Ellis Focused On Consistency With Gwinnett

The following story appears in the fifth edition of “Tomahawk Talk,” the official gameday publication of the Gwinnett Braves. Pick up a FREE copy at Coolray Field from August 12-September 3.

Chris Ellis opened the season by winning six of his first eight starts for Double-A Mississippi and earning the M-Braves’ Pitcher of the Month Award for April. After two more victories in three June starts, the right-hander was tabbed to start the Southern League All-Star Game at Mississippi’s Trustmark Park, a reward for an 8-2 record and a sterling 2.75 ERA.

But instead of toeing the rubber in the midsummer showcase, Ellis was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on June 16, continuing his rapid ascent towards the Major Leagues.

“It would have been really cool to have pitched in that game,” Ellis said. “It was an honor to be named to that team and to be called on to start the game, considering how many good players there are in that league, but it was even better to get called up to Triple-A instead.”

Two days after the call-up, he started for Gwinnett at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and pitched about as long as he would have in the All-Star Game, though for a far different reason. He allowed five runs on five hits while walking two and hitting a batter in just two thirds of an inning.

“That first start was really rough, so a lot of the older guys on the team, (catcher) Blake Lalli especially, talked to me and settled me down after that start,” Ellis said. “I learned very quickly how much different Triple-A is than Double-A.”

Following his shaky Triple-A debut, Ellis said he’s starting to find some consistency after each start for the G-Braves, building from one day to the next as he continues to work his way towards the ultimate goal: pitching in the Majors.

“He belongs here, he was promoted here for a reason and so you just approach it that way,” Gwinnett pitching coach Mike Alvarez said. “That debut was tough, but those things do happen, even though you don’t want them to, but they do. It was something that he was going to have to overcome at some point, it just happened to be in the first outing.”

Through July 31, Ellis had made 22 starts combined between the two levels. He said he hasn’t had any physical setbacks or problems with his body, which has helped him reach the top level of Minor League Baseball in just his third professional season.

The former Ole Miss product saw his star rise during a stellar junior season in 2014, when he went 10-3 with a 2.55 ERA to help the Rebels reach the College World Series for the first time in 42 years. The Los Angeles Angels were impressed with his performance and selected Ellis with the 88th overall pick in the June draft.

In his lone full season in the Angels’ system last year, Ellis went 11-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 26 starts between Advanced-A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas. He entered 2015 ranked as Los Angeles’ No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com and justified the ranking by leading the Angels’ system in wins and finishing fourth in strikeouts (132) and eighth in ERA.

But following the season, Ellis found himself packing his bags. He was traded to Atlanta along with left-handed pitching prospect Sean Newcomb and Major League shortstop Erick Aybar in exchange for shortstop Andrelton Simmons and minor league catcher Jose Briceno.

“It was weird because the Angels drafted me and a year later I get traded,” Ellis said. “It was one of those things where you finally get comfortable and then it’s like, ‘ok see you guys.’ At first I was nervous, like ‘who did I get traded to?’ and I find out it’s the Braves. It couldn’t have worked out any better for me. It’s a great organization and I’ve made a lot of friends already, so it has been a blessing.”

After joining the Braves, the team he said he rooted for while growing up in Alabama, Ellis was assigned to Double-A Mississippi to open the 2016 season. Playing at Trustmark Park in Pearl, MS allowed him to pitch less than three hours away from the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, MS.

“It was cool to be able to pitch in my ‘home’ ballpark with some Ole Miss fans in the stands,” he said. “It was a lot different compared to Arkansas and California where I was last year. I enjoyed having that feeling of being home in a way.”

Comfort is one thing, but command of your craft is something different altogether, and Ellis has worked to find consistency with his control this season. He walked 30 batters through his first 35.2 innings with Gwinnett after issuing only 35 free-passes in 78.2 innings at Mississippi.

