as the Yankees scored four runs to turn the three-run deficit into a 7-6 lead.
Worth noting: Making the first of what are scheduled to be two rehab starts with the G-Braves on Saturday, Atlanta Braves first baseman Casey Kotchman went 0-for-1 officially. However, that line included a walk, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs before he exited the game in the sixth inning. Kotchman had not played since suffering a bruised shin and a strained calf after being hit by a Arizona's Max Scherzer on May 31. His injured leg got a stern test in the first inning when he sprinted home from third to score on Alvin Colina's sacrifice fly in the first inning. He is scheduled to be in the G-Braves' lineup again today before rejoining the Atlanta Braves on their current road trip Tuesday in Cincinnati.
On deck: The G-Braves will try to salvage the final game of what is now a 2-5 homestand and even the four-game series against Scranton today at 2:05 p.m. Sergio Mitre, who gave up just three hits and one run in seven innings in his Yankees debut last Tuesday, will pitch for Scranton. Right-hander Todd Redmond (3-4) gets the start for Gwinnett.