NORFOLK, Va. — Thursday wasn’t the ideal end to the Gwinnett Braves’ season-opening eight-game road trip, but heading home with a record above .500 isn’t a bad start to the season.
The G-Braves squandered an early 3-0 lead, eventually losing to Norfolk 7-4 in the final game of the series at Harbor Park. Gwinnett returns to town tonight for its home opener against the Durham Bulls with a 4-3 record after the first game against the Tide was washed out.
Lefty Daniel Rodriguez gets the start for the G-Braves looking to build on his strong start against the Bulls last week where he pitched five one-run innings with nine strikeouts.
Pitching consistency was not the story on Thursday.
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the Norfolk Tides (2-5) erupted for four runs against right-hander Cody Martin.
Martin had a 3-0 lead and was cruising along until the bottom of the fourth. He struck out Henry Urrutia to lead off the inning, his fifth consecutive strikeout. But Brett Wallace singled and scored from first on a double to left by Johnny Monell, cutting Gwinnett’s lead to 3-1. Ivan DeJesus doubled to left, scoring Monell to make it 3-2 and Xavier Paul tied the game at 3-3 with a double scoring DeJesus. One out later, a single by Quentin Berry scored Paul from second to give the Tides a 4-3 lead. Martin (0-1) lasted just four innings for the G-Braves with six hits, four earned runs and five strikeouts.
To that point, the G-Braves had rolled out to an early lead in the top of the first. Jose Constanza led off with a single to center off Tides’ starter Kevin Gausman, and Todd Cunningham followed with a double to left moving Constanza to third. Tommy La Stella lifted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Constanza for a 1-0 lead. Cunningham, who moved to third on the play, later scored on a groundout to third by Ernesto Mejia to raise the lead to 2-0. Constanza was 2-for-5 for Gwinnett. La Stella was 0-for-1 with two RBIs.
Gwinnett added a run in the third inning against Gausman. Derrick Mitchell smacked a one-out double to left and Steve Lerud followed with a walk. Sean Kazmar then grounded to shortstop DeJesus, who flipped the ball to second baseman Jemile Weeks to start a double play. But Weeks threw the ball wildly to first allowing Mitchell to score for a 3-0 G-Braves’ lead.
That was the last time the G-Braves led.
Norfolk added its fifth run in the bottom of the fifth against Gwinnett reliever Atahualpa Severino as Julio Borbon led off the inning with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
The G-Braves edged closer in the top of the seventh as La Stella drew a bases loaded walk from Norfolk reliever Nick Additon to cut the deficit to 5-4.
But in the bottom of the seventh, the Tides scored twice against G-Braves reliever Mark Lamm. Urrutia slammed a bases loaded two-run double to left to increase the lead to 7-4.
Severino pitched 2.0 innings with one hit, one earned run, one walk and two strikeouts. Lamm worked the final two innings with two hits, two earned runs, three walks and three strikeouts.
Gausman pitched four innings for the Tides. He allowed four hits and two earned runs while walking three and striking out four. Additon (1-0) went four innings with one hit, one unearned run, two walks and two strikeouts. Brad Brach pitched a scoreless ninth with one strikeout.
Urrutia and Paul were each 2-for-4 to pace Norfolk.