Gwinnett Braves starter Yohan Flande throws against Durham in Tuesday’s game at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. (Photo: Makensie Cooper/Gwinnett Braves)
LAWRENCEVILLE — It didn’t matter that it has been more than a month since his last Class AAA start. Or that he last pitched more than 2 1/3 innings in June. Yohan Flande took the mound for the G-Braves for his 14th start and looked like he never left the rotation.
The lefty from the Dominican Republic, who has appeared 23 times for the G-Braves in every imaginable role for a pitcher, turned in six, four-hit innings, allowing no earned runs in his fifth win of the season, 4-1 over Durham. He struck out two and walked just one in 81 pitches. In his last appearance two days prior, he threw five pitches in one inning of relief to help prepare him to start.
“He gave us exactly what we needed tonight,” manager Randy Ready said. “He’s so valuable on a staff. He’ll do whatever role you ask him to do.”
Closer Cory Rasmus, who picked up his 13th save Tuesday, said saving the win was especially nice for Flande.
“He’s been our workhorse,” Rasmus said. “I like that he’s having a lot of success. There is not a better guy to have in the clubhouse. Everything we need him to do, he’s there and he does it with a smile.”
Gwinnett got on the board in the first with Ernesto Mejia’s team-leading 70th RBI, a two-out double to left field to score Tyler Pastornicky. Despite his wide lead in RBIs for the G-Braves, the RBI was just Mejia’s 14th with two outs and a runner in scoring position this season.
Flande gave up his second hit to start the fourth inning and from there his defense let him down. A hard hit ground ball to second ricocheted off the glove of Phil Gosselin for an error. The G-Braves failed to turn a double play on a second ground ball to Gosselin putting runners on the corners with one out. Then, a third double-play ball, this one to shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, found Gosselin, on the relay in plenty of time to save a run, but Gosselin lost track of the number of outs and ran toward the dugout to allow the run to score. Flande struck out Chris Gimenez to end the inning and keep the game tied 1-1.
“(Gosselin) just brain cramped,” Ready said. “It was an ugly game. It was a good game to win.”
There were three errors between the two teams, more than one base-running mistake and one inning where the G-Braves had two hits and only sent three batters to the plate.
But through the blunders, the G-Braves’ offense backed up Flande in the bottom half of the fourth, scoring a pair of runs on a double by Joe Leonard for his second hit of the game. On the ninth pitch of his at-bat against Bulls starter Jake Odorizzi, Leonard smacked a line drive over the head of left fielder Jason Bourgeois and off the wall, just inches from his first homer of the season. Stefan Gartrell and Alden Carrithers both scored and Gwinnett retook the lead 3-2. The double was the second of two hits for Leonard in the two-RBI game for the third baseman. He has five hits in his last 10 at-bats. Pastornicky and Mejia joined Leonard with two hits in the game.
“I’m just trying to not be as big, be easy with (my swing),” said Leonard, who’s hitting .228 on the season. “I am trying to stay relaxed.”
Gwinnett tacked on its final run in the sixth on Durham’s second error. Todd Cunningham, who singled to start the inning, scored from second when a ball hit by Brandon Boggs to first baseman Gimenez. The hit by Cunningham ended the night for Durham stater Odorizzi. The righty pitched just four innings, allowing four runs (three earned) off of seven hits. It was the second straight outing not lasting more than four innings for the starter.
Joe Beimal replaced Flande in the seventh and pitched 1 1/3 innings in scoreless relief. He ran in to some trouble in the eighth, putting a pair of runners on with one out, ending his night. Reliever Rasmus entered, striking out the next two batters and earned the five-out save facing the minimum in the ninth. He allowed a single, but a double play and strikeout earned him his 13th save. It was his first inning-plus save since another five-out save against Charlotte in April.
“I just pitch for the inning that I am in,” Rasmus said. “My main goal was to not let any of big (Beimel’s) runs in. I get more amped up when I come in and guys are already on.”