Photo: Karl Moore, Gwinnett Braves Gwinett Braves starter Omar Poveda pitches against Buffalo on Friday at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville
LAWRENCEVILLE — Twice, Gwinnett relievers faltered in their second inning.
Both Juan Cedeno and Ryan Butcher pitched strong innings out of the bullpen for the G-Braves on Thursday, but both left handers found trouble in their encores combining to allow five of the Charlotte Knights six runs in an 6-3 G-Braves loss in front of an energetic July 4 crowd.
Thirteen minutes after the game began, rain suspended play for just over an hour in the bottom of the first inning. The G-Braves put the first two runners on base following the rain delay, but with two outs, Jose Yepez grounded out, stranding two of the nine runners they left on base in the game.
Gwinnett fell behind 1-0 in the top of the third on a manufactured run by the Knights following a leadoff walk to the No. 9 hitter Jim Gallagher. Steve Tolleson followed Gallagher with a single and a sac bunt set up a sacrifice fly by Lars Anderson to plate Gallagher.
But the G-Braves got the run and then some in the bottom half. With two out and two runners on base, Stefan Gartrell drew a full count walk by laying off an outside offering from Charlotte starter Charlie Leesman. It was the third runner Leesman allowed without a G-Braves hit in the inning. With the bases loaded, the inning's only hit came off the bat of Yepez and scored Jose Constanza and Todd Cunningham, giving the G-Braves a 2-1 lead.
G-Braves starter Omar Povead lasted just four innings, but survived the outing allowing just one run. Though he walked four and put runners in scoring position each of his four innings, the right-hander with a 3.42 ERA, stranded six runners and though he didn't last long enough to earn a win, left the G-Braves with a one-run lead.
The lead didn't last.
After a scoreless fifth inning, the first reliever Cedeno lost his command in the sixth. The lefty allowed base hits to the first two batters of the inning and the walked the next two, tying the game at 2-2. Wirfin Obisbo replaced Cedeno and didn't fare much better, walking two more and allowing two more runs to cross the plate as Gwinnett fell behind 4-2.
The G-Braves got one run back in the bottom of the sixth, on an RBI groundout by Joe Leonard. The first baseman's grounder scored Luis Nunez who led the inning off with a triple to the right field corner.
But that was as close as they came.
Like Cedeno, Ryan Buchter struggled through his second inning of work. The lefty pitched a perfect seventh inning, but he hit Gallagher to start the eighth and then gave up two straight singles to load the bases. He struck out Lars Anderson and Mike McDade but couldn't escape the trouble when Andy Wilkins delivered a two-RBI single to make it 6-3 Charlotte.
The G-Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth against former Atlanta pitcher and former Newton High School pitcher Deunte Heath, but the .314 hitting pinch hitter Alden Carrithers flew out on a liner to center to end the threat.
Cory Rasmus pitched a scoreless ninth and the top of the Gwinnett lineup went down on strikes to end the game.
Note: The Atlanta Braves optioned relief pitcher Cory Gearrin to Gwinnett following their game with the Miami Marlins. Gearrin, who is 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 37 appearances this season allowed two runs off two hits Wednesday against the Marlins and is 1-0 with an 8.00 ERA in his last 10 outings.