“Until I can find that consistent command, I’m going to walk some guys. Right now, it is more about walking those guys in better situations, where it’s not going to hurt you nearly as much, or at all,” he said.

Alvarez, who joined the G-Braves as the club’s Pitching Coach on May 19, has seen Ellis improve over his short Triple-A career, but knows that the 23-year-old’s mental approach still has room for growth.

“He has taken some small steps since his first start for us, but they’ve been in the right direction. I still think he needs to find himself. He’s not quite there yet,” Alvarez said. “He shows you flashes of four Major League pitches and it’s just a matter of consistency. It starts with the fastball. He needs to know and be reminded that he’s a good pitcher.”

After entering the season ranked as the Braves’ No. 14 prospect by MLB.com, Ellis finds himself at No. 16 in the updated midseason rankings as Atlanta continues to acquire more young talent via trades, international signings and the June draft. Regardless of where he’s listed in the prospect rankings, Ellis knows not to let future projections overwhelm him.

“It’s always in the back of your head, knowing you’re a step up, so you put a little bit of pressure on yourself to do well,” he said. “I guess all I can do is go out there and pitch consistently well over a period of time and hopefully get a shot to be promoted, but you have to focus on where you are today and for your next start. You can’t be focusing on what lies ahead. That can be a recipe for disaster if you’re thinking ahead too much. I’m here in Gwinnett and I’m making the best of being here.”

Ellis produced his best start with the G-Braves to date on July 26 at Coolray Field, holding Indianapolis to just one hit over 5.0 innings and striking out seven in Gwinnett’s 11-2 win.

The solid outing was a step in the right direction for Ellis, who now looks to pitch deeper into games. At the Double-A level, he tossed six-or-more innings in 10 of 13 starts for the M-Braves.

Alvarez believes that if Ellis continues to put in the work, he’ll be still going strong in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

“He’s going in the right direction and I don’t foresee anything different the rest of the way. We’ll see that guy that can put together 7.0 innings consistently,” he said.

Louisville Spoils Teheran’s Rehab Outing

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Julio Teheran completed five innings and struck out five on a Major League rehab assignment, but took the loss as the Gwinnett Braves (54-67) fell to the Louisville Bats (60-63) 9-4 on Sunday afternoon at Coolray Field.

Teheran, pitching for the first time since being placed on the Atlanta Braves’ disabled list on July 31, set down the Bats in order over the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth.

With one out, former G-Brave Jose Peraza hit a sharp ground ball that shortstop Daniel Castrocouldn’t corral for an error, and Hernan Iribarren followed with Louisville’s first hit. Seth Mejias-Brean then smacked a two-run double to right field, putting the Bats up 2-1.

Teheran (L, 0-1) allowed a leadoff single in the fifth, but induced a double-play grounder and notched his fifth strikeout to cap his afternoon at 73 pitches. The right-hander yielded three hits and two runs (one earned) without walking a batter and throwing 51 of his pitches for strikes.

Gwinnett took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Castro tallied an RBI groundout to score Kyle Kubitza from third.

But the G-Braves’ bullpen yielded seven runs over the final five innings as Louisville earned the series victory.

Daniel Wright (W, 5-5) finished the afternoon on the mound for the Bats with 6.0 innings of relief, holding the G-Braves to just one run on five hits. Wright also collected two hits in three at-bats, including a two-run single in the seventh. Alfredo Simon worked the game’s first 3.0 innings for Louisville, allowing a run on three hits while striking out two.

Mejias-Brean paced the Bats’ 15-hit attack with three hits and two RBIs and three others had two hits for Louisville. Jesse Winker has a pair of RBIs for the Bats.

Kubitza recorded an RBI double and scored for Gwinnett, while Emilio Bonifacio and George Kottaras picked up RBI singles in the ninth. Blake Lalli got the final three outs on the mound in his third pitching performance of the season.

