Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Gwinnett Braves' Diory Hernandez tries for the double play at second base as Buffalo's Lucas Duda (51) slides into the base on Wednesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett Braves certainly haven’t lacked opportunities during the current series with Buffalo.
However, they haven’t been the most efficient in cashing in on them, with the latest example being Wednesday night’s contest.
BISONS 5, G-BRAVES 4
What happened: The G-Braves outhit the Bisons 12-8 and scored a run in every odd-numbered inning until the ninth. However, they couldn’t overcome Buffalo’s three-run first, plus sixth-inning solo homers from Mike Jacobs and Lucas Duda in falling for the fifth time in the last seven games.
Crucial moment: Trailing 5-4, the G-Braves put the potential tying runs into scoring position in both the eighth and ninth innings the former after Joe Thurston’s leadoff double and Josh Anderson’s sacrifice bunt, and the latter after Jordan Schafer’s leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt by Matt Young and Freddie Freeman’s getting hit by a pitch. However, they came up empty each time, with the game ending on a strikeout-throw out double play at third base.
Web gems: Diory Hernandez ranged far into the hole between short and third to get to Valentino Pescucci’s grounder, and then made strong throw while leaping into air to nip the Buffalo rightfielder by a half step. Two batters later, Freeman dove to his right to snag Mike Cervanek’s hot shot to first.
Worth noting: G-Braves catcher Clint Sammons reached a milestone with his single leading off the fourth inning. It was the 500th career hit of the Parkview grad’s minor-league career.
On deck: Atlanta Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens gets his third rehab start for the G-Braves on his way back from a hamstring injury as the four-game series, and the homestand, concludes tonight at 7:05. Jurrjens’ pitch count is expected to rise to 90. Right-hander Dillon Gee (6-4, 4.72 ERA) gets the start for Buffalo.
The G-Braves banged out 12 hits and scored in every odd-numbered inning except the ninth, and with the exception of a four-batter stretch with two outs in the first inning and a three-batter stretch in the sixth, the pitching was also good.
However, the few lapses — along with sixth-inning solo home runs from Mike Jacobs and Lucas Duda — were enough to doom them to a 5-4 defeat before 4,346 fans at Coolray Field.
“We just kind of felt like we weren’t in the driver’s seat,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “We swung the bats well, and we had some good opportunities.”
Matt Young and Freddie Freeman each had three hits on the night, while Mitch Jones added two more, including his team-leading 12th homer of the season.
Yet the G-Braves played most of the game trying to climb out of a hole.
Todd Redmond (7-7) retired the first two Buffalo hitters without incident before running into trouble in the top of the first.
The Bisons erupted for four straight hits — including doubles by Jorge Padilla and Valentino Pascucci alternating with singles by Mike Jacobs and Lucas Duda — to take a 3-0 lead.
From there, Redmond gathered himself, setting down 14 of the next 15 batters he faced, which allowed the G-Braves start to chipping away against Buffalo starter Ramon Ortiz.
Young’s one-out triple and Freeman’s RBI single in the bottom of the first pulled Gwinnett to within 3-1.
The G-Braves then put three more hits together in the third, with the last being Diory Hernandez’s two-out RBI single to cut the Buffalo lead to 3-2.
Jones then greeted reliever Bobby Livingston (3-7) with his second homer in as many nights to even the game 3-3.
But Buffalo regained the lead in the top of the sixth with its own display of power.
Mike Jacobs’ solo homer was followed two batters later when Lucas Duda lined a solo shot into the visitors bullpen, putting the Bisons back in front at 5-3.
“We kept having to play catch-up,” Brundage said. “We get the game tied up, and they go out and get a couple homers.”
Still, Michael Dunn and Craig Kimbrel combined to throw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and the G-Braves had plenty of chances to answer at the plate.
They got one back on Jones’ sacrifice fly in the seventh to pull to within 5-4, and put the trying run in scoring position with less than two outs in both the eighth and ninth inning.
The latter looked particularly promising, especially when Freeman was hit by a 1-2 pitch follwing Jordan Schafer’s leadoff single and Young’s sacrifice bunt, to bring up Jones representing the potential winning run.
However, the G-Braves’ attempt to be proactive backfired when Manny Acosta struck out Jones on a 3-2 pitch, and Josh Thole threw Schafer out trying to steal third to end the game.
“When you look up and see we had more hits than (Buffalo), but scored less runs, it’s definitely weird,” said Freeman, who finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI to extend his season-best hitting streak to 12 games. “They kept making plays on us and getting out of the inning. That’s baseball. That will happens.
“We haven’t been having those opportunities. Now we’re starting to get them. So, we’ll start coming around. Hits will start falling. ... When that happens, we’ll start winning.”