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LAWRENCEVILLE — On the eve of Tom Glavine’s prospective start in Gwinnett, the G-Braves put on a performance that even the longtime major leaguer could appreciate.
Gwinnett scored five runs over the first two innings and received solid pitching performances from starter Tony Armas and reliever Vladamir Nunez to lead the team to a 7-3 win over the Toledo Mud Hens on Friday at Gwinnett Stadium.
"We were able to pick up some early runs and that’s something we’ve talked about all year long," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. "It’s better when we score first and we can control the ball game."
Scoring early is beneficial for any team, especially the G-Braves (22-20), who improved to 19-5 when scoring first and 17-6 when scoring four or more runs.
Gwinnett can thank Toledo (17-23) for the early runs.
In the bottom of the first, Brooks Conrad hit a would-be inning-ending ground ball to first, but Toledo’s Mike Hessman misplayed the ball which allowed Wes Timmons to score from second.
With the inning extended, the G-Braves scored three more runs after Van Pope, J.C. Holt and Clint Sammons each recorded run-scoring, two-out hits.
"All the two-out hits were huge," said Timmons, who finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. "Anytime you can jump on a team that swings the bat as well as they do is a good thing."
Gwinnett scored again in the second when Timmons singled in Antonio Perez.
Toledo appeared ready to cut into the five-run deficit in the third inning, but Braves starter Tony Armas struck out Hessman to leave the bases loaded.
"He fell behind early but came back and made two really good pitches," Brundage said of the bases-loaded strikeout by Armas. "He competed well and to his credit he wasn’t giving in."
After cruising through the first three innings, Armas got into some trouble in the fourth inning as Toledo scored three runs on three hits, including an RBI triple to right by Will Rhymes that plated Blent Clevlen and cut the deficit to three. Rhymes scored on a wild pitch to make the score 5-3 Gwinnett.
The wild pitch was one of two miscues for the G-Braves, whose two errors paled in comparison to Toledo’s four, three of which were made by Hessman.
""We took advantage of their mistakes," Brundage said. "We took what was given to us."
Armas’ night ended after four innings when the G-Braves called on righthander Vladimir Nunez to maintain the lead. He did just that, striking out six and giving up just two hits in three innings.
Nunez’s best work came in the seventh inning when he struck out Hessman, who represented the tying run, on a 3-2 curveball with a runner on third base. Hessmen, a veteran minor league and former Atlanta Braves’ draft pick struck out three times and left four runners on base.
The G-Braves added an insurance run in the seventh when Conrad roped a double to left that scored Timmons and padded their lead in the eighth when Gregor Blanco hit an RBI single up the middle to score Sammons, who finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored.
Gwinnett has now won two straight and seven of its last eight.
"We’re starting to realize what we can and can’t do," Brundage said.