The G-Braves hit the road for a quick three game road trip to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, with game one against the Knights set for Monday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander John Gant (3-2, 3.61) is scheduled to start for the G-Braves against righty Kameron Loe (1-3, 3.80) for Charlotte. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

G-Braves Battle Back in 7-6 Win

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – The Gwinnett Braves (54-66) scored twice in the seventh inning and three more times in the eighth inning to stun the Louisville Bats (59-63) 7-6 on Saturday night at Coolray Field.

The win, coupled with Durham’s 5-1 loss vs. Charlotte, moves the G-Braves a half-game ahead of the Bulls for first place in the International League South Division.

Down 6-2 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Gwinnett battled back against reliever A.J. Morris.Reid Brignac and Emilio Bonifacio reached on one-out singles, and with two outs, Tyler Flowers struck out swinging but reached on a wild pitch that rolled all the way to the backstop, allowing Brignac to score. Rio Ruiz followed with an RBI single to right, cutting the deficit to 6-4.

In the eighth, Matt Lipka singled to start the inning, and newest G-Brave Kyle Kubitza tripled into the left-field corner to bring Gwinnett within one. A single to center by Daniel Castro tied the game, and three batters later, Castro raced home when Louisville center fielder Beau Amaral dropped a line drive off Infante’s bat.

Shae Simmons (S, 1) polished off the win with a perfect ninth for his first save of the season, ending the G-Braves’ three-game losing skid.

Louisville had improved its lead against Stephen Janas and Chad Rogers in the seventh, scoring three unearned runs to go up 6-2. But Rogers (W, 3-4) worked around a pair of walks in the eighth to earn his first win with Gwinnett and third of the year.

The Bats got to G-Braves’ starter Matt Wisler for three runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings, working three walks against the right-hander. But Wisler threw 71 of his 105 pitches for strikes and struck out five in his third outing for Gwinnett.

Playing for just the second time since fracturing his left hand on July 10, Flowers went 2-for-4 and reached base three times in his second MLB rehab game for the Atlanta Braves. He was one of six G-Braves’ hitters with two hits in the game as the club recorded 15 in total.

Ruiz was 2-for-5 with two RBIs in his fourth multi-hit effort over his last six games to lead the Gwinnett attack. Bonifacio, Castro, Lipka and Mel Rojas Jr. all had two hits for the G-Braves.

Amaral continued his hot hitting in the series, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored after collecting two hits and scoring four times in Louisville’s 9-8 victory on Friday. Bryson Smith and Ray Chang each had two RBIs for the Bats.

The G-Braves and Bats conclude the three-game series at 2:05 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at Coolray Field. Atlanta Braves’ right-hander Julio Teheran (3-9, 2.81 in 21 starts for Atlanta) is scheduled to make a rehab start for the G-Braves against right-hander Alfredo Simon (0-1, 3.00) for Louisville. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 1:35 p.m.

It’s another “Sunday Funday” presented by Georgia United Credit Union. Fans are welcome to play catch on the field before the game from 1:10-1:30 and fans 12-and-under can run the bases following the game. Tickets for Sunday’s game are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.

Louisville Slips By Gwinnett in Marathon

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Jesse Winker ripped a two-out RBI single to push across the go-ahead run as the Louisville Bats (59-62) slipped by the Gwinnett Braves (53-66) 9-8 in 12 innings on Friday night at Coolray Field.

Former G-Brave Jose Peraza bunted Beau Amaral to second in the 12th against Carlos Portuondo (L, 1-1), and three batters later Winker picked up his only hit of the night to put Louisville ahead for the fifth time in the game.

Gwinnett threatened to tie the game for the second straight extra inning, loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the frame. But Rio Ruiz grounded out to second, ending the 4-hour, 43-minute marathon, the longest game played by the G-Braves this season.

The G-Braves sent the contest to extra innings by mounting a two-out rally against Kevin Shackelford in the ninth, plating the tying run when Matt Lipka walked on four pitches to make it a 7-7 game.

