by Mike Potter
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK It’s the finale of the four-game series with the rival Gwinnett Braves, and the Bulls are going for a sweep.
Today is “Negro League Night” (sic; there is actually a 5:05 start, making it a day game.) The teams will appear in classic replica uniforms of teams of the Negro American and Negro National League, giving the appearance of an all-star game.
Cesar Ramos (4-3, 2.17) will take on Gwinnett’s Sean Gilmartin (0-1, 3.86) in a battle of lefties.
The sweep of four close games doesn’t happen, as the Braves get to Dane De La Rosa for three in the ninth and win 6-4.
Gwinnett puts up a run in the third as Stefan Gartrell walks and scores on Terry Tiffee’s one-out single to left.
The Bulls tie the score in the bottom of the frame, as Brooks Conrad hits a one-out double to left and scores on Evan Longoria’s single to left.
Gwinnett tacks on two in the fifth. Rusty Ryal and Brian Friday stroke back-to-back singles before Luis Durango reaches on a bunt single to second to score Ryal, chase Lucas and bring on Josh Lueke. With two out, Ernesto Mejia hits an RBI single to left.
But the Bulls tie it in the bottom of the frame. Chris Gimenez draws a leadoff walk, followed by Reid Brignac’s single to right. Cole Figueroa reaches and Gimenez scores on Gilmartin’s error on his sacrifice bunt, and Brignac scores when Rich Thompson reaches on a grounder to second.
The Bulls then take the lead in the seventh, as Gimenez doubles to left and scores on Figueroa’s one-out single to center.
But Gwinnett comes up with three in the ninth. Josh Wilson draws a leadoff walk, and then with one out Friday draws another walk. After Durango’s single to short, Wilson scores on a passed ball before Mejia strokes a two-run single to right.
Mejia has three hits and three RBI to lead the Braves, who finish with 12 hits. Andrew Russell (1-1) is the winning pitcher while Anthony Varvaro collects his third save.
The rehabilitating Longoria goes 2-for-3 with a walk, and comes up healthy after a slide into second base. Brignac adds two hits and a walk and scores a run.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “That happens in any league. It’s tough to close games and (De La Rosa) didn’t have it today. (Mejia) is the best hitter in the league; we had a game plan with him that didn’t work. … We almost won four close games with them, but that’s the way it goes.”
Longoria: “I felt good. I had some better at-bats and had some results. I saw the ball better. I felt fine running. It was the first time I had slid since I got hurt, but it was one of those that gets you past the worry of sliding again. It was a positive day.”
Brignac: “I felt like I had some quality at-bats throughout the series. I’ve been getting on base and taking my walks and getting some quality at-bats. We’ve been doing an outstanding job going out there competing every night and playing hard. It’s a treat to be able to play with this group of people.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls won’t sweep, and will face a team in the thick of the wild-card race for the next four games.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Mejia’s single in the ninth.
Bulls: Lost 1.
Gwinnett: Won 1.
Bulls lead 14-11.
Bulls (Lance Pendleton 6-4, 4.72) vs. Columbus (Matt Packer 0-0, 0.00), Monday, 7:05 p.m.