by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls are off to one of their hottest starts in club history, with the best record in Triple-A and an eight-game winning streak.
Durham has had its way with the G-Braves so far, winning all four meetings, but every result was by one or two runs.
Lefty Heath Phillips will go for the Bulls today against Chris Resop. It’s cloudy and warm, with a 60 percent chance of precipitation.
Gwinnett leads from the fourth inning on and holds on, winning 8-7 to break the Bulls’ spell in front of 7,063.
Justin Ruggiano gives the Bulls a lead in the first when he lifts a two-out, 1-1 pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left.
But Gwinnett strikes back in the third, with Brandon Hicks going over the Monster with one out and Gregor Blanco with two out to make it 2-1.
The Bulls tie it in the bottom of the frame as Fernando Perez beats out an infield single to the left side, steals second and scores on Elliot Johnson’s single to right.
Gwinnett makes it 4-2 in the fourth, with the key hits a Mitch Jones double and Hicks’ two-out, two-run single.
And it goes to 6-2 in the fifth, with the centerpiece of the rally Freddie Freeman’s RBI triple.
The Bulls tighten it up in the sixth, courtesy of a bad outing from reliever Jeff Lyman who walks the only three batters he faces. Cory Gearrin then uncorks a wild pitch and gives up RBI singles to Angel Chavez and Alvin Colina before Perez hits into an inning-ending double play.
Gwinnett tacks on one in the seventh off Joe Bateman, with Blanco leading off with an infield single and scoring on a bases-loaded double-play ball. And the Braves add another in the eighth on Blanco’s two-out single.
Durham keeps coming, getting the first two runs of the season off G-Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the eighth to make it 8-7. Kimbrel hurts his own cause with a hit batsman and a wild pitch, with Jose Lobaton ripping an RBI double off the Blue Monster.
The Bulls fight on in the bottom of the ninth off Mariano Gomez, as Hank Blalock rips a one-out double to left and Desmond Jennings comes on to pinch run. Jennings tries to steal second but is tagged out, with press-box replays — which cannot be shown on ballpark video screens — confirming the call was just as bad as the fans thought. Joe Dillon hits a two-out single to left but Ryan Shealy grounded back to the mound and the win streak ends.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “That’s beautiful how we battled back again, you know? That’s awesome. One compliment you’ve got to give (the Braves) is that their starter was very good, and when we scored they came back and scored. Phillips going six innings for us was huge. Right now we don’t have a starter for Monday, so we’ve got to play that by ear. … It came down to a play at third base. I’m not going to say anything about the umpire, but If I was the umpire he would have been safe. You guys look at the replay and write whatever you want.”
Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage: “Nothing’s easy against that ballclub. They’re playing good baseball and I feel fortunate to get out with a “W’ today. They’ve got a very good offensive lineup and tough to pitch to one through nine. We persevered in the end and found a way to win. It’s never easy, I know that.”
Perez: “That’s really good for the fans that we keep fighting. It’s a sign of a really good team. We haven’t been out of a game all year. It’s a really good sign. It feels really good to be in every game, and I think all parties are happy. We’ve got a lot of good guys. Sometimes you can arrive at chemistry having some bad apples, but we don’t have any. We’ve got a lot of professional guys who are trying to help each other.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls’ lead in the IL South Division was cut to 5 ½ games.
Stars of the game
1. Hicks, with the homer, double and single for three RBI.
2. Blanco, with the homer and two singles for two RBI.
3. Chavez, with three hits and an RBI.
Play of the game
Gwinnett catcher Clint Sammons gunning down Jennings at third.
Bulls lead 4-1.
Durham: Won 8.
Gwinnett: Lost 1.
Durham: RHP Virgil Vasquez to disabled list.
Bulls vs. Gwinnett, Sunday, 5:05 p.m.
Aneury Rodriguez (R, 1-0, 0.00) vs. Todd Redmond (R, 2-1, 1.69)