Both squads scored in the 11th, with Blake Lalli tying the score with an RBI single after Chris Berset put the Bats ahead with a run-scoring single of his own in the top half.

Louisville led 2-0 before Gwinnett chased Bats’ starter Rookie Davis by collecting five straight hits to open the fifth, the last of which was a two-run single by Emilio Bonifacio which put the G-Braves up 3-2.

But the Bats struck right back for four runs in the top of the sixth against reliever Chad Rogers, going ahead 6-3. Seth Mejias-Brean capped that rally with an RBI single for Louisville.

Sean Kazmar Jr.‘s two-run homer started a three-run rally in the seventh to once again tie the game, this time at 6-6.

Gwinnett starter Chris Ellis allowed two runs on four hits over the first 5.0 innings, but walked five and threw only 52 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Mejias-Brean finished with a game-high three hits for Louisville and had a pair of RBI, while Amaral, Peraza and Hernan Iribarren each had two hits as part of a 16-hit attack for the Bats.

Kazmar Jr. homered and singled and was one of four G-Braves’ batters with two hits, while both he and Bonifacio tallied two RBIs. Bonifacio also stole his team-best 33rd base of the season.

The G-Braves and Bats continue the three-game series at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday night at Coolray Field. Righty Matt Wisler (1-1, 3.21) will pitch for the G-Braves against right-hander Robert Stephenson (6-9, 4.36) for Louisville. Dave Lezotte will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 5:35 p.m.

The first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a bobblehead of former Atlanta Braves General Manager John Schuerholz, presented by Coolray Heating and Cooling. Tickets for Saturday’s game are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.

Knights Power Past Gwinnett in Finale

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Jerry Sands hit and Slade Heathcott hit back-to-back home runs in a five-run fourth inning as the Charlotte Knights (49-64) beat the Gwinnett Braves (50-62) by a 9-4 score Thursday night at Coolray Field.

With Gwinnett leading 2-0 in the fourth, G-Braves’ starter Kanekoa Texeira (L, 1-6) allowed consecutive singles to open the frame. After a fly out, Nicky Delmonico singled to load the bases and on a 2-2 pitch, Sands blasted a grand slam off the brick wall behind the Gwinnett bullpen in left field, putting the Knights up 4-2.

On the next pitch, Heathcott lined a solo shot off the batter’s eye in dead center, giving the Knights a 5-2 lead.

Gwinnett had gotten on the board first against Charlotte starter Kameron Loe (W, 1-3) with two runs in the first inning. With one out, Reid Brignac singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by shortstop Jake Peter.

After a fly out, Rio Ruiz walked and Sean Kazmar Jr. and George Kottaras collected RBI singles, putting the G-Braves on top.

But Loe settled down after that, holding Gwinnett scoreless over the next 5.0 innings. He yielded back-to-back singles to Emilio Bonifacio and Daniel Castro to open the seventh, but reliever Matt Purke (H, 4) got out of the jam to keep Charlotte ahead.

The Knights added three unearned runs in the eighth, benefitting from a three-base throwing error by Kottaras. With runners at second and third, reliever Madison Younginer struck out Adam Engel with a pitch in the dirt, but Kottaras didn’t catch the ball cleanly and when he threw to first, it sailed over Brignac’s head and into right field, bringing in both runs.

Jason Bourgeois capped the frame with a sacrifice fly, scoring Engel and Delmonico homered against G-Braves’ catcher Blake Lalli in the ninth for Charlotte’s final tallies.

Loe got his first win of the season by scattering eight hits over 6.0 innings and walking two. He struck out two and threw 60 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Purke and Matt Lollis held Gwinnett to just one hit over the final 3.0 innings for Charlotte.

