LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett Braves didn’t have much luck with Charlotte right-hander Matt Zaleski or close calls around first base in the first game of Saturday night’s International League doubleheader.
But they had considerably better luck in the nightcap, thanks to a pair of first inning runs and gutsty pitching from Yohan Flande and Jairo Asencio.
Zaleski held the G-Braves to just two hits, with a little help from several outstanding defensive plays, and a couple of calls around the bag at first in the sixth inning helped the visiting Knights put away a 2-0 victory in Game 1.
But Flande and Asencio combined to pitch around seven Charlotte hits to give the G-Braves a 2-1 victory in the nightcap before 7,372 fans at Coolray Field.
The twinbill split temporarily left the G-Braves remaining in a first-place tie in the International League’s South Division with Durham, pending the outcome of the Bulls’ game at Norfolk, which was tied 8-8 in the ninth inning as of press time.
The G-Braves took a quick 2-0 lead in the nightcap, with Stefan Gartrell contributing a sacrifice fly and Chris Carter adding an RBI single in the bottom of the first.
They then left it to Flande (5-4), who allowed base runners in all six innings he started, but allowed just one run despite giving up seven hits.
After Flande gave up a one-out walk to Michael Restovich in the sixth, Asencio came on to retire the final two Charlotte hitters in the inning and then set down the Knights in order to record his 15th save of the season.
In the opener, Zaleski (3-4) was strong, needing just 80 pitches over seven innings to shut out the G-Braves, with four strikeouts and just one walk in the complete-game victory.
He also got some help from strong defense behind him, including two big plays from shortstop Eduardo Escobar, the first of which snuffed out a potential G-Braves run in the bottom of the second.
With Jeff Fiorentino having rifled a two-out double into the left-field corner, it looked like he might have a chance to come home for the game’s first run when Ed Lucas sent a liner into the hole between short and third.
But Escobar dove to his right to grab the hot shot and end the inning with the game still scoreless.
Two innings later, former Atlanta Braves farmhand Tyler Flowers put Charlotte in front 1-0 by rifling the first pitch from Cristhian Martinez onto the berm beyond the wall in right-center for a leadoff solo homer.
He then left the game after being summoned by Charlotte’s parent club — the Chicago White Sox — who recalled him after catcher Ramon Castro was injured in their game with Minnesota earlier Saturday.
Martinez (1-1) had a solid outing, taking the loss despite going six innings and scattering six hits and just two earned runs with six strikeouts and just one walk.
The second of those runs turned out to be a key insurance run by the Knights during a sixth inning in which two close calls at first went against the G-Braves.
The first came when Jordan Danks sent a hard-hit ball along the first base line past Lucas and into the right-field corner.
The ball was ruled fair and wound up us a two-out, RBI triple that extended the Charlotte lead to 2-0 after a brief discussion of the call between G-Braves manager Dave Brundage and first-base umpire Dave Soucy.
Then in the bottom of the inning, Martin Prado appeared to extend the inning and bring the tying run to the plate with an apparent two-out double into the right-field corner.
But Zaleski appealed by throwing over to first, and Soucy ruled that Prado had missed first base and called him out, ending the inning.
Prado, in the fourth game of his rehab assignment after being put on the disabled list by the Atlanta Braves with a staph infection last month, finished the game 1-for-3 even after having the hit taken away.