LAWRENCEVILLE -- Even a cold, misty night couldn't cool off the Gwinnett Braves as they scored nine runs on 12 hits to beat the Charlotte Knights 9-6 on Saturday at Coolray Field.
The G-Braves have won five straight games.
Gwinnett (9-6) got a huge lift from Atlanta Braves' left-hander Mike Minor (W, 2-0). In his fourth rehab appearance of the 2014 season, Minor tossed a season-high 6.0 innings and allowed three runs, two earned on four hits. He threw 80 pitches, 52 for strikes, walked none and struck out four.
"I think the main thing is going out there and being healthy and getting my pitch count up," said Minor about his rehab start. "During the third, fourth, five innings, I tried (to) mix in my off-speed pitches. Obviously early on, I tried to establish my fastball on both sides of the plate."
Minor got off to slow start with his fastball, allowing two runs in the top of the first inning. Carlos Sanchez hit a one-out triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Phegley, while Matt Davidson tattooed a ball over the left field fence to give the Knights an early 2-0 lead.
"It was a tough first inning," said Minor. "Other than that I started to work some breaking pitches and change-ups and got them off balance."
Minor's balanced attack was backed by the G-Braves, as they answered with five runs in the bottom of the first inning off Knights' starter Scott Carroll. With the bases loaded, Ernesto Mejia tied the game with a two-run double to left. Todd Cunningham added a two-run double as well, putting Gwinnett in front 4-2. Cunningham later scored on a throwing error by shortstop Tyler Saladino, making it 5-2.
The G-Braves tacked on another run in the third. Cunningham walked, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on an RBI single by Christian Bethancourt, making it 6-2.
After Gwinnett tallied another unearned run in the fifth, Charlotte (6-10) answered with a run of their own in the top of the sixth off Minor. With a runner on third base and one out, Phegley hit another sacrifice fly to bring in Sanchez, cutting the lead to 7-3.
In the eighth, Mejia put it out of reach with another two-run double to extend the lead to 9-3.
However, Charlotte made it interesting in ninth, scoring three runs against reliever Pedro Beato. Dan Black delivered the big hit, a two-run double, to cut the lead to 9-6. That would be as close as the Knights would get, as Beato got Saladino to fly out to end the game.
Carroll (L, 3-1) suffered the loss for the Knights. The right-hander was roughed up for six runs, four earned on six hits over 4.0 innings.
Offensively for Gwinnett, Cunningham went 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, while La Stella added a 3-for-4 game with two runs. Mejia finished 2-for-5 with two doubles and a season-high four RBIs.
The Knights were held to five hits on the night, but Sanchez had a big day as he went 3-for-4 with two runs. Phegley and Black each plated two RBIs.
The Gwinnett Braves and Charlotte Knights continue the series with game two at Coolray Field on Easter Sunday, first pitch scheduled for 2:05 PM. Right-hander Zach Stewart (0-0, 5.40) will take the ball for the G-Braves, while former Gwinnett right-hander Tommy Hanson (0-0, 0.00) makes his debut for the Knights. Tony Schiavone will have the play-by-play call on wdun.com, GwinnettBraves.com, TuneIn Radio and the MiLB First Pitch app.
Easter Sunday is the second Sunday Family FunDay of the year! Bring the family out early before the 2:05 PM game for a pre-game catch in the outfield. Catch will begin when gates open and last for 20 minutes. After the game, all kids 12 and under will get to run the bases! To purchase tickets, call the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com