Manny Banuelos delivered his finest outing since his return from 2012 "Tommy John" surgery, leading the Gwinnett Braves (10-13) to a 5-0 win over the Toledo Mud Hens (10-12) Saturday night. Banuelos and three relievers combined on a three-hit shutout in front of a season-high 8,415 fans at Coolray Field.
Banuelos (W, 2-0) tied his longest outing post-surgery with 6.0 innings pitched in his second consecutive start, although this was the first time he held an opponent scoreless for more than 5.0 innings in 36 starts dating back to August 29, 2011 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It was also the G-Braves’ first shutout since they won 6-0 on August 31, 2014 at Charlotte.
“Today was a great outing,” said Banuelos, the No. 11 prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ system as rated by MLB.com. “My teammates helped me a lot, making great plays that helped me get out of innings.”
Banuelos allowed five Toledo baserunners, but none moved beyond second base. The lefty yielded two singles and three walks while striking out two, finishing with 86 pitches, 50 of which were strikes.
His counterpart, Mud Hens’ left-handed starter Kyle Ryan (L, 0-3), was equally effective through the first four innings until Gwinnett broke through in a two-out, fifth inning rally. Joe Benson doubled down the right-field line and scored on a base hit up the middle from Braeden Schlehuber to put the G-Braves in front 1-0.
The G-Braves piled on four runs in the sixth with four singles and two walks. Jose Peraza led off the inning with an infield single to shortstop and stole second base with Cedric Hunter at the plate. Hunter followed with a single to right field, and Adonis Garcia drove in Peraza with a base hit up the middle to give Gwinnett a 2-0 lead.
Right-handed reliever Melvin Mercedes entered the game with one out and the bases loaded. He gave up a run-scoring single to Barrett Kleinknecht and walked Benson to drive home Gwinnett’s fourth run. Schlehuber hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Elmer Reyes for his second RBI of the game.
A trio of right-handed Gwinnett relievers preserved Banuelos’ victory with three straight scoreless innings. David Carpenter set the Mud Hens down in order in the seventh with one strikeout, Brandon Cunniff worked around a hit and a walk with one strikeout and Aaron Kurcz closed out the game with a strikeout, a walk and a line-drive double play started by Peraza.
Schlehuber and Garcia each had two hits in the game. Schlehuber finished 2-for-2 and has five hits in his last eight at-bats across three games. Garcia went 2-for-3 with his team-leading 12th RBI.
Toledo’s second hitter of the game, Dixon Machado, singled to center field in the first, but center fielder Todd Cunningham threw him out trying to advance to second base to record his team-leading sixth outfield assist of the season. Xavier Avery was the only other Mud Hens batter to record a hit, as he reached on singles in the sixth and eighth innings.
The G-Braves will finish their homestand with a 2:05 p.m. game Sunday against the Mud Hens at Coolray Field. Right-hander Williams Perez (2-0, 1.57 ERA) will take his rotation-leading earned-run average into a start against Toledo and right-handed starter Tim Melville (1-2, 3.80 ERA). Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM and WSBRadio.com beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Fans can bring their dogs to watch the game in the Lawn Seating area beyond the outfield wall for "Bark in the Park" day at Coolray Field. In addition, fans will have the chance to participate in regular Sunday Funday promotions such as Pre-Game Catch on the Field for the first 20 minutes after the gates open. Kids will also be able to run the bases following the game. To purchase tickets, call the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.