Gwinnett Braves’ Wilkin Ramirez swings at the ball during a game against the Charlotte Knights on Wednesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE — The way he’s been hitting, Barbaro Canizares may not have needed any help. But the New York Mets gave him some anyway.
With Buffalo’s Jesus Feliciano back in the major leagues, the Gwinnett designated hitter has a clear path to the International League batting title. Canizares, who raised his average to .337 in the G-Braves’ 9-6 victory over Charlotte on Wednesday night, has been atop the IL leaderboard since July 27. But Feliciano has actually had a higher average the entire time. He just doesn’t have enough plate appearances to be listed.
G-Braves turn first ever triple play
The Gwinnett Braves turned their first triple play Wednesday night, giving fans at Coolray Field a rare thrill to talk about.
After starter Scott Diamond allowed two singles to start the game against Charlotte, Freddie Freeman quickly got the G-Braves starter out of trouble. Then Freeman speared Dayan Viciedo’s liner, raced to the bag to double up Brent Morel and then threw to shortstop Joe Thurston to easily catch Buck Coats off second base.
The last time Atlanta’s Class AAA team turned a triple play was in 2005, when Richmond did it. This is Gwinnett’s second season in the International League.
G-Braves 9, Knights 6
• What happened: Gwinnett scored five runs in the first inning Wednesday night and swept the three-game home series with Charlotte to improve to 65-66 overall and 34-32 at Coolray Field.
• Streaking: SS Joe Thurston smashed a three-run homer in the first inning, stretching his RBI streak to six games. He has three homers and 11 RBIs during the streak.
• Good and bad: 3B Troy Glaus was 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in his third rehab game for Gwinnett, but committed his third error.
• Plenty of support: Given a big cushion to work with, LHP Scott Diamond (3-0) went 61⁄3 innings for the victory. RHP Craig Kimbrel allowed a pair of two-out walks and a wild pitch in the ninth, but recorded his 22nd save.
• Sub starter: RHP Nate McCulloch (1-4) was brought up from Class AA to start for Charlotte when RHP Lucas Harrell was promoted to the White Sox.
•Surgery update: G-Braves SS Brandon Hicks had two pins put in his broken right hand during surgery Wednesday and won’t be available to return to Atlanta this season. He was hit at the base of his index finger trying to bunt at Charlotte on Friday.
• Roster move: RHP Vladimir Nunez (left hamstring) was activated from the DL, giving the G-Braves 13 pitchers.
• Up next: LHP Jose Ortegano (3-9, 6.33 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the G-Braves tonight as firs-place Durham comes to Coolray Field for a two-game series. RHP Brian Baker (8-4, 3.34 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Bulls, which had their nine-game winning streak snapped Wednesday by Norfolk. The 7:05 p.m. game will be televised by CSS.
Now Feliciano, batting .342 in 78 games, won’t have time to reach the needed total after being recalled by the Mets from Buffalo for the third time. He has 322 plate appearances, and 389 are needed to win the batting title.
Canizares was 2-for-3 with a walk as the G-Braves swept the three-game series at Coolray Field against Charlotte and drove in a run with a seventh-inning double.
“I’d like to see any of our players win, but I have a special place for Barbaro,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “He has such a passion for hitting.”
Brundage almost had a batting champion in 2007 at Richmond, when Martin Prado needed a four-hit game in the season finale and finished just a hit shy at .316 to the .319 of Buffalo’s Ben Francisco.
The last of Atlanta’s Class AAA players to lead the IL in hitting was Tommy Gregg, who did it in 1997. Before that, you have to go back to Ralph Garr. The future Braves standout won back-to-back titles in 1969 and 1970.
Canizares, a 30-year-old Cuban, hit only .258 in April, but his average has been on a steady rise since. He hit .350 in July while taking over the batting lead and is hitting .388 in August. He has 10 homers and 67 RBIs in 114 games.
“I believe in my heart that he can hit at the major league level,” said Brundage, who has Canizares for the fourth straight season.
While the 31-year-old Feliciano has bounced back and forth with the Mets, Canizares is still waiting for a call from Atlanta this year after getting a brief look a year ago.
With top prospect Freddie Freeman playing first base almost every day for the G-Braves, Canizares has mostly been relegated to being a full time DH. That usually means a seat on the bench when the G-Braves play another National League team.
“I actually think it’s helped him because he’s fresher going down the stretch than he would be,” Brundage said.
“Plus, it’s been great for us to have him as a pinch hitter.”
It certainly has been. Canizares is 9-for-16 in that role for a .553 average.
Durham’s Elliot Johnson is the closest qualifier to Canizares in the batting race at .322. Freeman was 2-for-3 with a walk in the series final with Charlotte to lift his average to .317. He had a double and drove in a run. Troy Glaus was 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in his third rehab game at third base for Gwinnett, but committed his third error in two games when he muffed a bunt.
With the series sweep, the G-Braves moved to within a win of .500 at 65-66 and are 34-32 at home. South Division champion Durham plays two games at Coolray Field beginning tonight and then the home season ends with three games against Norfolk.