CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Gwinnett Braves’ bullpen allowed a late lead to slip away in a rain-shortened 7-5 loss to the Charlotte Knights on Friday night in game one of the three-game series at BB&T Ballpark.
The G-Braves (53-57) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. David Freitas greeted Charlotte starting pitcher Carson Fulmer with a single to right and scored from first on a double to right-center by Ronald Acuna. Acuna, who reached third on the throw from the outfield, later scored when Jace Peterson lifted a sacrifice fly to left for a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Gwinnett starter Manny Barreda, making his first start since joining the G-Braves from the Mexican League, gave up a leadoff walk to Eddy Alvarez and a single to Jacob May. Cody Asche singled to right scoring Alvarez, and May came around to score when the throw from Acuna in right went into the dugout. Later in the inning, with two runners on, Casey Gillaspie the hit a sharp grounder up the first base line that deflected off the umpire to load the bases. However, when G-Braves’ first baseman Carlos Franco got to the ball, he threw to second to try to get the final out of the inning. The throw allowed Rymer Liriano to race home from third with the go-ahead run at 3-2.
Gwinnett surged ahead in the top of the seventh against Charlotte (46-65) reliever Jean Machi. Acuna was hit by a pitch with one out and Peterson followed with a two-run homer to center for a 4-3 lead. Rio Ruiz went back-to-back with a solo homer to right off Machi, pushing the lead to 5-3.
The lead did not last long. In the bottom of the seventh with Phillip Pfeifer on the mound for Gwinnett, Gillaspie drew a two-out walk and moved to third on a single to center by Danny Hayes. Jake Peter then singled to left, scoring Gillaspie from third and cutting the Gwinnett lead to 5-4. Pfeifer then walked Ronald Bueno to load the bases and Alvarez singled to left, scoring both Hayes and Peter for a 6-5 Charlotte lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Gwinnett reliever David Peterson gave up a two-out single to Liriano. After a wild pitch moved Liriano to second, Rob Brantley drilled an RBI double to right for a 7-5 lead. Later in the inning, heavy rains hit the Charlotte area forcing the game to be called.
Barreda pitched 4.1 innings with five hits, three earned runs, five walks and three strikeouts. Akeel Morris went 1.2 innings with one hit and one strikeout. Pfeifer (BS, 1, L, 0-1) worked 1.0 inning with three hits, three earned runs and two walks. David Peterson tossed two thirds of an inning with two hits, one earned run and one walk.
Fulmer pitched 6.0 innings for the Knights with four hits, two earned runs, five walks and seven strikeouts. Machi (BS, 1, W, 1-0) went 1.0 inning with two hits, three earned runs and one walk. Clark (S, 2) worked 1.0 inning with two strikeouts.
Acuna was 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Jace Peterson went 2-for-3 with his second homer of the season and three RBIs. Ruiz went 1-for-3 with his team-leading 10th homer.
For the Knights, May and Asche were each 2-for-5. Peter was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
The G-Braves and Knights meet in game two of the series on Saturday night at 7:05. Gwinnett will start left-hander Andrew Albers (10-3, 2.92 ERA), while Charlotte will counter with right-hander Lucas Giolito (4-10, 4.95 ERA).