After having their first day off on Wednesday, the Danville Braves got back in action Thursday with a purpose and Elizabethton was the innocent victim. The Braves exploded for 11 runs and dominated the Twins 11-2 for a second straight win.
The offensive assault began in the second inning and didn’t let up until the game was already out of reach.
“It’s like I’ve kind of been saying, these guys, once everything’s clicked and they’re timing starts getting down we’re going to put up some runs. It’s just an added bonus that our pitchers have been just throwing absolutely awesome,” said Danville Manager Barrett Kleinknecht.
After a quiet first inning and two quick outs to start the bottom of the second, the Braves strung together four straight hits and brought in three runs. Rusber Estrada got the rally started with a harmless single up the middle. Greg Cullen followed with another single to center. Nicholas Shumpert cleared the bases with a triple that was a blooper into shallow center field, but got under the dive and rolled away. He then came around to score on a double by Carlos Baerga Jr. to make it 3-0.
“It helps when you string together a couple walks, a couple base hits and we’re finally getting a couple of breaks. That break that Shumpert hit, kind of that bloop that the guy dove after, and we were able to score a couple,” Kleinknecht said. “We haven’t had that. We have been lining out with two outs. We haven’t really gotten that bloop to get us going and we got it going and the guys battled.”
Brett Langhorne broke the game open in the bottom of the third inning with a three-run double on the eighth pitch of the at bat to make it 6-0. Estrada followed up his single in the second with an RBI single in the third to make it 7-0.
Justin Dean led off the bottom of the fourth inning and got to third on a triple to right-center field and scored on an infield single by Andrew Moritz. After a walk by Greyson Jenista and a strikeout, Estrada continued his hot start to the contest with a two-run single to extend the lead to 10-0.
The day off really seemed to pay dividends for the Braves, and Kleinknecht said it more mentally than anything else.
“The first week, it’s just an emotional roller coaster. Getting ready for opening day, your first pro game, and then you go on the road and you get to experience the visitor clubhouse… We played in a lot of games. I know mentally it had to drain them,” he said. “I think it was mentally a perfect timing for an off day so they were able to get back, get the batteries rejuvenated and getting ready to go.”
The Braves added one more in the fifth inning when Baerga Jr. scored on a wild pitch to make it 11-1. The Twins finally sat the Braves down without a run in the sixth inning, but the Danville starter, Ricardo Sanchez had all the run support he needed. Sanchez, who was making a rehab start before going back to AA Mississippi, worked six innings, allowed just one run on four hits, two walks and he struck out four.
“A lot of times with rehab guys it’s hard to get them to get the same intensity, but I know Ricardo real well and so does (pitching coach Kanekoa Texeira), so we were able to talk to him,” Kleinknecht said. “He showed more intensity than I’ve ever seen him pitch with in a long time tonight. He wanted it. He wanted that last guy. It was nice. He filled the zone. He helped save our bullpen, so now we’ve got a lot of arms we can throw at these guys the next couple games.”
His lone mark on the scoreboard came in the top of the fifth. After two quick outs, Sanchez hit a batter, walked a batter and then a single brought home the first Twins run.
The Brave turned to Brooks Wilson in the seventh and worked around three hits to work two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
Entering play, the Twins led the Appalachian League in runs (60), but the Braves pitching staff, which led the lead in ERA (2.92) entering play, held them to just eight hits and one run in game one of the three-game series in Danville.
“The pitchers were just attacking the hitters. We didn’t really fall behind a whole lot and they gave our defense a chance,” Kleinknecht said. “Justin Dean made two nice sliding plays coming in. Venter made a nice play on the backhand.”
Bradey Welsh made his professional debut in the ninth inning for the Braves. He struggled with his command, but got out of the inning with just one unearned run coming in to score. Not one ball that got in play in the inning left the infield, but the Twins made life difficult before the final out.
“You have to (battle). You have to attack like it’s 0-0 because in the end that’s his run on the board, but you want him to attack with fastballs. That’s all you can do. As long as you’re throwing strikes and giving our defense a chance that’s all we ask,” Kleinknecht said.
The Braves (4-5) and Twins (5-3) will be back in action Friday night at 7 p.m. for game two of the series.
Danville 11, Elizabethton 2
LP – T. Palm (1-1) 2IP, 8H, 7R, 7ER, 2BB, 0K
S. Pinkerton 2.2IP, 4H, 4ER, 3BB, 2K
J. Quezada 2.1IP, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 2K
R. Ramirez IP, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 1K
R. Sanchez (W, 1-0) 6IP, 4H, 1ER, 2BB, 4K
B. Wilson 2IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 3K
B. Walsh IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, 2BB, 0K
D. Keirsey Jr. 0-4, walk, run scored
Y. Severino 4-5, RBI
R. Jeffers 0-5
C. Williams 0-3, 2 walks
A. Robles 1-5
R. De La Torre 2-4, double
T. Casanova 1-4
A. Weiss 0-4
L. Marrero 0-2, run scored, walk
J. Dean 1-4, triple, run scored
A. Moritz 2-4, 2 runs scored, RBI
G. Jenista 0-2, 3 walks, 2 runs scored
B. Venter 1-5, run scored
B. Langhorne 1-3, 3RBI, run scored, double, 2 walks
R. Estrada 3-5, 3RBI, run scored
G. Cullen 1-4, run scored, walk
N. Shumpert 1-4, triple, 2RBI, run scored
C. Baerga Jr. 2-4, RBI, run scored, double