Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Gwinnett Braves’ Barbaro Canizares tries to pick off Syracuse’s Pete Orr (17) as he dives back to first on Friday.
LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett Braves found hits almost impossible to come by in the opener of Friday night’s doubleheader against the Syracuse Chiefs.
That was hardly the case in Game 2, but they still had trouble coming up with a hit at the right time.
CHIEFS 5-1, G-BRAVES 0-0
What happened: Gwinnett was nearly no-hit for the second time this season at Coolray Field as Craig Stammen was just one out away from a seven-inning no-no in the opener before Josh Anderson broke it up with a clean single. The Syracuse right-hander settled for a two-hit shutout, with the other hit being Freddie Freeman’s pinch-hit, infield single a batter after Anderson’s hit.
In Game 2, the G-Braves managed hits in each of the first four innings, but stranded eight runners in the first five innings to waste a strong outing by Jose Ortegano, who gave up just two hits and one unearned run with four strikeouts in six innings to take the hard-luck loss.
Erik Arnesen combined with two relievers to shut out the G-Braves on five hits.
Crucial moments: Game 2 turned in both halves of the third inning. The G-Braves appeared to be out of a two on, nobody out situation with the game still scoreless when Justin Maxwell hit a routine grounder to short with the bases loaded two outs later. But Joe Thurston was ruled to have missed second base on the attempted force play, allowing Pedro Lopez to come home with the game’s first run. The G-Braves then loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Erik Arnsen struck out Freeman and got Mitch Jones to fly out to left to keep Syracuse in front 1-0.
Stat of the day: With the two doubleheaders over the last two days and no scheduled off day until the All-Star break July 12-14, the G-Braves are in a stretch in which they will play 27 games over 25 days.
On deck: After two straight days of doubleheaders, the two teams play just one game tonight beginning at 7:05. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens (0-0, 6.75 ERA) continues his comeback from a hamstring injury and makes his second rehabilitation start for the G-Braves, while left-hander Matt Chico (1-3, 4.46) gets the start for the Chiefs.
The result was a pair of shutout losses as the Chiefs pulled off a 5-0, 1-0 sweep of both seven-inning games before 5,140 fans at Coolray Field.
Syracuse right-hander Craig Stammen was just one out short of becoming the second opposing pitcher to no-hit the G-Braves this season before giving up a two-out single to Josh Anderson in the bottom of the seventh and settling for a two-hit shutout with four strikeouts.
In the nightcap, the G-Braves managed five hits, but still couldn’t bring anyone plateward against left-hander Erik Arnesen (2-2) and two Chiefs relievers.
“You just have to tip your cap to (Stammen) in the first one. He threw a nice ball game,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “The second game, you couldn’t ask for better opportunities than what we had all the way through. We just didn’t capitalize on them.”
Stammen (1-0) was in command most of in Game 1, especially from innings 2-7, when he set down 15 of 16 G-Braves, with only an error on Barbaro Canizares’ grounder to third interrupting the string.
While hits were hard to come by off Stammen (1-0), the G-Braves weren’t lacking for baserunners, at least in the early innings.
Jordan Schafer reached on an error and stole second with one out before being stranded there.
And Anderson drew a one-out walk, stole second and went to third when the throw went into center field and Luis Bolivar was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and third with one out in the second.
But Stammen, who made 19 starts for the Washington Nationals last year before starting out this season at Class AA Harrisburg, battled back to strike out Clint Sammons and got Gwinnett starter Todd Redmond (7-6) to bounce out to third to escape damage.
Redmond, who threw a no-hitter himself May 28 in Louisville, was almost as strong as the right-hander scattered six hits and three earned runs with two strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.
However, as well as he was throwing to Syracuse batters, he had a little more trouble throwing to the bases.
A pair of throwing errors by Redmond opened the door for a pair of unearned runs on an RBI double by former Atlanta Brave Pete Orr and a sacrifice fly by Jason Botts, which gave the Chiefs a 2-0 lead after three innings.
Two more runs on Botts’ two-run double in the fifth then gave Syracuse a little breathing room at 4-0, and Justin Maxwell made it 5-0 with his solo home run to lead off the sixth, and the only question left was whether Stammen would get the no-hitter.
Anderson ended that possibility with Stammen just one out away by lining an 0-1 pitch into right for a clean single.
However, the Chiefs right-hander was able to pitch around that hit, and Freddie Freeman’s subsequent pinch-hit, infield single, to keep his shutout.
The G-Braves had little trouble finding hits or baserunners throughout the nightcap as they had at least one hit through the first four innings and at least one baserunner through the first five.
But they stranded eight through those first five innings, including a combined five in the third and fourth.
The best chance came when Diory Hernandez led off the fourth with a walk and moved to second on Joe Thurston’s sacrifice bunt.
Alex Romero then sent a soft liner just out of the reach of a diving Pedro Lopez at short and into centerfield for a single.
Hernandez initially held up and tried to score when the ball went through, but was gunned down at the plate by Justin Maxwell.
That allowed Syracuse to score the game’s only run in the third when Thurston was ruled to have missed the bag on what appeared to an inning-ending force play on Maxwell’s grounder to short.
“Just a couple of mental errors,” Brundage said. “We had numerous opportunities. We certainly didn’t take advantage. It was a tough game to lose, especially the way (Jose) Ortegano was pitching.”
Indeed, the missed opportunities wasted an outstanding performance from G-Braves lefty Ortegano (2-3), who gave up just the one unearned run and two hits with four strikeouts over six innings.
Arnesen gave way to Atahualpa Severino, who got the first two outs in the sixth before Joel Peralta got the final out of the inning, and then set down the G-Braves in order in the seventh to earn his 20th save of the season.