LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Aaron Blair tossed six scoreless innings and the Gwinnett Braves broke it open late to earn a 5-0 victory over the Norfolk Tides (2-5) in the club’s home opener Thursday night at Coolray Field.
Gwinnett (6-2) added to a 1-0 lead with four runs in the eighth, capped by Rio Ruiz’s first Triple-A home run, a three-run blast into the Norfolk bullpen in right field. The G-Braves loaded the bases with one out and Ronnier Mustelier beat out a potential inning-ending double play to plate Matt Tuiasosopo and extend the inning to Ruiz.
Blair (W, 2-0), who received 11 runs of support in his season debut on April 9 in Norfolk, did the heavy lifting himself Thursday, holding the Tides to just five hits. He was greeted rudely by Xavier Avery to lead off the game, but responded by getting Alfredo Marte to bounce into a double play.
Blair did not allow more than one baserunner until the sixth, when Norfolk loaded the bases. Avery started the frame with his third hit of the night and promptly stole second, before Marte and Christian Walker were set down on strikes. But back-to-back walks to Dariel Alvarez and former G-Brave Joey Terdoslavich filled the bases. Manager Brian Snitker left Blair in to face Francisco Pena.
The Tides’ catcher hit a high chopper to Reid Brignac at second, who made the easy play to retire the side.
Blair has now allowed three earned runs over his first 12 innings for an ERA of 2.25. The right-hander threw 57 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
Rob Wooten (H, 1), Kanekoa Texeira (H, 1) and Brandon Cunniff each threw 1.0 scoreless inning to complete the eight-hitter, Gwinnett’s second shutout of 2016.
Gwinnett opened up a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth as Sean Kazmar Jr. led off with a single to center and scored on Emilio Bonifacio’s double into the left-field corner.
Ruiz finished 2-for-4 with the homer and three RBIs for the G-Braves, while Bonifacio went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Avery went 3-for-4 and Alvarez reached base safely with a pair of walks for the Tides, who got six strong innings from lefty Nick Additon (L, 0-1). The southpaw scattered seven hits and did not walk a batter, while allowing just one run and striking out three.
Right-hander Tyrell Jenkins (0-0, 6.00 ERA) takes the mound for Gwinnett in the second game of the series on Friday night against former G-Brave Todd Redmond (0-1, 24.30 ERA) for the Tides. Tony Schiavone will have the call of the action beginning at 6:35 p.m. on 97.7 FM and WSBRadio.com.
The first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a 2016 G-Braves Schedule Magnet. G-Braves’ players and coaches will wear Brooklyn Dodgers-themed jerseys as part of “Jackie Robinson Day,” and the jerseys will be autographed and auctioned off following the game. The night concludes with post-game fireworks, courtesy of Fox 5 Atlanta. Tickets are on sale now at the Coolray Field Ticket Office, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.