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.
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)."