LAWRENCEVILLE — An odd combination of roster moves created a lineup conundrum for the Gwinnett Braves when they arrived home to start a series with Durham.
The loss of Brandon Hicks to Atlanta and the late arrival of Luis Bolivar and Willie Cabrera from Class AA Mississippi left Gwinnett an infielder short. Freddie Freeman played his usual first base, but then the changes began. Wes Timmons moved from third base to second and Joe Thurston slid to shortstop. Catcher Clint Sammons played third base.
G-Braves 4, Bulls 3
What happened: A four-run first inning was all the G-Braves needed to end a three-game losing streak. Barbaro Canizares hit a three-run home run and Freddie Freeman added an RBI single. The first five Gwinnett batters started the game with hits. Freeman and Canizares combined to go 6-for-8. Starter Brandon Beachy earned his second win, allowing two earned runs off seven hits over five innings. He struck out seven, six coming in the first three innings.
Eying a title: Barbaro Canizares just built on his chase for the IL batting title with a 2-for-3 night with two walks, upping his batting average to .329.
Odd infield: With the call-up of SS Brent Clevlen to Atlanta and the late arrival of OF Willie Cabrera and SS Luis Bolivar from Mississippi, the G-Braves were forced to alter their lineup. Clint Sammons started at third and usual 3B Wes Timmons played second base.
Rehab watch: Eric O’Flaherty pitched one relief inning in the sixth, striking out two and giving up one hit. He threw nine of his 17 pitches for strikes.
On deck: The G-Braves will make up a June rainout against Durham with a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (2-0, 2.67 ERA) will start the first seven-inning game and RHP Vladimir Nunez (0-1, 3.47) is set to start the second, but Tim Gustafson may return from Class AA Mississippi. Durham announced RHP Aneury Rodriquez (4-5, 4.04) would start the first game, but he made an appearance Friday night.
It was Sammons second time this season playing third. He made a brief late-game appearance in the infield on July 25. The last time he started a game at a position other than catcher was in June 2007 in Class AA. It was his only career start at a position other than catcher as a professional.
Sammons made no great play at third, but he also did no harm. He came away with a ground ball in the fourth and knocked down a line drive in the fifth that turned into a run only when Thurston made a wild throw to first. The ground ball in the fourth did stop a run from scoring. In a 4-3 win, the run mattered.
“It was fun to get out there and do something different,” Sammons said of his third minor-league appearance at third. “It was good to contribute in some way tonight.”
A wild lineup and thin bench didn’t show on the field. Gwinnett batted around in the first inning, taking a four-run lead it clung to in its win over Durham. The win ended a three-game losing streak.
“Sometimes that’s triple-A baseball,” manager Dave Brundage said.
A day after going scoreless and stranding 11 runners at Rochester, the G-Braves’ bats took out the frustration in the first inning. The first five Gwinnett batters recorded hits. Freddie Freeman had an RBI single and Barbaro Canizares followed with a three-run home run, his ninth of the season. Canizares ended the game 2-for-3 with two walks to up his league-leading batting average to .329. Freddie Freeman bested him with a 4-for-5 night that included a double. His now hitting 309.
Gwinnett didn’t score again, but faced three different Bulls pitcher in a 10-hit game.
“We made the most of our four runs today,” Brundage said. “You would like to put across a couple more.”
Like the G-Braves, the Bulls scored all their runs in a single inning. After four shut out innings from starter Brandon Beachy, Durham struck for three runs off four hits and an error in the fifth. Beachy escaped the inning with a ground ball to first and turned the one-run lead over to the bullpen.
“He didn’t have his best stuff but he was throwing strikes,” Brundage said of Beachy.
Major leaguer Eric O’Flaherty started off a string of scoreless innings in the sixth. He gave up a double, but struck out two in a rehab start coming back from mononucleosis. Scott Proctor, Stephen Marek and Craig Kimbrel closed the game out. Kimbrel earned his 18th save with a clean ninth inning.
“He’s been throwing the ball well,” Brundage said of Kimbrel. “He had an outstanding road trip, working ahead and throwing strikes.”