Gwinnett Braves/Chris Roughgarden
Gwinnett Braves pitcher David Hale throws a pitch on Sunday evening in the G-Braves 1-0 loss at Coolray Field.
LAWRENCEVILLE – Getting a lift from his infield defense, Gwinnett starter David Hale matched Durham’s Merrill Kelly zero for zero through seven innings on Sunday.
Hale tired in the eighth inning, though, and lost control in his longest outing of the season. Soon, the game was lost as well.
Durham scored on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded after Hale had departed and defeated the G-Braves 1-0 at Coolray Field despite not getting a hit in the decisive inning.
Hale got an out to start the eighth, but the right-hander then loaded the bases on a hit batter, intentional walk after a stolen base and a second walk.
Veteran left-hander Joe Beimel came in to face lefty-hitting Leslie Anderson. But the Durham left fielder flied out to score the game’s only run.
Hale, who has pitched well since returning from a sore shoulder, allowed six hits in his 7 1/3 innings, but took his fourth loss against three victories.
Hale got 12 outs on ground balls and the game remained scoreless when Gwinnett shortstop Sean Kazmar made a diving stop and caught Mike Fontenot rounding third base to end the Durham seventh.
Fontenout, who had three hits, also made a couple of base running blunders in the ninth, keeping it a one-run game. But the G-Braves went down in order in the bottom of the inning, finishing with just four hits.
Kelly (3-0) allowed three hits over seven innings as he lowered his ERA to 2.03 since being promoted from Class AA Mongtomery. Then Josh Lueke struck out four around a hit and a walk in the final two innings to record his 11th save and shrink his ERA to 0.48.
Jose Constanza led off the Gwinnett first with a single and advanced to third base on a steal and wild pitch with one out. But Stefan Gartrell bounced into a double play and what turned out to be the G-Braves’ best scoring opportunity was wasted early.
With the victory, Durham improved to 56-35 and leads the South Division by 7 ½ games over Norfolk, which opens a four-game series at Coolray Field on Monday. Gwinnett, which had shut out Durham 2-0 in Saturday, is last in the division at 38-53.
The best news for G-Braves fans on Sunday was that there was no stoppage of play because of rain for the first time in the homestand. The only precipitation came as sprinkles in the last few innings.
Notes: G-Braves 1B Ernesto Mejia missed his sixth straight game with a tight hamstring. The AAA All-Star Game selection is tied for second in the International League with 21 home runs. … 3B Joe Leonard, who had a double, has been filling in for Mejia on the other side of the infield. … Gwinnett RHP Joe Bisenius (2-1, 5.87 ERA) will start against Jake Petittit (3-1, 2.37) in the opener of the four-game series against Norfolk at 6:05 p.m. Monday. … Former Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone and ex-Braves center fielder Marquis Grissom threw out ceremonial first pitches Sunday and then signed autographs for fans.