LAWRENCEVILLE — Calling himself “extremely blessed” Stefan Gartrell matched his feeling with his play.
The former Gwinnett slugger rejoined the team Wednesday and announced his return in a big way in his first action on Saturday.
Hitting sixth as the designated hitter, Gartrell went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. His second hit, in the fourth inning, started a two-run, two-out Gwinnett Braves rally and propelled the G-Braves to a 4-2 win over Toledo. It was the third straight win for Gwinnett.
“People got me pumped up saying, ‘Hit a bomb your first at-bat.’ That would have been nice. I haven’t played enough games to settle in to midseason form,” Gartrell said of his two singles. “I was just trying to keep it simple.”
Released by the White Sox at the end of spring training, Gartrell signed with the Braves after playing six games with Campeche in the Mexican League. In that short time, Gartrell hit .346 with a pair of RBIs.
“They are all about off-speed pitches,” Gartrell said, who also took a rare walk. “It gave me a better eye.”
Gartrell, who played most of 2011 and all of 2012 in Gwinnett, hold the G-Braves record for home runs in a season with 45 and second with doubles (50) and runs (134).
“He’s got some good history here in Gwinnett,” manager Randy Ready said of Gartrell. “Coming out of Mexico this is a great opportunity for him. I think he’ll make the most of it.”
His first hit in his first at-bat was the first of the game for Gwinnett. He also knocked in the G-Braves first run, kick-starting an inconsistent offense. Along with Gartrell’s two-hit night, Joe Leonard matched a career high with his first three-hit game since Aug. 4 last season with Class AA Mississippi. Joey Terdoslavich doubled in a run on a three-hit night, it was his league-leading 20th double and his 31st RBI. With 12 hits as a team, only Jose Constanza and Jose Yepez didn’t have a hit for Gwinnett.
“The three were all big, two-out hits, those are kind of like back breakers,” Ready said.
With Gartrell and offense rolling, starter Sean Gilmartin returned to his old self after skipping a start earlier this month with should trouble and struggling through his last two outings. The lefty matched a career high with six strikeouts and battled through 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs off of seven hits with a walk.
“He hung in there all night,” Ready said. “I’m not sure if (his stuff) was great, but he certainly made pitches when he had to.”
In his last two starts, both losses, Gilmartin only lasted four innings and allowed 10 total runs off 14 hits. The nine hits allowed in his last appearance matched a career high.
“He had his game-face on tonight. He was ready to attack the hitters,” Ready said. “This was a big confidence boost, I think, for Sean.”
He allowed a home run to Toledo’s Jordan Lennerton, a solo blast to start the sixth and give Lennerton a 14-game hitting streak, but after he walked the next batter, Gilmartin retired the next three. He left with one out and two on in the seventh and reliever Kameron Loe coaxed a double play from Kevin Russo to help Gilmartin pick up his third win of the season and end a streak of three straight losses.
“The double plays were huge at the time,” Ready said.