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Gamble key in G-Braves shutout win

LAWRENCEVILLE - Even in a game made memorable by Brian McCann's homecoming, there was no overlooking the continued masterful work of the Gwinnett Braves rotation.

Jerome Gamble pitched five scoreless innings against Syracuse on Thursday night, pushing the G-Braves' string of starts without allowing more than one earned run to 11 consecutive games. During that stretch, the rotation's ERA is 0.73.

"This game of baseball runs in cycles," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. "That's what I told people when your pitchers were getting their feet wet.

"Things run hot and cold and I don't have to tell you the way things are going right now."

The G-Braves blanked Syracuse 4-0 at Gwinnett Stadium, winning a home series for the first time by taking three of the four games.

"We're beginning to score some runs, but you can't help but notice the starting pitching," Brundage said. "It has been the anchor around here."

Gamble, who had lost his first three decisions, finally got a win. He allowed six hits, walked none and struck out six as his ERA dropped to 2.25. Of his 75 pitches, 45 were strikes.

"Jerome stepped up and had himself a nice outing," Brundage said.

Of course, Gamble had McCann behind the plate to work with and the rehabbing catcher gave the G-Braves what turned out to be the only run they needed with a first-inning RBI double.

McCann, who was 1-for-3 with an intentional walk, had no trouble with his new glasses at the plate, although they did take a little getting used to behind it.

McCann didn't wear the glasses while catching after the second inning until putting them back on in the ninth.

"I'm probably going to have to wear them (all the time) when I catch," said McCann, who had some trouble slipping his new hockey-style mask off and on.

But McCann had no difficulty seeing at the plate after a frustrating couple of weeks trying almost everything and he expects to be back in Atlanta's starting lineup when he rejoins the Braves tonight in Philadelphia for the opener of a weekend series with the Phillies.

Meanwhile, the G-Braves (13-15) are feeling much better about their chances after eight wins in the past 11 games - the stretch their starting pitching has been so good.

Gamble benefited in the fourth inning from a strong throw by center fielder Gregor Blanco to end Syracuse's best threat. Kory Casto tried to score from second base on a two-out single by Ryan Langerhans, but was cut down at the plate.

Blanco's strong throw came in on one hop and McCann made a nice sweep tag to return Casto, who had singled with out and moved up on a wild pitch.

Barbaro Canizares extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a sixth-inning double and scored on a single by Brian Barton. Then Van Pope gave the G-Braves an extra cushion with a two-run homer in the eighth.

Boone Logan, Vladimir Nunez, Juan Perez and Luis Valdez finished up the shutout, with Valdez getting the final four outs for his sixth save.

"It's nice to finally win a home series," Pope said. "We're playing with a little more energy and are bats are starting to wake up a little bit. Our pitching has been good all year."

The last 11 games, it has been better than good. It's been outstanding.

SideBar: INSTANT REPLAY

G-Braves 4, Chiefs 0

What happened: With Brian McCann in the lineup on a rehab assignment from Atlanta, Gwinnett (13-15) beat Syracuse (14-11) to win a home series for the first time. The G-Braves, just 5-9 at Gwinnett Stadium, took three of the four games.

McCann effect: Gregor Blanco doubled to start the bottom of the first inning and McCann drove him in with a one-out double down the right-field line on a 2-and-2 pitch from Collin Balester. McCann was 1-for-3 with an intentional walk and threw out Pete Orr trying to steal second base in the third inning.

Goose eggs: RHP Jerome Gamble pitched five scoreless innings to get his first win after three losses. He struck out six and walked none while lowering his ERA to 2.25. Gwinnett starters have a 0.73 ERA in the past 11 games.

Web gem: CF Blanco threw out Kory Casto at the plate to end a Syracuse threat in the fourth inning and preserve a one-run lead. McCann fielded the throw on a perfect hop and made the sweep tag.

Streaking: 1B Barbaro Canizares extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a leadoff double in the sixth inning and came around to score Gwinnett's second run on a single by Brian Barton. Canizares, hitting .330, is 15-for-44 during the streak.

By the Number: McCann wore No. 17 because his normal No. 16 is a retired number from the G-Braves' years in Richmond. It was retired in honor of long-time Richmond infielder Chico Ruiz.

Counting the house: Attendance was 5,170 - about 2,000 more than the game without McCann would have likely drawn.

On deck: RHP Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.15 ERA) will start for the G-Braves in the series opener tonight against Durham at Gwinnett Stadium. He will be opposed by RHP Wade Davis (3-0, 3.09 ERA).