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.