Photo: Karl L. Moore
Gwinnett Brave’s pitcher Cristhian Martinez pitches against the Durham Bulls on Monday at Coolray Field.
LAWRENCEVILLE — The postgame fireworks were nearly anti-climatic following the Gwinnett Braves offensive explosion in their 11-3 victory over the Durham Bulls at Coolray Field on the Fourth of July.
Trailing 1-0 after the first inning behind a pitcher making his first start of the season, the G-Braves unloaded on the Bulls with three runs in the fourth and sixth innings followed by a five spot in the eighth — fueled by a Brandon Hicks grand slam — to secure the win.
That sent a season-high crowd of 10,226 — third largest in Coolray Field history — home happy after a spectacular fireworks display out beyond right field.
G-Braves 11, Bulls 3
What happened: In front of a season-high crowd of 10,226 fans, the Gwinnett Braves jumped back in first place in the IL South. Gwinnett trailed 1-0 after the first inning, but posted three runs in the fourth and sixth innings and five in the eighth. Brandon Hicks’ grand slam, his 13th round-tripper of the season, capped the rally.
Welcome back: Cristhian Martinez made his first start of the season for the G-Braves after being optioned from Atlanta on July 2. Martinez worked a pre-determined five innings and threw 65 pitches, 47 of those strikes, allowing one earned run on three hits to pick up the win. He struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.
Haunting his former team: Chris Carter wasn’t a friendly host to his former team at Coolray Field as the designated hitter batted in the cleanup spot and finished with a 4-for-5 night and 3 RBIs, including a line-drive homer down the right field line in his second at-bat.
Spreading the wealth: All nine starters for the G-Braves had at least one base hit in the victory over the Bulls.
On deck: The G-Braves close out a brief two-game homestand with the second game against Durham, sending RHP Todd Redmond (5-7, 3.07 ERA) to face the Bulls’ LHP Alex Torres (4-6, 3.59 ERA) tonight at 7:05 p.m.
Cristhian Martinez, optioned to Gwinnett from Atlanta on July 2, was on a five-inning or 75-pitch restriction as he made his first start of the season.
Following a first inning when Durham leadoff batter Desmond Jennings singled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Leslie Anderson, Martinez struck out the next two batters. The right-hander was solid from that point on.
Martinez (1-0) eventually threw 65 pitches, 47 of those strikes, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in five innings of work and picked up the win.
“I thought (Martinez) found his rhythm and maybe got a little bit of the rust off,” said G-Braves manager Dave Brundage. “I know he hasn’t thrown that much, but certainly after that he was fabulous. He changed speeds well and worked to both sides of the plate.”
That was enough time for the G-Braves offense to come alive and pick up the win to move back into first place in the International League South at 46-38, a game ahead of Durham (45-39).
Gwinnett took the lead for good in the fourth, thanks to a line-drive homer from former Bull Chris Carter and RBI singles from J.C. Boscan and Jose Constanza.
The G-Braves added three more in the sixth as Ruben Gotay launched his sixth home run of the season and Carter added an RBI double along with a Mauro Gomez RBI single.
Carter finished the night 4-for-5 with a round-tripper, his second as a G-Brave and 12th of the season, and three RBIs.
Durham chipped away with single runs in the seventh and eighth to close the gap to 6-3 before the G-Braves put the game away in the eighth on the Hicks’ grand slam, his 13th homer of the season.
“It was fun to watch (the runs being scored),” Brundage said. “I had a pretty good seat out there (coaching third base).”