LAWRENCEVILLE — Former Atlanta Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami had his good moments. Rehabbing reliever Eric O’Flaherty had few bad ones.
In his third start since the Braves optioned him to Class AAA, Kawakami battled through four innings, despite only allowing one earned run. The right-hander threw 40 of his 69 pitches for strikes and struck out three. An error on a deep fly ball set up the game’s first run when the second Norfolk batter singled. A leadoff home run by the Tides Lou Montanez accounted for Kawakami’s earned run.
Tides 4, G-Braves 2
What happened: Gwinnett committed five errors that led to three unearned runs in a series-splitting loss to Norfolk. Kenshin Kawakami started and threw four innings, allowing two runs, one earned, and striking out three. He allowed a solo home run in the second for the Tides’ only earned run. The G-Braves tied the game 2-2 in the seventh with three straight hits and a sac bunt by Joe Thurston. But in the top of the eighth, reliever Stephen Marek was given a hard-luck error on a hard-hit line drive. Norfolk turned the error into two runs.
Rehab watch: Eric O’Flaherty pitched two scoreless innings, walking one and striking out the side in the eighth. He did commit a fielding error and walked a batter.
Title hunt: DH Barbaro Canizares went 1-for-4 to drop his league-leading batting average to .336
Nagging injury: After making a sprinting catch over his head in centerfield to end the third inning, Nate McLouth abruptly left the game in favor of the recently optioned Brandon Hicks in the bottom half. The official explanation was a sore shin from the night before.
On deck: Gwinnett will take its final off day today before the regular season ends, then heads to Charlotte for a four-game road trip. Neither teams have announced starters, but RHP Brandon Beachy (2-0, 3.27 ERA) would have the next turn in the current rotation.
The G-Braves scored two runs in the seventh to get Kawakami off the hook for the loss but gave the runs right back in the eighth in a 4-2 loss. A pair of errors set up the final two runs and the G-Braves’ five errors led to just one earned run for the Tides.
“The first couple of innings, I had trouble throwing strikes,” Kawakami said through a translator. “In the third and fourth innings I settled in and pitched more to my capabilities.”
He struck out two of his three batters in his final two innings and said he felt strong enough to pitch longer.
“I don’t think stamina is a problem,” Kawakami said. “I think I am ready go to up in pitch count and in innings.”
Then came rehabbing reliever Eric O’Flaherty. The left-hander looked solid again, needing just 29 pitches to get through two innings. He walked his first batter and allowed a second runner to reach on his own error. But he ended the sixth inning with a ground ball double play and just got stronger in the seventh when he struck out the side.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel ready to compete. Today I got off to a slow start, but I figured it out.
“I feel strong.”
O’Flaherty has not pitched for Atlanta since July 9 and has been on the disabled list with mononucleosis since July 15. In his three appearances with the G-Braves, O’Flaherty has pitched four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out five. He walked just one.
The comeback was a challenge for the lefty since he was battling an illness rather than injury. He had to gain lost weight and build up his strength.
O’Flaherty said he doesn’t know when he’ll be activated, but said he hopes his rehab time is over.
“I feel fine, stamina-wise,” he said.
The G-Braves waited through O’Flaherty’s outing to rally. Barbaro Canizares kicked off the seventh with a single and later scored on an RBI single by Brent Clevlen. Willie Cabrera scored the tying run on a groundout by Luis Bolivar. The tying run was set up by Joe Thurston’s sacrifice bunt.
But the G-Braves couldn’t overcome their five errors. Two, two-out errors in the top of the eighth led to two Norfolk runs on a double by Scott Moore. The G-Braves went down in order in the eighth and ninth.