Bonifacio, Kottaras and Ronnier Mustelier each had two hits for the G-Braves and Ruiz capped the scoring with an RBI groundout in the ninth. Texeira yielded five runs on six hits over 3.1 innings while walking one and striking out three in a spot start for Gwinnett, which was 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

The G-Braves hit the road for a six-game road trip, beginning Friday night at 7:05 p.m. against the Durham Bulls. Right-hander Chris Ellis (2-4, 7.57) is scheduled to start for the G-Braves against righty Jacob Faria (3-2, 4.73) for Durham. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

Knights Use Three-Run 4th to Beat G-Braves

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Jason Coats homered and reached base safely all four times in leading the Charlotte Knights (48-64) to a 4-2 victory over the Gwinnett Braves (50-61) on Wednesday night at Coolray Field.

Coats led off the fourth inning with a solo home run to right field off Gwinnett starter Victor Mateo (L, 0-1) to kick-start a three-run rally and give the Knights an advantage they wouldn’t surrender.

After Mateo allowed the homer, hit Kevan Smith and walked Nicky Delmonico, he was lifted for reliever Jason Hursh, who yielded consecutive run-scoring singles to Jerry Sands and Vinny Rottino.

Charlotte would need the insurance runs, as Gwinnett battled back to halve the lead in the seventh.Rio Ruiz and Sean Kazmar Jr. each reached on one-out singles and Michael McKenry doubled into the left field corner to get the G-Braves on the board. Daniel Castro followed with his third single of the game, scoring Kazmar Jr., but reliever Juan Minaya got Emilio Bonifacio to pop up to end the threat.

Coats singled twice and walked in a 3-for-3 night to boost the Charlotte offense in support of starter Terance Marin (W, 5-5). The Knights’ right-hander limited the G-Braves to only three hits over 6.0 innings while walking one and striking out two.

Minaya yielded two runs on four hits over 2.0 innings of relief before Brad Goldberg (S, 8) locked down the victory with a scoreless ninth.

Castro finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and Kazmar Jr. was 2-for-3 with a run scored for Gwinnett. Mateo, making his first start for the G-Braves this season, allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits and two walks in 3.0 innings.

Despite allowing two inherited runners to score, Hursh extended his scoreless innings streak to 24.1 with 3.0 innings of three-hit relief. He, Maikel Cleto and Stephen Janas combined to throw 6.0 scoreless innings, holding the Knights to just four hits over that span.

The G-Braves and Knights conclude the four-game series on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Kanekoa Texeira (1-5, 4.21) will take the ball for the G-Braves against righty Kameron Loe (0-3, 4.31) for Charlotte. Dave Lezotte will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

Thursday’s game is another Triple Play Thursday, sponsored by Coolray Heating and Cooling. For $40, fans can purchase four (4) infield box tickets, four (4) hot dogs and four (4) sodas. Tickets for Thursday’s game are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.

Charlotte Strikes Early, Blanks G-Braves 3-0

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Jerry Sands homered and finished a triple shy of the cycle and Kevan Smith knocked in two runs as the Charlotte Knights (47-64) scored early to beat the Gwinnett Braves (50-60) 3-0 on Tuesday night at Coolray Field.

Sands led off the second inning with a solo home run and also singled and doubled, finishing 3-for-4. Smith singled in runs in the first and third innings against G-Braves’ starter Matt Wisler (L, 0-1) as the Knights built a 3-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Anthony Ranaudo (W, 6-3) held Gwinnett to just five singles over 7.0 scoreless innings while striking out six and walking none. The G-Braves managed to put two runners on base in the same inning only once, in the second, but Ranaudo wiggled out of the jam by getting a pop-out and a fielder’s choice.

Chris Beck (H, 4) and Brad Goldberg (S, 7) closed it out for Charlotte, going the final 2.0 innings and retiring all six batters they faced.

