CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On the strength of a 5-for-5 night by rehabbing Atlanta Braves’ outfielder Danny Santana, the Gwinnett Braves thumped the Charlotte Knights by a 9-4 score on Saturday night in game three of the four-game series at BB&T Ballpark.
Santana, playing in his second rehab game with Gwinnett, keyed an 11-hit attack that sent the G-Braves to their fourth straight win.
The game started out rough for Gwinnett starting pitcher Aaron Blair in the bottom of the first inning. A lead-off single to right by Yoan Moncada followed by walks to Nicky Delmonico and Cody Asche loaded the bases with no outs. Blair then walked Willy Garcia to force in Moncada for a 1-0 Knights’ lead. Rob Brantly followed with a sacrifice fly to center scoring Delmonico to push the lead to 2-0, but Blair settled down nicely and did not allow another run until the bottom of the sixth.
The G-Braves (47-44) cut the lead in half in the top of the second as Santana led off with single to right off Charlotte starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, stole second, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a two-out single to right by David Freitas.
Gwinnett tied the game in the top of the fourth as Rio Ruiz led off with a walk, moved to third on a single to right by Santana and scored as Carlos Franco hit into a force play at second. The G-Braves took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth as Ruiz led off with a double off the wall in left and scored on a double to left-center by Santana.
However, in the bottom of the sixth, Blair gave up singles to Garcia and Brantly to put runners on the corners. Evan Phillips relieved Blair and allowed Garcia to score the tying run from third on a wild pitch.
With the game knotted at 3-3, Gwinnett scored six consecutive runs to put the game away.
In the top of the seventh, with the bases loaded and one out, Santana doubled to left off reliever Matt Purke scoring both Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña to put the G-Braves back in front 5-3. Ruiz, who went to third on the Santana double, later scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Xavier Avery to push the lead to 6-3.
Gwinnett scored two more in the top of the eighth as a double to left by Acuña scored Kyle Kubitza from first, and later in the inning rehabbing Atlanta Braves’ infielder Sean Rodriguez drove in Acuña from third with a sacrifce fly to center. The G-Braves added their final run in the top of the ninth when Knights’ reliever Brad Goldberg walked Albies with the bases loaded.
The final run of the game came in the bottom of the ninth as Moncada hit a solo homer to right – his 12th of the year – off Gwinnett’s Caleb Dirks.
Blair tossed 5.0 innings with four hits, three earned runs, three walks and five strikeouts in a no-decision. Phillips (BS, 1, W, 1-2) went 2.0 innings with one walk and three strikeouts. Rhiner Cruz worked 1.0 inning with one walk and one strikeout. Dirks pitched 1.0 inning with one hit, one earned run and one strikeout.
Giolito went 5.0 innings with five hits, three earned runs, four walks and six strikeouts. Purke (L, 3-3) tossed 2.0 innings with three hits, three earned runs, three walks and two strikeouts. Goldberg worked 1.2 innings with three hits, three earned runs, three walks and three strikeouts. Will Lamb pitched to one batter in the top of the ninth and was credited with 0.1 inning.
Santana doubled, scored twice and tallied three RBIs on his five-hit night, the first by a G-Brave since Freddie Freeman, also playing on a rehab assignment, went 5-for-5 on April 20, 2013 at Charlotte. Acuña was 2-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI. Ruiz was 1-for-3 with three runs and Freitas went 2-for-5 with an RBI. Avery was 0-for-1 with an RBI, but drew three walks to push his on-base streak to a team-best 25 games.
For Charlotte (39-52) Moncada was 2-for-5 with a solo homer and two runs.
The G-Braves and Knights conclude the four-game series on Sunday in Charlotte. Right-hander Kris Medlen (1-2, 6.25 ERA) will start for Gwinnett, while Charlotte will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (6-5, 3.97 ERA). First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m.