The Gwinnett Braves (15-17) nearly came from three runs down to steal a victory from the Syracuse Chiefs (14-18) on Tuesday, but left the bases loaded in the ninth inning to lose 5-4 in the second game of a four-game series at Coolray Field.
The G-Braves entered the final frame down 5-2, but a single, a walk and back-to-back run-scoring doubles against right-handed reliever Evan Meek (S, 6) brought them to within a single run with one out in the inning. Braeden Schlehuber stood on third base after he drove in Adonis Garcia with a double to left field, and Mycal Jones represented the winning run on second after his own double scored Barrett Kleinknecht.
Meek intentionally walked Jose Peraza to load the bases after he struck out Matt Kennelly for the second out. Newest G-Brave Daniel Castro looked to be a hero with the bases full and two outs, but he popped out to shortstop to end the game.
The G-Braves’ offense had sat dormant for much of the game. The team’s three hits in the ninth were half as many as it had through the first eight innings.
Gwinnett converted on its first two hits, however, to put the teams in a 2-2 tie through three innings. Peraza led off the G-Braves' half of the first with a single up the middle, stole second base, moved to third on a groundout to shortstop by Castro and scored on a groundout to third by Todd Cunningham that put Gwinnett ahead 1-0.
Jones clubbed his first career Triple-A home run to lead off the third and tie the game at two runs apiece. But that was all of the offense Gwinnett managed against Syracuse right-handed starter Bruce Billings (W, 1-2). He pitched 6.0 innings with five hits allowed, a walk and four strikeouts.
G-Braves' right-handed starter Sugar Ray Marimon (L, 2-1) allowed one batter to reach base in the first and third innings, but the Chiefs did the bulk of their damage with nearly identical two-run rallies in the second and fourth innings.
Syracuse broke Marimon’s 10.1-inning scoreless streak with three consecutive hits to open the second inning. Jason Martinson led off with a single and scored on a ground ball down the right-field line by Kila Ka’aihue when Jones bobbled the ball in the right-field corner for an error. Ka’aihue scored when Josh Johnson hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Johnson did the same to give the Chiefs their fourth run of the game in the fourth inning. This time, Martinson led off the frame with a walk and advanced to third base on a double by Ka’aihue. Steve Lerud drove in Martinson for the first run of the inning.
Marimon did not record an out in the fifth, as a Matt den Dekker single, a walk to Cutter Dykstra and a run-scoring single from Darin Mastroianni knocked him from the game with the G-Braves behind 5-2. Four of those runs were earned against Marimon, who gave up eight hits and a three walks with two strikeouts. Left-handed reliever Donnie Veal retired the only three batters he faced in seven pitches to complete the inning.
Right-handed relievers David Carpenter, Mitchell Boggs and John Cornely combined to hold Syracuse scoreless through the final 4.0 innings. Carpenter allowed one hit, an intentional walk and a hit batsman to go with two strikeouts in his 2.0 innings of work. Boggs worked around a leadoff walk in the eighth, and Cornely retired the Chiefs in order in the ninth.
However, the G-Braves could not produce anything against the two Syracuse right-handed relievers who bridged the innings between Billings and Meek. Jose Valverde (H, 1) allowed nothing more than a walk in the seventh, and Manny Delcarmen (H, 1) set the G-Braves down in order in the eighth.
Jones, Schlehuber and Garcia each finished with two hits, and Peraza's stolen base in the first inning was his 14th of the year. He entered the game second in the league that department and has stolen nine bases in his last 10 games.
Former G-Brave Lerud led the Syracuse offense with three singles, a walk and an RBI in his four at-bats.
The G-Braves and Chiefs will play the third contest of their four-game series at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday at Coolray Field. Left-hander Manny Banuelos (2-0, 3.06 ERA) will start for Gwinnett, while Syracuse will start righty Taylor Jordan (1-2, 2.88 ERA). Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM and WSBRadio.com beginning at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday's game will feature Baseball Bingo, when fans can follow the on-field action for a chance to win great prizes on "Winning Wednesday." Kids ages 12 and under will also receive a voucher for a free hot dog, chips and soft drink. To purchase tickets, call the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com.