G-Braves bullpen struggles in loss

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Struggles for Adam Russell returned on Thursday -- and he just got it started.

The reliever, who picked up his first loss since Aug. 13, giving up two earned runs on March 24, lost his second game in three appearances with two more runs allowed in of an inning against Lehigh Valley. And those two runs seemed small after an offensive explosion in the IronPigs 14-4 win over the Gwinnett Braves to earn a split in the four-game series.

"It was a well-played ball game until the eighth inning," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. "We played good defense, got decent pitching. And then the roof came in on us."

The 6-foot-8, 255-pound Russell has allowed four earned runs over his last 3 innings, allowing six hits, walking two and striking out two. The rough patch comes on the heels of his 7 scoreless innings over five appearances. Even as a reliever, Russell was the first Gwinnett pitcher to pick up two wins.

"We've just got to throw strikes," Brundage said. "He had a little tough luck with the ball down the right field line and the hit up the middle."

But Russell wasn't the only reliever to struggle.

After quickly ending the eighth with a ground ball, Jaye Chapman labored through a sloppy ninth inning that saw eight runs from Lehigh Valley with the help of an error by second baseman Lance Zawadzki. Chapman allowed the first four batters to reach on three hits and a walk to set up the game-sealing inning where the IronPigs scored eight runs off six hits. Only two of the runs were earned after the error. Anthony Varvaro made the final out, but not before giving up a three-run home run to catcher Tuffy Gosewisch.

The loss was the second straight for the G-Braves and squandered an average, but solid start from Todd Redmond and a 2-for-4, two-RBI game from Christian Marrero. Redmond pitched seven innings for the third straight appearance, allowing four runs off five hits with four strikeouts and one walk. He gave up a three-run home run in the sixth and an RBI single in the third.

Gwinnett took a 2-0 lead in the first inning with back-to-back RBI singles by Ernesto Mejia and Marrero. Felix Pie doubled to lead off the inning, his first double and fourth extra base hit with the G-Braves and Mejia sent him home with his 40th RBI. Mejia reached second with his fifth stolen base to reach scoring position for Marrero.

Redmond allowed his first run in the third inning after catcher Tuffy Gosewisch doubled to lead off the inning and end a streak of six straight outs. Gosewisch advanced to third on a sac bunt by pitcher Tyler Cloyd and scored when Kyle Hudson singled with two outs.

Lehigh Valley broke the tie with a three run home run off Redmond on the sixth inning. It was just the fourth home run allowed by Redmond on the season, set up by a leadoff walk to Cloyd. Hudson singled and Kevin Frandsen reached on a fielder's choice to set up John Suomi's third home run of the season.

Marrero notched his second RBI in the sixth, scoring Pie who led the inning off with his second double of the season. The run cut the G-Braves deficit to 4-3.

After a scoreless top of the seventh for Redmond, Stefan Gartrell saved the starter a loss, with a game-tying pinch hit RBI single to score Josh Wilson in the seventh. It was the right-hander's 31st RBI of the season and he's 2-for-2 with a walk as a pinch hitter this season with one RBI.

"You feel pretty good going into the eighth inning," Brundage said. "We just made some mistakes and we got a team that took advantage of it."

Lehigh Valley's Suomi added his fourth RBI of the game with a double in the eighth off Russell to re-take the lead for the IronPigs. Cody Overbeck followed with a sacrifice fly to deep right field and Lehigh Valley led 6-4. And then the floodgates opened with 11 batters and eight runs in the ninth.

Suomi ended his night going 2-for-5 with a home run, a double and four RBIs. Cody Overbeck added to his league leading doubles with his 16th in the sixth inning.