After allowing three runs over the first three innings, Wisler settled down, holding Charlotte to two singles over his final five innings in his first start since being sent down by Atlanta on July 29. He finished with six strikeouts and seven hits allowed over 8.0 total innings, while throwing 69 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Kanekoa Texeira allowed two hits and a walk, but didn’t yield a run in the ninth for the G-Braves. Ronnier Mustelier was the only G-Brave to reach third base on the night, as he finished 2-for-4 with two singles.

Jake Peter went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base for Charlotte.

The G-Braves and Knights continue the four-game series on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Rob Whalen (0-1, 1.93) is scheduled to start for the G-Braves against righty Terance Marin (4-5, 6.18) for Charlotte. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

Tickets for Wednesday’s game are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.

McKenry’s Homer Powers G-Braves

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Michael McKenry blasted a tie-breaking solo home run in the eighth inning, sending the Gwinnett Braves (50-59) to a 4-3 victory over the Charlotte Knights (46-64) on Monday night at Coolray Field.

McKenry took Charlotte left-hander Will Lamb (L, 4-2) deep to the home bullpen in left-center with one out in the eighth for his first home run since joining Gwinnett. The designated hitter also walked and scored twice to help the G-Braves capture their 13th last at-bat win of the season.

The G-Braves took a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning against Knights’ starter David Holmberg and reliever Blake Smith, batting around despite collecting only two hits. Rio Ruiz led off the inning with a single to left-center and moved to second when McKenry walked. Blake Lalli bunted both runners into scoring position and Holmberg hit Emerson Landoni to load the bases.

Smith came on and got Matt Lipka to pop out for the second out, but he walked Reid Brignac to bring across the game’s first run. Ronnier Mustelier followed by beating out a ground ball to second for an infield hit and a 2-0 lead, and Landoni raced home when Smith uncorked a wild pitch with Mel Rojas Jr. at the plate to cap the frame.

But Aaron Blair, who cruised through 7.0 innings, surrendered three runs in the eighth. Charlotte had two singles sandwiched around a walk to get on the board, and Blair hit both Slade Heathcott and Adam Engel to force in a second run and end his night.

Brandon Cunniff replaced Blair with the bases loaded and yielded a game-tying RBI fielder’s choice to Jason Bourgeois, but retired the next two hitters to keep the game tied at 3-3.

After McKenry’s heroics put the G-Braves back ahead, Cunniff (BS, 3, W, 3-3) struck out the side in the ninth to end the game. He finished with four strikeouts in 2.0 hitless innings.

Blair had allowed only two singles over the first 7.0 innings while striking out seven before running into trouble in the eighth. He didn’t factor into the decision after yielding three runs on four total hits and a walk while finishing with 68 strikes in his 109 pitches.

Mustelier had two of Gwinnett’s six hits on the night and collected his team-leading 41st RBI.

Holmberg yielded three runs on four hits over 6.1 innings, as Smith allowed all three inherited runners to score in his 0.2 innings of relief for Charlotte.

The G-Braves and Knights continue the four-game series on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-handerMatt Wisler (0-0, 0.00) is scheduled to make his first Triple-A start of the season for the G-Braves against righty Anthony Ranaudo (5-3, 3.20) for Charlotte. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

It’s a Two-for-Tuesday night, as all Dugout seats are two for the price of one. Tickets for Tuesday’s game are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.

Indianapolis Surges to End G-Braves’ Streak

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Pedro Florimon went 3-for-5 and scored twice, leading the Indianapolis Indians (54-52) to a 4-0 victory over the Gwinnett Braves (48-57) on Thursday night at Coolray Field. The shutout ended Gwinnett’s season-long seven-game winning streak.

Florimon singled three times and scored in the sixth and eighth innings, and Indianapolis added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth to avoid a three-game sweep.

The game was scoreless through five innings, with G-Braves’ starter Rob Whalen (L, 0-1) and Indians’ righty Frank Duncan trading zeroes. But Florimon led off the sixth with a single against Whalen and raced home on a double to left-center by Jose Osuna two batters later.

