Gwinnett Braves second baseman Tommy La Stella connects on one of his two hits during Monday’s loss to the Buffalo Bison at Coolray Field (Gwinnett Braves)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Losses don’t come tougher than what the Gwinnett Braves lived Monday.
Already skidding on four-game losing streak, the Gwinnett Braves got a decent start from Yunesky Maya and started scoring in the first inning of the game.
But every run the G-Braves scored, the Buffalo Bison matched and the game was tied entering the ninth. Gwinnett reliever Atahualpa Severino returned for his third inning of work and struck out the first two he faced, giving him five Ks in six batters. But the right-hander who entered the game with a 2.03 ERA lost his control, allowing a two-out single and then walking the next three batters, including the go-ahead run. Trailing by a run with the bases loaded Matt Tuiasosopo doubled to clear the bases and give the Bison a 7-3 win and handing Gwinnett its fifth straight loss.
“It’s tough that you walk in the go-ahead run,” manager Brian Snitker said.
Especially tough for how it started.
Tommy Le Stella gave the G-Braves a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI single to score Jose Constanza, who led inning off with a double. It was the team-leading 16th RBI for the second baseman, who finished the game 2-for-4 and is hitting .320 on the season.
Like it did every time the G-Braves scored, Buffalo evened the game in the second, scoring an unearned run with a small two-out rally. The tying run was aided by an error on third baseman Edward Salcedo.
After stealing his first base in Class AAA in the second inning, catcher Christian Bethancourt singled with two out to score Phil Gosselin and give the G-Braves a 2-1 lead in the fourth. The hit gave the prospect a modest five-game hitting streak and seven RBIs in his last five games. The G-Braves had a chance in the inning to add on more run, but Sean Kazmar grounded out sharply to third to strand runners on second and third.
“We need to bunch them together,” Snitker said of the lack of big innings. “We are just trying to put a crooked number up there and get a lead we can pad. We are still struggling to go that.”
Starting pitcher Maya left his first appearance since April 17 after four innings. The right-hander allowed one only the unearned run off of three hits and struck out three, a fine effort for a converted relief pitcher returning from a left hamstring strain. He threw 46 of his 70 pitches for strikes.
“He probably could have gone longer without fatigue in his leg,” Snitker said. “He probably went an inning longer than he should.”
He needed to. After taxing game on Sunday and Ian Thomas starting today on a short pitch count, the G-Braves had just Pedro Beato left in the bullpen before they would have turned to position players.
Bison starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx also only pitched five innings, allowing two runs off five hits with five strikeouts, leaving both starters out of contention for a decision and turning the game over to the bullpens.
Gwinnett’s got first chance and Mark Lamm struggled. In his first inning he allowed the tying run, walked two and gave up a pair of hits. A double-play and a called third strike saved Lamm from further struggles. Lamm pitched a perfect sixth and then the troubles struck Buffalo’s Ryan Rowland-Smith. Gosselin opened the sixth with his first triple of the year and Mark Hamilton flew out to the warning track in center field to score Gosselin and give Gwinnett a 3-2 lead.
Bullalo got it right back in the seventh with a two-out RBI triple by Kevin Pillar, who earlier in the game extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest active in the International League. He was the last batter Lamm faced, replaced by Severino. Pillar’s 3-for-3 night continued his career dominance over the G-Braves. The left fielder is now 11-for-22 in two seasons against Gwinnett with six doubles, a triple, four runs scored and three RBIs.