Photo: David McGregor . Gwinnett's Diory Hernandez tries to throw out a Norfolk base runner during the G-Braves' game against the Norfolk Tides on Friday night at Coolray Field.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- In a game in which, at one point, there were more runs scored than hits Gwinnett finally got the hit it needed in the 11th inning and even that was barely earned.
Diory Hernandez got his first hit of the night off the first pitch he saw from 330-pound Norfolk Tides reliever Jose Diaz. Ed Lucas scored from third base and Hernandez spent the following moment attempting to avoid his teammates as they chased from first to third base.
The RBI single gave Gwinnett a 4-3 lead and increased the G-Braves lead to 11/2 games over the losing Durham Bulls in the International League South Division.
"I was looking for the slider," Hernandez said. "I was hoping for that pitch."
The game-winning chance was the second of the game for Hernandez who put together a nine-pitch at-bat with a runner in scoring position in the ninth before flying out to left field.
"It was good for me," Hernandez said of the hit.
Free bases from the Tides set up the winning hit, like many of the G-Braves runs Friday. Ed Lucas opened the inning with a bunt single that he earned, sprinting down the line. Mauro Gomez reached on an error by second baseman and Duluth grad Nick Green and Diaz hit Brandon Hicks to load the bases.
And that was the type of game it was all night. Only five of the game's seven runs were earned, the two teams combined for three errors, 15 walks and two hit batters.
"That's a ballgame we wouldn't have won earlier in the year," manager Dave Brundage said, noting his team's 10 walks.
Gwinnett Braves starter Erik Cordier pitched more than well enough to win. He set a season high with eight strikeouts and allowed just one hit over his six innings. The six inning effort was his second straight and third in his last four starts.
But his five walks set a Gwinnett starting pitcher record and three straight in the fourth inning did some damage. With one out, his control vanished and he walked the bases loaded. But he eked out with just one Norfolk run, getting an RBI-ground out by Robbie Widlansky and another ground ball out by Brendan Harris to end the inning, preserving a 2-1 lead.
"He was feast or famine tonight," Brundage said of Cordier. "He pitched poorly at times and he was extremely dominant."
Gwinnett took its lead in the third inning off Chris Carter's two-out, bases loaded single. He was injured on the play and limped off the field. It ended his night 2-for-2 with a pair of singles, the first a legged-out infield hit in the second. His two RBIs pushed his total to a league-leading 63. Brundage said Carter is day-to-day with his knee.
And he wasn't the only G-Braves to leave early.
Brundage was ejected for the third time this season in the fifth inning. Umpire Brad Myers tossed Brundage for arguing a caught stealing call at second base on Jose Constanza. Hitting coach Jaime Dismuke took over.
"It's good to know I have guys like that (on my staff)," Brundage said.
At that time, Cordier was still pitching.
The right-hander left with a lead, turning the game over to Steven Shell who labored through 1/3 of an inning. The first batter reached on the G-Braves second error of the night setting up Nick Green. The Duluth graduate tied the game for the Tides with an RBI double and eventually scored the go-ahead run in the inning on a sacrifice fly.
The no-decision was the first for Cordier since his first start with the team May 28 when he only pitched 42/3 of an inning.
The Tides' lead lasted only until the bottom of the seventh when Wilkin Castillo singled in Brandon Hicks, trying the game at 3-3.
Following Shell, the G-Braves bullpen returned to form. Dustin Richard stopped the bleeding in the seventh with the help of a snap throw from the catcher Castillo to first base for a pick-off. Anthony Varvaro followed with two scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts.
Former starter Yohan Flande entered and took the win, pitching two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out one.