It was a night to remember for Reds prospect Didi Gregorius. The 22 year-old made his Triple-A debut Thursday for the Louisville Bats and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
“I wasn’t really (trying) to perform,” Gregorius said. “I was just relaxed. Just like a regular day.”
Unfortunately, Gregorius’ stellar debut was dampened by Gwinnett Braves, who trounced the Bats with a season-high 15 hits to take the first game of a four game series 8-5. Six Braves hitters had multi-hit games while the bullpen shut down the Bats late.
Gwinnett broke a 5-5 tie with some huge two out hits in the seventh. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Bats reliever Nick Christiani gave up a double to Christian Marrero on a ball that barely trickled down the first base line. Lance Zadwadzki then singled up the middle to score Marrero to push the Braves ahead 6-5.
The Braves struck again with two outs in the ninth, this time reaching Jordan Smith. An RBI single from Marrero and RBI double from Zadwazki to make it 8-5 and put the icing on their 44th win of the season. It was the first runs Smith has given up in nearly a month.
Christiani (0-5) took the loss for the Bats. It was the fourth time he has given up a run in his last five outings.
“He’s having a good year if you look at the big picture,” Bats manager David Bell said. “Tonight he was throwing the ball really well and gave up two ground ball hits. The key for him is to keep getting the ground balls.”
The Braves wasted no time scoring. With one out in the first, Luis Durango reached on a bunt single and promptly stole his league-leading 32nd base of the season. Felix Pie then ripped a double to right-center field, scoring Durango and giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
It was the 62nd time in 93 games the Bats (33-60) have allowed the first run of the game—they are 13-49 in those games.
Durango struck again in the second, tripling home Jose Yepez and Jose Constanza to make it 3-0 after two.
The Bats rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the second. After a leadoff double from newly signed Xavier Paul, Paul Janish and Cody Puckett singled to load the bases. That brought Bats starter Tim Gustafson to the plate. Gustafson helped himself out, ripping an RBI single to left, cutting the lead to 3-1. It was Gustafson’s second RBI of the season with the Bats.
With the bases still loaded, Denis Phipps grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Janish to make it 3-2. Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly that scored Puckett and tied the game at three. The next batter, Henry Rodriguez, stepped in and singled home Phipps to give the Bats their first lead of the night.
The Braves responded in the fourth with an RBI single from Durango, his third hit of the night. The Bats took their final lead of the night on an RBI double from Gregorius.
“(Gregorius) played a good game,” Bell said. “I’m glad to see him get here. He’s a really good player. He plays the game at a different speed both offensively and defensively.”
Gwinnett came back to tie the game at five on a sacrifice fly from Yepez in the fifth.
The Bats had their chance in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. After Dioner Navarro doubled and advanced to third on a passed ball, Xavier Paul reached on an error and stole second, putting runners at second and third with one out. Paul Janish popped out to first and Cody Puckett struck out to end the frame, stranding the Bats’ best opportunity of the night.
Gwinnett’s bullpen shut down the Bats the rest of the way. The Bats mustered just one hit the final four innings, going in order three times and striking out six times.
The Bats and Braves continue their four game series Friday night when Sean Gallagher (6-6, 5.06 ERA) of the Bats will match wits with Yohan Flande (3-6, 3.83 ERA) of the Braves. First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with fireworks following the game.