Lawrenceville LAWRENCEVILLE – You couldn’t blame the Gwinnett hitters if they were sorry to hit the road for the final trip of the regular season. Coolray Field was mighty kind to them on Sunday.
The G-Braves blasted a team-record six homers and ripped Norfolk 14-8 to complete a 5-1 homestand and move within 1 ½ games of Lehigh Valley in the International League wild-card race.
Gwinnett (74-61) is in a battle for first place in the South Division as well and opens a two-game series at first-place Durham on Monday night.
The set will be the final games between the G-Braves and Bulls this season and is the beginning of a seven-trip. The regular season for Gwinnett concludes with two games back at Coolray Field against Charlotte on Sept. 4-5.
Coolray has been regarded as a pitcher’s park, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the series finale against the Tides before a crowd of 5,131. Norfolk hit three homers and the nine combined homers were the most ever at the three-year old stadium.
Brandon Hicks hit a grand slam for the G-Braves and Stefan Gartrell, Mauro Gomez, Wilkin Ramirez, Wilkin Castillo and Jeff Fiorentino also hit home runs. Rhyne Hughes, Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder connected for Norfolk.
The homer by Gartrell gave him 26 for the season and he had four RBIs to give him 91. He has 25 homers and 88 RBIs with the G-Braves, both team records. Freddie Freeman had 87 RBIs last season.
Chris Tillman, who pitched a no-hitter for Norfolk at Coolray Field last season, gave up nine runs and three of the Gwinnett homers in 4 1/3 innings as he fell to 3-5.
Erik Cordier, just off the disabled list, was the beneficiary of the G-Braves power surge. He allowed four runs in five innings to go to 5-8.
Norfolk took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, when Hughes connected for his homer. But Gwinnett scored six times in the third and never trailed the rest of the way.
The Tide-turning hit was Hicks’ second grand slam of the season. He also connected with the bases loaded against Durham at Coolray Field on July 4 and the shortstop has 17 homers this season.
Gartrell and Gomez connected in the fifth inning off Tillman. Ramirez homered off Cole McCurry in the sixth, while Castillo and Fiorentino went deep back-to-back off Sean Gleason in the seventh.
Gomez was 4-for-4 with a walk, scoring three runs and driving in two. The homer was his 21st of the year.
Bell homered for Norfolk in the seventh inning off Dustin Richardson and Brandon Snyder connected against Steven Shell in the ninth. The slugfest ended with the Tides leaving the bases loaded.
Todd Redmond hasn’t had much luck against Durham, but he will be called on to get the road trip off to a good start as the G-Braves fight for a second playoff spot in their three seasons. Gwinnett is 9-10 against Durham this season.
Redmond, 9-8 with a 2.97 ERA, is 0-3 against the Bulls this year despite a 1.74 ERA in five starts. For his career, he is 2-6 with a 4.37 ERA against Durham in 13 outings.