Norfolk Tides Manager Ron Johnson has downplayed his team's scuffling start the season, but there was no hiding his elation Thursday afternoon. Henry Urrutia doubled twice and drove in two runs, and the Tides finally broke out of a collective funk in a 7-4 win over Gwinnett at Harbor Park.
Coming to life
The victory, which completed a seven-game homestand, snapped a four-game losing streak during which Norfolk went 2 for 34 (.059) with runners in scoring position.
The Tides were 5 for 13 (.385) in such situations Thursday, with nine hits and five doubles. That included a four-run fourth inning in which consecutive RBI doubles by Johnny Monell, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Xavier Paul were followed by Quintin Berry's RBI single to give Norfolk a 4-3 lead.
The sequence followed five straight strikeouts by Braves starter Cody Martin.
"When we started banging a little bit, that sent a total different feel through our dugout," Johnson said. "It was almost like somebody had just relieved the pressure, and everybody was like, 'Yeah, these are doubles. These are runs. We can do this.' "
Sniffles and strikes
Right-hander Kevin Gausman, the Baltimore Orioles' top active pitching prospect, was hit, but not hard.
The 23-year-old allowed three runs - two earned - on four hits in four innings. He walked three and struck out four before leaving with a 4-3 lead.
Not shown in the box score: Gausman has been battling a nasty cold, with a sore throat, sinus issues and aches and pains. He used the outing to test himself.
"In the majors, you're not going to miss a start because you're sick," said Gausman, who still touched 99 mph on the radar gun. "You've got to grind through it. Unless your leg's falling off, you're going to toe the rubber."
Gwinnett manufactured a pair of first-inning runs with a clean single, a fisted bloop double, a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout.
But he didn't buckle, even without feeling his best.
"I was proud of him today," Johnson said. "He looked like a mature guy out there on the mound."
Off on a good note
Johnson has pointed to the long season in minimizing the impact of losses during the opening homestand. But his reaction Thursday showed unabashed relief.
Asked whether his team needed the win as it embarks on a seven-game road trip to Charlotte, Gwinnett and Durham, Johnson didn't hesitate.
"I didn't want to say anything before," he said, "but we did.
"It felt like about 10 (losses) in a row. That was a big one."
Paul, a 29-year-old outfielder who has spent parts of the past five seasons in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, said the outburst helps.
"I wouldn't necessarily say that we were pressing to score runs," Paul said, "but it does feel good to be able to come back and have the bats come alive for this win."
Despite the offense, the Tides didn't close the deal all that smoothly.
Trailing 5-3 in the seventh, Gwinnett loaded the bases with one out against reliever Nick Additon, who then faced the heart of the lineup.
After walking in a run, Additon got cleanup man Ernesto Mejia, who homered in each of the season's first five games, to foul out. Mark Hamilton flied to center to end the threat.
"Fantastic job," Johnson said of Additon's damage control. "That was the biggest point of the game."
Urrutia doubled in the first and seventh innings. He's hitting .259.... Brad Brach pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first save.... The announced attendance for the 12:05 p.m. game was 3,147.... The Tides will play the first game in Charlotte's new BB&T Ballpark at 7:05 tonight.
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