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G-Braves take over first place

Brandon Beachy 

Brandon Beachy 

LAWRENCEVILLE — In his first start since injuring himself May 13, Brandon Beachy went a solid five innings, but it was fellow rehabbing Atlanta Brave Nate McLouth and the Gwinnett Braves’ offense that gave Beachy his first win as a G-Brave since Aug. 13, 2010, against the same Durham Bulls.

Beachy struck out eight and walked two over five innings of his first rehab start with the Gwinnett Braves and with an offensive explosion to back him up, the G-Braves won 10-2. The win puts the Gwinnett Braves in first place in the International League South by one game over the Bulls and offers good news to an Atlanta pitching staff rife with injuries.

“I felt like my normal self,” Beachy said. “I was actually having a little fun being out on the mound in a game situation for the first time in what seems like forever.

INSTANT REPLAY

G-Braves 10, Bulls 2

• What happened: Stefan Gartrell knocked in five runs, Julio Lugo hit his first home run of the year and Ed Lucas added three more RBIs as the Gwinnett Braves took over sole possession of first place in the International League South for the first time since May 1. Brandon Beachy got the win in a major-league rehab start and G-Braves bullpen allowed just one run over the final four innings.

• Rehab watch: Nate McLouth went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Beachy pitched five four-hit innings, striking out eight and walking just two. Both will make at least one more appearance for the G-Braves, McLouth today and Beachy on Tuesday.

• Stat of the day: With his home run in the first inning Gartrell equaled his home run total from all of May (five) midway through June. He has 13 on the season.

• Pivotal moment: Lucas doubled in the final two runs of the first to cap a six-run inning the for the G-Braves.

• On deck: Gwinnett continues its series with the Bulls today at 7 p.m. with RHP Johan Flande (2-2, 3.73) facing off against RHP Dirk Hayhurst (2-1, 2.76).

“It was a lot of fun.”

Beachy is scheduled to make one more start for the Class AAA G-Braves on Tuesday against Syracuse. Playing the Washington Nationals’ affiliate will allow the pitcher an opportunity to swing the bat, but his biggest focus is on a more efficient outing. He needed 87 pitches to get through his five innings Thursday and that included an 11-pitch fifth inning, easily his lowest pitch total.

“I asked (G-Braves pitching coach) Marty Reed in between innings where I was at, he told me I had about 15 or so left. That was definitely in my mind,” Beachy said. “I didn’t want to leave anyone out there on base and have a reliever come in and pitch for me. I wanted to take care of that myself.”

He allowed a hit, but struck out his final batter on three pitches to punctuate his outing.

“That was a pitch I really wanted to go high fastball there and I made the pitch,” he said. “It was really rewarding.”

Beachy allowed one home run, but left with a huge lead after Gwinnett put up six runs in its first inning.

Fellow strained left oblique-rehabbing McLouth got the scoring started with an RBI single. The outfielder drove Durham starter Jay Buente’s fastball to left center field, scoring Jose Constanza. McLouth came home to score with two others later in the inning on Stefan Gartrell’s three-run blast. The home run was Gartrell’s 13th on the season and fifth in June. Gartrell ended the game 3-for-5 with five RBIs and a run scored.

Gwinnett added two more in the inning on a two-RBI double by Ed Lucas.

McLouth finished 2-for-3 and left the game after playing a final inning of defense in the fourth. He got his only fly ball that inning on a line drive he tracked down smoothly at the warning track.

“I really felt good, my timing felt good,” McLouth said. “Really from the first pitch, I felt good.

“Game speed is different. You can’t really simulate that in rehab so that is really the last hurdle I had to clear and I was happy with how it went.”

Like Beachy, McLouth plans to play another game with the G-Braves, this time looking for a few more at-bats.

“If I feel as good tomorrow as I did today then that might be it,” McLouth said.

Gwinnett added runs in the second, third, seventh and eighth innings, including a huge home run by Julio Lugo. Durham scored its other run on an RBI single by Robinson Chirinos in the sixth inning off of Jose Lugo.

Ben Swaggert pitched a scoreless eighth and Steven Shell finished the game with a perfect ninth for Gwinnett’s third straight win.