Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Gwinnett Braves Clint Sammons connects on a pitch during Thursdays season opener against the Charlotte Knights. Sammons, a Parkview grad, went 1-for-2 with two RBIs in the G-Braves 8-6 win.
LAWRENCEVILLE Spending all spring training with the Atlanta Braves paid off for Wes Timmons.
In his one at-bat during the two exhibition games against the Chicago White Sox at Turner Field, Timmons faced Greg Aquino. He saw a few pitches before popping out.
G-Braves 8, Knights 6
What happened: Gwinnett scored seven of its eight runs with two outs and rallied from a two-run deficit in the sixth inning to take a lead it would never relinquish. Reliever Jonny Venters got the win, pitching two innings and allowing one run. Gwinnett scored four runs in the first inning and three in the sixth with only two extra base hits. Six different G-Braves collected RBIs and Clint Sammons and Wes Timmons both had two.
Stat of the day: Knights starter Lucas Harrell retired 15 straight after giving up four runs in the first innings.
Web gem: 2B Joe Thurston nearly overran an hard ground ball, but he managed to scoop up the bouncer with his free hand and make the throw to first for an out.
Pivotal moment: Timmons ripped a two-out two-RBI double to start the scoring in the sixth inning and would later score the winning run and an RBI single by Gregor Blanco
Worth noting: Leadoff hitter Blanco was the only Gwinnett Brave with two hits in the season-opening win
On deck: The G-Braves go Round 2 with Charlotte throwing RHP Chris Resop in his first professional action since 2008 today. He faces RHP Carlos Torres in the 7 p.m. start.
"He's got good stuff," Timmons said. "The plan was to try to get off him early."
Timmons did that in the sixth.
The third baseman turned on the first pitch he saw, ripping a double down the left field line far enough to score Clint Sammons from first base. Sammons' run tied the game at 6-6. Timmons advanced to third on the throw to the plate and scored when Gregor Blanco followed him with a single to left to give Gwinnett a 7-6 lead. Gwinnett held on from there for an 8-6 win over Charlotte on opening day.
"It's always nice to get the first one out of the way," manager Dave Brundage said.
"We got our feet wet and are off and running."
The season's first home win came much earlier than a year ago when it took the G-Braves four games before winning in their new stadium, but Coolray Field is still undefeated. Gwinnett now holds a three-game winning streak over the Knights and has beaten them to begin the past two seasons.
There wasn't near the capacity crowd watching the second year opener, but the 5,000-plus in attendance had plenty to cheer and this year's standing ovation was for a victory.
The cheer came early for Gwinnett as the G-Braves fired out for four runs in the first inning.
They sent 10 batters to the plate in the first with all the hits and runs coming with two outs. Gwinnett scored its first seven runs with two outs and didn't put a runner on base with less than two down until the eighth inning. The final run came on a one-out fielder's choice by Matt Young.
"You'd like to get started a little sooner," Brundage said. "But that is why they have three outs in an inning."
In the first, Barbaro Canizares and Freddie Freeman each had RBI singles and Clint Sammons ended the early scoring with a two-RBI hit up the middle.
The next Gwinnett batter didn't reach base until Brandon Hicks walked with two outs in the sixth. Charlotte starter Lucas Harrell retired 15 straight batters in between with just three strikeouts.
"I credit their pitcher," Brundage said. "He was a few pitches away from not getting out of the first inning."
Harrell lasted 52/3, allowing six runs off five hits. Gwinnett starter James Parr pitched five innings and allowed five runs off six hits.
But Parr was streaky, allowing a pair of home runs and striking out four.
"He was hit or miss during spring training as well," Brundage said of Parr.
"At times he shows great command."
Gwinnett's No. 5 starter, Jonny Venters, followed Parr and earned the win in relief, allowing one run of just two hits before retiring the final six hitters he faced.
After a four-inning offensive break, the Gwinnett bats showed back up when Harrell finally allowed another base runner with crucial Hicks' walk.
Hicks stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Sammons walked on four pitches, setting the table for Timmons to face his familiar adversary Aquino.
And now the season begins.
"Any time you can get the first win out of the way it takes the stress off the pitching staff and the hitters can relax and prepare for a minor league season," Timmons said.