by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM Game 2 of the Durham Bulls' short three-game homestand, all against the Gwinnett Braves, and again I'm back at my old stomping grounds pinch-hitting for Adam for a second night.
The Bulls are on a pretty good roll, and could actually take first place in the entire International League with a victory tonight. Former Bull Antonio Perez (pictured), who is not swinging the bat well at .179, is in the ninth spot in the order for Gwinnett. But you can't tell he's been struggling tonight, as he goes on to get four hits in a 7-6 Braves win.
The press box seems to be about half as full as it was Tuesday night for Andy Sonnanstine's start for the Bulls, except that we learn regular official scorer Brent Belvin is for some reason on his way to China. Belvin's sub is Kyle Serba, veteran N.C. Central sports information director who has been there so long he's in the university's Sports Hall of Fame.
Tonight the menu is Eastern N.C. barbecue with all the "fixin's." I get one plate without the bun. I've been getting lighter lately and want to keep it up.
Anyway, it's time to play ball.
And the Bulls have no trouble generating offense off Tony Armas in the first. Henry Mateo draws a leadoff walk before Reid Brignac doubles to left center. Matt Joyce's double to right scores both runs, and with one out Chris Richard singles to right to make it 3-0.
They have a chance to add to it in the second inning, but when Brignac hits a two-out single to write he's cut down at second before Ray Olmedo is able to score from second.
Gwinnett cuts the lead to 3-2 off Jason Cromer in the third, as Perez singles to left followed by singles from Reid Gorecki and Wes Timmons and Kelly Johnson's fly ball to center.
But the Bulls respond in the bottom, as Matt Joyce leads off with a single and after Richard and Jon Weber draw back-to-back walks John Jaso rips a two-run single to right.
That rally chases Armas and brings on Mariano Gomez.
Gwinnett then comes up with a four-spot in the seventh to take the lead. Perez gets another hit and there's a wild pitch before Jason Cromer's outing comes to an end.
Former Braves organization guy Jason Childers takes the hill for Durham and Gorecki brings home a run on a grounder to third. After Timmons reaches on an error to first baseman Rhyne Hughes, Johnson blasts a 1-1 offering into the Diamond View seats in right for a 6-5 Gwinnett lead and the Braves fans in the house identify themselves.
Gwinnett adds an insurance run in the ninth. Barbaro Canizares leads off with a double to right and J.C. Holt comes on to pinch-run. After Brandon Jones walks and Clint Sammons hits a soft single to left to load the bases, Holt comes home on a wild pitch.
Here's what they said ...
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: "This team has been playing good baseball, but we probably had two of the worst inning of the year tonight. The (second) and the seventh, we just didn't play good baseball at all. ... Cromer did a good job again tonight. He was dealing."
Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage: "That was a crazy game, and we certainly made it exciting. ... Antonio Perez got the start (at short) and certainly took advantage of it. And our bullpen has been getting the job done all year."
Joyce: "Sometimes in the dog days of summer, the heat will get to you a little bit and cause some mistakes."
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls have just a one-game lead over the second-place Norfolk Tides in the International League's South Division.
Stars of the game
1. Perez, with a 4-for-5 night including a double.
2. Gomez, with a solid four relief innings for the win.
3. Brignac, with two doubles and a single.
Play of the game
Bulls lead 8-5.
Durham: Lost 1.
Gwinnett: Won 1.
Gwinnett at Durham, Thursday, 7:05 p.m.
Bobby Brownlie (right, 0-1, 6.10) vs. Matt DeSalvo (right, 0-2, 6.23)