Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Gwinnett Braves pitcher Steven Shell throws during Tuesday’s game against the Syracuse Chiefs at Coolray Field.
LAWRENCEVILLE — It didn’t matter who was pitching. It didn’t matter how fast the runner was. Stefan Gartrell won the battle.
The Gwinnett Braves’ right fielder crushed home runs No. 14 and 15 and knocked in three runs as the G-Braves rolled past Syracuse 7-1 for their second straight win.
It’s Gartrell’s seventh home run and his second two-homer game in June. Both came at home. Gartrell is the first Gwinnett Brave to have multiple two-home run games in the same season. The two hits, were the most important to Gartrell.
G-Braves 7, Chiefs 1
• What happened: Stefan Gartrell knocked in three runs on two home runs to back up starting pitcher Steven Shell, who allowed one run over five innings. Shell walked just one, struck out four and allowed four hits in his first Class AAA win in his third start. Syracuse starter J.D. Martin took the loss, allowing just two runs over six innings and for the second night in a row, the G-Braves teed off on the Chief’s bullpen, scoring four runs in the seventh and one in the eighth.
• Stat of the day: Syracuse didn’t record a single until the first batter of the fifth inning on their fourth. Shell allowed two doubles and a triple to start the game.
• Web gem: Gartrell threw out Matt Antonelli at home from right field and J.C. Boscan made the sweeping tag to end the sixth inning.
• Pivotal moment: Jose Lugo eked out of the seventh with a double play turned and tagged by 2B Ruben Gotay.
• On deck: LHP Yohan Flande (2-3, 4.42 ERA) faces off against fellow lefty Tom Milone (4-5, 3.18) in a 7:05 p.m. game televised on CSS.
“I’ve been trying to be more consistent this year,” he said. “I want to be able to have more than one hit per game.”
He’s done that. This is more than a hot streak for Gartrell, who upped his average to .281. He leads the team with his 15 home runs, 52 RBIs and 23 doubles. He is third in runs scored with 33. He hit just 20 doubles all of last season.
In between home runs, Gartrell saved a run with an assist from right field, throwing out the speedy Matt Antonelli at home on a sacrifice fly attempt. The run would have tied the game.
“He’s played a good, solid right field,” manager Dave Brundage said.
“I have been working to try to be more of an all-around player,” Gartrell said. “I have been known more as a hitter.”
Nights like Tuesday don’t help that cause.
Gartrell’s first home run, a two-run shot in the fourth gave starter Steven Shell just enough support to pick up his first win of the season for the G-Braves. Shell allowed two runs off four hits over five innings. He walked just one and struck out four. The five innings pitched are the most so far for the oft-used spot-starter this season.
“I wasn’t expecting five innings, I know that,” Brundage joked after the game. “He had good pace and rhythm. He gave us a good solid night.”
Shell joined the G-Braves on May 20 as a free agent after he was released by the Kansas City Royals. Shell was 1-2 in eight relief appearance with Class AAA Omaha with an 8.03 ERA. Since joining the G-Braves his ERA is 3.45.
“I wasn’t getting to pitch as much at the start of the year,” Shell said. “Having an opportunity over here is great. They seem to get me out there quite often and I’ve just been working really hard on the side.”
The win was Shell’s first as a starter since May 23, 2010, when he won for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Class AAA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Syracuse starter J.D. Martin allowed just two runs over six innings, but similar to Monday night, the G-Braves teed off on the Chief’s bullpen. Gartrell opened the seventh with his second home run and with the help of two errors, Gwinnett added four runs in the inning. Ed Lucas capped the scoring when he opened the eighth with a home run to center, his third of the year.
Jose Lugo pitched two scoreless innings of relief with more than a little help from his defense. Gartrell’s putout at home ended the sixth and Ruben Gotay ended a bases-loaded, one out situation with a double play by tagging the runner and making the throw to first. Anthony Varvaro struck out five over the final two innings.
“I thought the momentum had changed (on the home runs) and certainly we kept the momentum on our side with a couple of big plays,” Brundage said.