Tuesday January 16th, 2018 6:13AM

G-Braves slump to 15th loss in last 20 games

By staff
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Gwinnett Braves led 2-1 after the first inning, but ultimately fell 5-4 to the Indianapolis Indians in the first game of a four-game series on Monday evening at Coolray Field. Jose Lugo made the spot start for Gwinnett and allowed five runs, four earned, over 6.1 innings in the loss. Ernesto Mejia went 2-for-4 with a solo home run, but it would not be enough for the G-Braves.

As a result of their 15th loss in the last 20 games and Charlotte's 5-2 victory over Columbus, the G-Braves find themselves a season-worst 5 games behind the Knights (42-30) for first place in the International League South Division.

The IL West leading Indians jumped out to an early lead almost immediately. The second hitter of the game, Gorkys Hernandez, scalded a triple into the gap and then scored when the following hitter Starling Marte drove him home on a sacrifice fly.

Gwinnett wasted little time responding with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the first. Luis Durango singled for his first of two hits on the night, and two batters later, Mejia doubled to put two runners in scoring position. Felix Pie came through with a clutch two-run double that gave Gwinnett their only lead of the night at 2-1.

Lugo (L, 1-2) worked right into a jam in the top of the second. Georgia native Brandon Boggs led off with a double, then scored on an Anderson Hernandez single to tie the game. Pitcher Rick VandenHurk followed with a run-scoring single to put the Indians ahead, and four batters later, Marte drove in his second of three RBIs on the night when he singled home VandenHurk to raise the lead to 4-2.

Mejia crushed his 13th home run of the season, a solo shot to left in the third inning off VandenHurk, to cut the deficit to 4-3. The Gwinnett slugger went 2-for-4 with six total bases, a double, a home run, two runs scored and his team-leading 49th RBI.

Both teams traded runs in the fourth inning. Marte drove in his third run of the night with his second sacrifice fly to increase the Indians lead to 5-3, but Josh Wilson doubled and scored on a wild pitch to bring the game back to a one-run difference.

VandenHurk (W, 5-0) never allowed another run, finishing with four earned runs on seven hits over 7 innings. Still, the G-Braves threatened to come back in the ninth inning.

Pinch hitter Christian Marrero reached on a walk and J.C. Boscan followed with a single up the middle, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base. However, Indians reliever Bryan Morris struck out Lance Zawadzki and received help from his defense to finish the game. Jose Constanza hit a sharp grounder that seemed destined for right field, but second baseman Yamaico Navarro laid out for a gorgeous diving stop and throw to first base to end the G-Braves chances. Morris (S, 5) earned the save with 2 scoreless innings.

Cory Gearrin added 2 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings in relief of Lugo, walking two while striking out none.

Marte led the way for the Indians, going 1-for-2 with three RBIs. Pie went 1-for-4 with two RBIs for Gwinnett.

The Gwinnett Braves (37-35) continue their nine-game homestand with the second game of the four-game series against the Indianapolis Indians (41-29) on Tuesday night at Coolray Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The G-Braves' starter has yet to be officially announced, while the Indians will counter with left-hander Jeff Locke (5-3, 3.27). The game will be broadcast on WDUN 550 AM and 102.9 FM in Gainesville with Tony Schiavone calling the play-by-play.

Tuesday night is another "2-for-1 Tuesday" at Coolray Field. Visit to print your coupon. Some seating level restrictions apply (limit six tickets per group).
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