Photo: Karl L. Moore. Gwinnett Braves' starter Randall Delgado makes his debut against the Charlotte Knights during Saturday's game at Coolray Field.
LAWRENCEVILLE — With a big-league start all ready this season, there wasn’t any question Randall Delgado could get the best hitters out.
He made it clear Saturday he can dominate hitters in Class AAA.
Making his AAA debut and 100th career minor league start, Delgado blew through the Charlotte Knights, facing the minimum off one hit in his first three innings. He left the game after the sixth with a shutout and nine strikeouts. He walked three batters and allowed three hits. The stadium gun clocked him in the mid-to-low 90s for the entire start with his off-speed stuff dipping toward 80.
G-Braves 4, Knights 0
• What happened: Randall Delgado did not disappoint in his Class AAA debut. The right-hander pitched six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine. The native of Panama earned his first win since June 30 in his 100th career minor league start. Matt Young went 2-for-3 with two runs scored including a steal of home in the first inning. Mauro Gomez homered in the fourth and Tyler Pastornicky scored in a passed ball in the sixth inning. Charlotte starter Doug Davis took the loss despite seven strikeouts.
• Shattered mark: Mauro Gomez’s 19th home run of the season made him the second player this season to surpass the previous season high of 18 set by Freddie Freeman last year.
• Gutsy steal: With two outs in the first inning the speedy Matt Young stole home against Durham starter Doug Davis.
• Streaking: Pastornicky increased his hit streak to 11 games with and RBI single in the sixth inning.
• Web gem: Former prospect Lastings Milledge robbed Diory Hernandez of a base hit in the fifth with a diving grab charging in from left field.
• Up next: The G-Braves finish off the four-game series with Charlotte with RHP Julio Teheran (12-1, 1.90 ERA) facing the Knights’ RHP Joe Bisenius (3-1, 2.98) today at 2 p.m.
“I was trying to, before the game, think about the runners … and just stay concentrated,” Delgado said. “I never thought, ‘I have to do a really, really good job.’ I threw very well and I just tried to stay (focused).”
Gwinnett’s offense backed Delgado and the G-Braves ended a three-game skid with a 4-0 win over Charlotte.
“He was as advertised,” manager Dave Brundage said. “That’s how you want to draw up your first triple-A outing. He gets called up and we are playing for something here and he gets to contribute right away. He had good stuff tonight. It was pretty evident right from the start.”
Delgado earned his first win since June 30, a tribute to the struggles of the Mississippi Braves. The 21-year-old native of Panama entered the season as the Braves No. 3 best prospect behind teammate Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves’ everyday first baseman Freddie Freeman. He made 21 starts with Class AA Mississippi going 5-5 with a 3.84 ERA over 1171⁄3 innings, he struck out 110 and walked 46. His nine strikeouts Saturday were the most for Delgado since he K’d 10 on May 9 with the M-Braves. He used all three of his pitches, fastball, change-up and curve ball, topping out at 96 mph.
“I felt a little tired with the road trip,” he said, noting the late arrival from Friday’s nearly three-hour delayed game. “I just tried to eat well and rest.”
Delgado, who occasionally would lose control for entire starts in Mississippi, showed very few signs of that Saturday. He walked two batters in the fourth inning and also balked, loading the bases with two outs. But after a quick conference on the mound, he escaped the trouble with a weak fly ball to center field.
“That’s not entirely a bad thing,” Brundage said of the one-inning hiccup. “There are learning lessons along the way. He made pitches when he needed to.”
He allowed one hit and one walk the rest of his outing and struck out at least one batter in each inning.
With a major league appearance already on his resume, Delgado said he didn’t feel nervous making his AAA debut. He made his major league debut against the Texas Rangers on June 17, allowing three earned runs over four innings, including a home run to American League MVP Josh Hamilton.
“If I hadn’t pitched there, maybe I would have come here and been a little bit nervous, but I didn’t even think about it,” Delgado said.
Gwinnett gave Delgado early run support when Matt Young stole home in the bottom of the first inning. Knights’ starter Doug Davis had a slow delivery home and Young took off, forcing an off-line pitch from the lefty, scoring easily. Young paced the G-Braves’ offense going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles that both led to runs.
Brundage and Young collaborated on the steal home when they saw Davis return to his windup.
“I just said, ‘You want it?’” Brundage said. “I knew the way he was looking at me. I said, ‘Take it.’”
The G-Braves added a second run in the fourth inning when Mauro Gomez crushed his 19th home run of the season to center field. Gomez is now the second Gwinnett Braves hitter this season to break the previous team high of 18 home runs in a year set by Freddie Freeman last season.
After Delgado finished his sixth inning, Gwinnett piled on two more runs to Davis’ night. Tyler Pastornicky singled in Young to increase his hitting streak to 11 games and the shortstop later scored on a passed ball.
Corey Gearrin and Jaio Asencio finished off the Knights. Gearrin pitched a one-hit seventh and Asencio pitched the final two innings allowing one hit and one walk.
“I know he’s struggling with his rhythm and trying to get himself back to the way he is capable of pitching,” Brundage said of Gearrin, who struggled with his command in his last outing. “Tonight it was pretty clear he came back tonight with quality strikes, quality pitches.”