SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Behind the offensive performance of 19-year-old Ronald Acuna, the Gwinnett Braves rolled to an 8-5 win over the Syracuse Chiefs on Saturday night in game two of the three-game series at NBT Bank Stadium.
Acuna, rated the No. 1 prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ organization by MLB.com, went 4-for-5 with a double, home run, three runs scored and an RBI. He fell a triple shy of the cycle as he moved his batting average to .318 in 17 games during his Triple-A debut with Gwinnett (52-53) .
Batting in the leadoff spot, Acuna began the game in fine fashion with a solo homer deep to left-center off Shawn Kelley, who started the game on a rehab assignment for the Washington Nationals.
Gwinnett pushed the lead to 5-0 with a big top of the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Acuna reached on an infield single off the foot of Syracuse reliever Phillips Valdez. Jace Peterson also reached on an infield single, putting runners on second and third. Dansby Swanson, playing in his second game with Gwinnett, drove in Acuna from second with a single to center for a 2-0 lead. Rio Ruiz doubled over the bag at first, scoring Peterson to make it 3-0 and moving Swanson to third. Sean Kazmar Jr. plated the final two runs of the inning with a single to left, scoring both Swanson and Ruiz
Syracuse (38-67) cut the lead to 5-1 with a run in the bottom of the fifth off Gwinnett starter Matt Wisler as Irving Falu’s sacrifice fly to right scored Jhonatan Solano from third. Solano had led off the inning with a bloop single to center.
Trailing 5-1, the Chiefs trimmed the lead further in the bottom of the fourth against Wisler. Clint Robinson led off with a double to center and scored from second on a one-out double to left-center by Alejandro De Aza making it 5-2. De Aza, who moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a single to left by Solano slicing the lead to 5-3.
However, the G-Braves rebounded in the top of the seventh against Chiefs reliever Kevin Jepsen. Acuna led off with an infield single, and moved to third when Syracuse third baseman Neftali Soto misplayed a ground ball hit by Swanson. Ruiz walked, pushing Swanson to second and loading the bases. Kazmar drove in Acuna with a sacrifice fly to left increasing the lead to 6-3, and Dustin Peterson followed with a double to right scoring both Swanson and Ruiz to make it 8-3.
The Chiefs added two more runs, one via a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the eighth by Michael Almanzar off Wisler and another in the bottom of the ninth with another Falu sacrifice fly off reliever A.J. Minter. David Peterson entered with two outs in the ninth and recorded the final out for the save.
Wisler (W, 6-5) pitched 7.2 innings with 11 hits, four earned runs, one walk and five strikeouts. Minter worked 1.0 inning with one hit, one earned run and two walks. David Peterson (S, 7) pitched to one batter in the bottom of the ninth.
Kelley (L, 0-1) picked up the loss in his one inning of rehab work. He gave up one hit, one earned run and struck out two. Valdez tossed 2.0 innings with five hits, four earned runs and two strikeouts. Rafael Martin went 3.0 innings with two hits and three strikeouts. Jepsen pitched 2.0 innings with two hits, three unearned runs, two walks and one strikeout. Wander Suero worked 1.0 inning with one hit and two walks.
Acuna’s 4-for-5 night was his sixth multi-hit game since joining the G-Braves on July 13. Kazmar was 1-for-3 with his 400th career hit as a G-Brave and three RBIs. Dustin Peterson went 1-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Swanson was 1-for-4 with two runs and one RBI.
For Syracuse, both De Aza and Solano were 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Soto was 2-for-5 with a run and Falu had two RBIs.
The G-Braves and Syracuse Chiefs conclude the three-game series Sunday at 1:05 at NBT Bank Stadium. Gwinnett will start left-hander Andrew Albers (10-3, 3.13 ERA), while the Chiefs will start right-hander Jacob Turner (0-3, 8.39 ERA).