That was the only blemish on Whalen’s night, as the right-hander allowed four hits over 6.0 innings while walking three and striking out eight. He threw 64 of his 104 pitches for strikes in his first Triple-A loss.

Gwinnett had its best chance to tie the game in the seventh inning against reliever Dovydas Neverauskas, as Daniel Castro and Omar Infante each singled to open the frame, but Neverauskas got the next three hitters in order to keep Indianapolis in front.

Florimon led off the eighth with his third single of the night, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Josh Bell to double the Indians’ lead against reliever Bradley Roney.

Willy Garcia and Gift Ngoepe each hit solo home runs off Rob Wooten in the ninth to provide the final margin.

Rio Ruiz singled twice and walked in a 2-for-3 night, and was the only G-Brave to record a multi-hit game. Mel Rojas Jr. was 0-for-3 with a walk to snap a six-game hitting streak.

Duncan (W, 7-5) held the G-Braves to only four hits over 5.0 innings while walking four and striking out one. Neverauskas (H, 2) and Kelvin Marte (S, 2) tossed 2.0 innings apiece to close it out for the Indians.

The G-Braves hit the road for a quick three-game series in Toledo against the Mud Hens, with game one at Fifth Third Field set for Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Roberto Hernandez (4-5, 4.33) will pitch for Gwinnett against right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (MLB Rehab, 0-0, 0.00) for Toledo. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

G-Braves Ride Homers To 2-1 Win

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Mel Rojas Jr. and Rio Ruiz each hit solo home runs and Aaron Blair allowed just one unearned run over 6.0 innings to lead the Gwinnett Braves (48-56) to a 2-1 victory over the Indianapolis Indians (53-52) on Wednesday night at Coolray Field.

With the win, the International League South Division-leading G-Braves matched a Gwinnett team record with their seventh straight win. It’s the first time the club has won seven consecutive games since April 14-21, 2014.

Rojas Jr. and Ruiz each went deep against Indianapolis starter Ryan Vogelsong (L, 0-2). Rojas Jr. hit a 403-foot blast to right field to tie the game at 1-1 in the third, and Ruiz pushed the G-Braves ahead 2-1 with a 408-foot shot to right field in the fourth.

The homers erased an early 1-0 deficit after the Indians got on the board against Blair just four batters into the contest.

After Danny Ortiz reached on a fielder’s choice in the first, Ruiz couldn’t handle a hard grounder by Elias Diaz, allowing Ortiz to race to third base. Josh Bell followed with a broken-bat single up the middle, putting the Indians on top.

But that would be all Blair (W, 4-3) would yield in his outing, as the right-hander struck out nine and walked two while allowing only five hits. He threw 63 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Stephen Janas (H, 5) struck out one in 2.0 perfect innings of relief and Maikel Cleto (S, 3) put the tying run in scoring position before working out of trouble in the ninth.

Ruiz also doubled in a 2-for-3 night and Rojas Jr. went 2-for-4 as the two combined for four of the G-Braves’ five hits. Blake Lalli‘s seventh-inning single was the other Gwinnett hit.

Vogelsong held the G-Braves in check outside of the two home runs, yielding only three other hits over 7.0 innings in his second rehab start for Indianapolis. He is working his way back to the Pittsburgh Pirates after being struck in the eye with a batted ball on May 23. Vogelsong threw 59 of his 83 pitches for strikes and struck out two while walking one.

Bell went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Willy Garcia was 2-for-4 for Indianapolis.

The G-Braves and Indians conclude the three-game series at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday night at Coolray Field. Gwinnett will send right-hander Rob Whalen (0-0, 2.13) to the mound against right-hander Frank Duncan (6-5, 2.58) for Indianapolis. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM at 6:35 p.m.

Thursday’s game is another Triple Play Thursday. For $40, fans can purchase four (4) infield box tickets, four (4) hot dogs and four (4) sodas. Tickets for Thursday’s game are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets to purchase.


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