LAWRENCEVILLE - After two straight called strike threes, Brandon Jones finally came up with the big hit the G-Braves needed.
It just hit the umpire.
Trailing 3-0 with two outs and Jason Heyward standing on second in the fifth inning, Jones ripped the ball back up the middle, bringing Heyward home for the first Gwinnett run. But the ball bounced off second-base umpire Al Porter as it left the infield, forcing Heyward all the way back to second base.
"That's the first time that's happened to me," Jones said. "That is the way things were going for us tonight."
Jones and Heyward both ended the inning on base.
It was the last time a G-Brave came close to crossing the plate at they fell 3-0 to Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre in the first game of the opening round of the International League playoffs.
Along with Jones and Heyward in the fifth, Gwinnett left 10 runners on base in Wednesday's loss, negating a strong performance from starter John Halama.
"Our offense had some chances to get the big hit," said manager Dave Brundage. "Brandon Jones did get the big hit. It just didn't bounce our way tonight."
The bad breaks started in the second inning.
A walk and a bad-luck error brought on Halama's three-run inning. He led off the inning with the walk and the G-Braves missed the chance at an out on a sacrifice bunt when catcher Alvin Colina lost his footing picking the ball up in front of home plate. The extra base runner eventually scored the third run.
"I had my pitches working, they did what they had to do," said Halama, who needed just 87 pitches to get through six innings. "It just went their way. We battled."
Strange bounces and stranded runners only exacerbated the struggles caused by a Scranton starter who struck out nine G-Braves over the first four innings. Romulo Sanchez's nine K's tied a season best in his five scoreless innings. And the Scranton bullpen didn't make things easier. Gwinnett did not record a hit off of it until Brian Barton's two-out single in the bottom of the ninth.
"He had electric stuff," Halama said of his counterpart who threw from the bullpen the last time the G-Braves faces him. In that appearance, Sanchez walked three and struck out one in 11/3 innings.
"He was a different pitcher than what we faced the last time," Brundage said. "He had some good stuff. He threw his off-speed pitches well."
The off-speed throws belied his high 90s fastball and kept G-Braves batters guessing. Along with Jones, Brian Barton struck out twice against Sanchez.
But there will be no Sanchez as the series continues today. And hopefully, the umpires will stay out of the way.
"That's what you play five game series for," Jones said. "We will just come back (today)."
Yankees 3, G-Braves 0
What happened: Gwinnett left 10 runners on base and struck out nine times in the first four innings as it dropped Game 1 on the first round playoff series to Scranton. No Brave had more than one hit against a battery of Yankee pitchers that started with the high-90s change-up of Romulo Sanchez. G-Braves starter John Halalma allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings with all three runs coming in the second inning to get the loss.
Bulls vs. Bats: The Durham Bulls took a 1-0 lead over Louisville with an 8-4 win Wednesday.
Bad bounce: Brandon Jones was robbed of an RBI single when his first hit of the game careened off 2B umpire Al Porter in the fifth inning, leaving Jason Heyward at second with two outs. The inning ended on the next batter.
Stat of the day: Yankees' starter Romulo Sanchez equaled a career high with nine strikeouts in the win. He needed just four innings to K all nine.
Pivotal moment: A rough second inning by Gwinnett that started with a walk and was extended by an error allowed Scranton to score all the runs it needed, and would score in the G-Braves' first shutout loss since Aug. 30.
Worth noting: Former Atlanta Braves catcher Javy Lopez will throw out the first pitch of today's final home game of the first-round playoff series.
On deck: LHP Jo-Jo Reyes will start Game 2 against the Yankees RHP Ivan Nova (1-4, 5.10) in the 7 p.m. start