LAWRENCEVILLE — Of course a double play ended it.
The Gwinnett Braves turned a season-high six double plays as they weathered threat after threat from the Charlotte Knights in a 1-0 win Monday.
Twice the bases were loaded and in the top of the ninth, the Knights had the tying run on third base with one out, but there went Drew Garcia's ball to the waiting Tyler Pastornicky who hit Sean Kazmar for the first out and Kazmar fired a strike to Ernesto Mejia to end the game.
“It was awesome,” manager Randy Ready said of the double plays. “Between (Kazmar) and (Pastornicky) out there that was pretty outstanding.”
Five of the six double plays went through Pastornicky, a longtime shortstop turned second baseman this season. In 14 starts at second, Pastornicky has just one error and he's put up offensive numbers to match the defensive production, hitting .351 in the early part of the season.
“I've got a lot of work in. I've been doing a lot of stuff in BP, just trying to get better and get my turns down and it's translating well,” Pastornicky said. “That last one there, we needed that and it was a good win for us.”
Gwinnett is now 5-7 in one-run games this season and the single score is the fourth time the G-Braves have been kept to so few runs in a game.
And it was a run earned.
In the third inning, Jose Constanza stole both second and third base to become the first G-Braves player this season to have more than on steal in a game. With two outs, he stood on third with Pastornicky on second. Joey Terdoslavich struck out, stranding the second and third runners of the game.
The G-Braves continued with the aggressive attack against Charlotte starter Simon Castro in the fifth inning, this time to better results. Jordan Parraz stole second base after drawing a lead-off walk and Gwinnett took a 1-0 lead when Jose Yepez followed that with a RBI double.
From there, the defense took over.
Starting pitcher Yohan Flande, who found out two days prior he would start in place of the injured David Hale, turned in a solid performance in his second start and sixth appearance.
The do-it-all from the Dominican Republic pitched six-plus scoreless innings, walked just one and struck out three. He did allow seven hits, but the defense mitigated the damage.
“Pitching set the tempo,” Ready said. “It was a clean game. The game was moving from the start.
“When a guy is moving fast and throwing strikes the defense is more alert and I think it came to fruition tonight.”
Flande took advantage of double plays in the first three innings and watched the fifth end when Yepez gunned down the stealing Garcia. Then came the fourth double play.
Flande started the seventh and gave up a double to Josh Phegley, who was a perfect 3-for-3 against the lefty, and then hit Seth Loman, giving way to reliever David Carpenter. Carpenter, who spent the last two days in the Atlanta Braves bullpen, made a close force out at third base and then walked the bases loaded. But the reliever coaxed the fourth double play out of Drew Garcia to end the inning and keep the Gwinnett 1-0 lead.
“He's like a staff saver, so-to-speak,” Ready said of Flande. “He can pitch in so many roles. He's a guy that is on the club for that reason.”
The eighth provided an unlikely double play and the only one not through the middle infield. With one out and the bases loaded, Phegley lifted a ball to shallow left field. Constanza made the catch but his throw didn't beat the runner to the plate. The G-Braves appealed to third and Carlos Sanchez was ruled out for leaving early. Charlotte manager Joel Skinner went on a tirade in the face of home plate umpire Andy Dudonos and was eventually ejected. Another inning ended on a double play.
Then came the ninth, the final challenge and the final double play.
“Kudos to those guys,” Ready said of Kazmar and Pastornicky. “They get rewarded when they work at their craft a little bit.”