LAWRENCEVILLE — Tim Gustafson could only watch as the Gwinnett Braves bullpen flirted with disaster over the final two innings of Friday night’s series opener with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
But four G-Braves relievers were able to dodge enough bullets not to ruin the Parkview grad’s good night’s work.
G-BRAVES 3, YANKEES 2
What happened: Parkview grad Tim Gustafson took a no-hitter into the sixth and gave up just two hits in six shutout innings, while Jordan Schafer and Wes Timmons each went 2-for-3 as the G-Braves made two early runs stand up.
Stat of the day: The top three hitters in the G-Braves’ batting order Schafer, Timmons and Joe Thurston combined to go 5-for-9 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Web gem: G-Braves left fielder Matt Young laid out to make a diving catch to rob Yankees leftfielder Chad Huffman of extra bases in the top of the eighth.
Pivotal moment: Young’s grab couldn’t have come at a more critical time. The G-Braves watched a 3-0 lead nearly evaporate after consecutive hits by former teammate Reid Gorecki, Reegie Corona and Eduaro Nunez brought the Yankees to within a run. Huffman’s drive looked like it would at least tie the game, but Young had other ideas.
On deck: The series with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre continues tonight at 7:05 at Coolray Field. Right-hander Chris Resop (4-1, 2.03 ERA) takes to the mound for the G-Braves, while right-hander Ivan Nova gets the start for the Yankees.
The right-hander had a no-hitter through five innings and gave up just two hits in six shutout innings as the G-Braves edged the Yankees 3-2 before 5,231 fans at Coolray Field.
Gustafson (5-3) was in command much of his six innings of work, allowing just the two hits to lead off the sixth, though those two hits did lead to his only troublesome inning.
Matt Cusick sent the right-hander’s first offering of the inning into center field for a single and went to second when Greg Golson laid down a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a single.
Former G-Braves outfielder Reid Gorecki then drew a walk, and the bases were loaded with nobody out.
But Gustafson bore down and struck out Reegie Corona and got Eduaro Nunez to send a high pop in front of the mound that first baseman Mitch Jones easily gloved for the second out.
He then induced a fly ball that left Matt Young squeezed to escape the jam with the G-Braves still leading 2-0.
While Gustafson was in command on the mound, the G-Braves got their bats going early.
After Jordan Schafer led off with a single and stole second, Wes Timmons followed with a bunt single, followed by a pair of passed balls by Yankees catcher Jesus Montero, the first of which brought Schafer home with the game’s first run.
Joe Thurston then followed with an RBI single, and the G-Braves led 2-0.
They had trouble adding to the lead against Scranton starter Romulo Sanchez (2-4), stranding five baserunners — including four in scoring position — over the next four innings.
But they finally got a little insurance in the sixth when Mitch Jones led off with a double and came home an out later on Matt Young’s RBI triple to left-center off veteran lefty reliever Royce Ring, pushing Gwinnett’s lead to 3-0.
The G-Braves had more trouble to escape after the Yankees struck for two runs on consecutive hits by Gorecki, Corona and Nunez with two outs in the top of the eighth, cutting Gwinnett’s lead to 3-2.
And the lead was in serious jeopardy when Chad Huffman sent a deep drive toward the gap in left-center that looked like a sure extra base hit that would bring in the tying run.
But Young sprinted after it and made a diving catch on the warning track to end the inning with the G-Braves still in front.
Still more trouble began to brew in the ninth after Montero drew a two-out walk and Rene Rivera followed with a pinch-hit single to left, putting the tying run in scoring position and the potential go-ahead run on first.
However, Michael Dunn, who came into the game after Stephen Marek recorded the first out in the inning, fanned Golson to end the game and record his third save of the season.