LAWRENCEVILLE — Entering the game with a .143 batting average, Diory Hernandez’ struggles at the plate were obvious.
In his first five games, the infielder who split time the past two seasons between Gwinnett and Atlanta had just three hits, one double and no RBIs. His play in the field, however, had been flawless at both second base and shortstop.
Both streaks ended Wednesday.
G-Braves 8, Tides 3
• What happened: Diory Hernandez’ two-RBI doubles in the third gave the G-Braves a 3-2 lead and they cruised from there to take two of three against foundering Norfolk. Starter Rodrigo Lopez threw 72⁄3 innings, allowing one earned run off five hits with five strikeouts to improve his record to 2-0. Dan Nelson hit a three-run home run in a four-run fourth inning that put the game out of reach. Joe Mather went 2-for-3 with a run scored and reached base three times and Jordan Schafer walked twice and scored a run.
• Stat of the day: Hernandez got his first multi-hit game and first RBIs on a 3-for-4 night, including two doubles and three RBIs.
• Where’s it going?: Pitcher Rodrigo Lopez lost control of a pitch during the fourth inning and it landed closer to him than home plate. The ball didn’t count as a pitch and Lopez rebounded to retire the side.
• Green’s day: Duluth graduate Nick Green walked in his final at-bat on a an 0-for-3 night, but the walk led to the Tides final run when he scored on a sac fly in the ninth.
• Pivotal moment: Dan Nelson crushed his second home run to plate three runs and give the G-Braves a 7-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
• On deck: RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 1.59 ERA) gets his second shot at a win against Charlotte’s RHP Jeff Marquez (1-0, 0.00).
Hernandez made his first of two errors in just his second game at shortstop on a double-play ball in the first inning. But he made up for it in a big way at the plate.
In his second at-bat, Hernandez knocked in the go-ahead run when he doubled with two outs to score Jordan Schafer and Jose Constanza. Hernandez added an RBI single and another double on a 3-for-4 night that raised his average to .240. The G-Braves rode Hernandez’ production to an 8-3 series-clinching win over Norfolk.
“(Hernandez’ hit) changed the complexion of the game,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “The most important thing is the offense had good production.”
Hernandez, who played 53 games in the major leagues over the past two season with the Braves, hit .319 for Gwinnett the past two seasons. Like his first at-bat Wednesday, even the well-hit balls found defenders’ gloves.
“I am working with my swing,” Hernandez said. “It’s early in the season. I just have to work hard every day.”
Hernandez’ first-inning error was just one of a few rough moments for Rodrigo Lopez in his second start with the G-Braves. The right-hander allowed a lead-off single, gave up two hits and walked a batter in a two-run first inning. He also had one wind up land in the grass next to him in the fourth.
But those instances don’t paint the picture of Lopez’ game.
After allowing two runs, one earned, in the first inning, the veteran retired 10 straight hitters. He struck out five and allowed five hits over 72⁄3 innings. He walked just one.
“He got stronger and stronger,” Brundage said of Lopez. “His command was outstanding. It just seemed like he was one pitch ahead. He got some first-pitch outs. He did exactly what you are supposed to do with a lead.”
The first three Gwinnett runs all came with two outs. Actually, the third-inning rally didn’t begin until there were two outs. Matt Kennelly and Schafer both walked and Constanza got the scoring started with an RBI single to set the table for Hernandez.
“That was big,” Brundage said of the two-out scoring. “We haven’t had a lot of production with two outs.”
Entering Wednesday, Gwinnett was 2-for-20 (.100) with two-outs and runners in scoring position.
And the run support kept coming for Lopez. After taking the lead on Hernandez’ double, the G-Braves exploded for runs in the fourth, including a three-run homer by Dan Nelson. His second of the season.
“Sometimes you get lucky and run into one,” Nelson said.
The rest of the way it was Lopez, who left with two outs in the seventh after he gave up a single to Nolan Reimold. He threw 70 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
Anthony Varvaro entered and allowed one run over his 11⁄3 innings, but the lead was too big for the Tides.