LAWRENCEVILLE — If the plan is to stretch Kenshin Kawakami into the Braves long reliever and spot starter in September, his pitch count is where it needs to be.
His ERA is another matter.
G-Braves 4, Bulls 3
• What happened: Joe Thurston’s RBI single in the ninth capped a four-run rally and gave the G-Braves their sixth straight win and second straight series sweep over Durham. Wilkin Ramirez scored the winning run after tying the game with a two-RBI double earlier in the inning. Kenshin Kawakami threw 52⁄3 innings, allowing three runs and striking out six in another no-decision. He threw 99 pitches. Stephen Marek earned his second win in relief pitching a scoreless ninth.
• Stat of the day: The series sweep was the first consecutive series sweep for the Gwinnett Braves.
• Injury updated: Wes Timmons is still on the DL, but will not have surgery on his strained abdominal and should be available to return to play soon.
• Barbaro at bat: Canizares went 1-for-4 to dip his average to .336, but his one hit helped the G-Braves’ winning rally.
• Attrition begins: The Braves called up closer Craig Kimbrel in the first of a few expected moves as rosters expand on Wednesday.
• Turning two: With four double plays in the game, the G-Braves tied a season high.
• On deck: Gwinnett welcomes Norfolk to Coolray Field for the final home series of the season today with RHP Todd Redmond (9-10, 4.20 ERA) facing off against the Tides’ LHP Chris George (5-7, 4.45).
The former big-league starter sent to Gwinnett after losing his rotation spot to Kris Medlen in Atlanta threw 99 pitches Friday and lasted 52⁄3 innings. Now it looks like the spot belongs to rookie Mike Minor.
Kawakami struck out six and walked just one. But none of it came easy. He gave up nine hits over his fifth Class AAA start, three were for extra bases and one was a home run. He needed three double plays to escape trouble, including a 1-2-3 double play after he walked the bases loaded in the second inning. His only clean inning was the third. His ERA climbed to 4.29.
The G-Braves got Kawakami off the hook for the loss with a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Bulls 4-3 for the second straight series sweep. It’s the first back-to-back series sweep for the Gwinnett Braves.
“It was an exciting finish,” manager Dave Brundage said. “I know we are just hanging on by a thread in the wild card race, but it’s nice to see the guys continuing to play hard.”
The G-Braves are now 61⁄2 games back for the wild card.
After leadoff singles by Troy Glaus and Barbaro Canizares, Wilkin Ramirez doubled in the tying two runs. Durham kept reliever Winston Abreu in the game and his command evaporated. He walked the bases loaded and Joe Thurston singled in Ramirez to win the game.
“I knew if I just put the ball in play, at least one run would score,” said Ramirez, who was 2-for-4 and reached on a close error. “It went into the gap.
“It’s fun whenever you win. Everything is fun, no matter what happened.”
For Kawakami a no-decision is always better than a loss.
As the right-hander’s innings and pitches have increased with the G-Braves, his struggles with consistency only increased. In his last two starts he lasted into the sixth inning and struck out a total of 15 batters. But in those same two games he allowed three home runs and seven earned runs. He only won one game in 15 starts in the big leagues and is the only pitcher on the G-Braves roster without a win after four starts.
“My pitch-count was a little high for the amount of innings that I pitched today,” said Kawakami through a translator. “There were good parts to the game. The bad part was I gave up too many easy hits.”
Kawakami left the game in the sixth with a cramp.
Kawakami is just one of a few G-Braves who will head to Atlanta when rosters expand next week. Reliever Craig Kimbrel began the trend Friday when Atlanta promoted him for an extra bullpen arm.
After some struggles on defense Glaus showed some life at third on Friday starting a double play on a bouncing ground ball and ducking a flying bat to make another out. His bat came up big to start the rally and he appears more comfortable at third base.
Even as call-ups loom, Brundage points to Friday’s late rally as evidence this team is not just looking ahead.
“Not everyone is going to get called up,” he said. “We’re not going to pack it in until the season is over.”