by Mike Potter
Unless the teams meet in the Governors’ Cup Playoffs, this will be the teams’ final meeting in Durham this season.
Taking the hill for the Bulls is Carlos Hernandez (2-1), who has been one of Durham’s steadiest starters.
Opposing him will be L.J. Gagnier, who is making his Triple-A debut.
Hernandez has a great night while Gagnier ends up wishing he had never taken the mound as the Bulls claim a 6-1 victory.
The Bulls have no trouble jumping on the rookie in the first. Desmond Jennings leads off with a double to left and scores on Joe Dillon’s one-out single to left. Dan Johnson then makes it 3-0 by launching his first two-out pitch into the Diamond View seats in right for his league-leading 11th homer of the campaign.
Durham stretches the lead in the second. Rashad Eldridge hits a one-out single to right, takes third when Gagnier fires the ball past first on an infield hit and beats the throw home on Elliot Johnson’s bouncer to the mound.
Toledo gets on the board in the third as Casper Wells leads off with a single to center and later scores on a one-out fielder’s-choice ball to short from Will Rhymes.
But the Bulls make it 5-1 in the bottom of the frame as Dan Johnson singles to right and scores on Alvin Colina’s two-out double to center.
The whole ballpark gets a scare with two out in the Bulls’ fourth. Elliot Johnson steals second base, and on the throw catcher Max St. Pierre plunks Gagnier hard on the right side of the head. Gagnier walks to the dugout under his own power and Josh Rainwater takes the hill for the Mud Hens.
Durham adds another run in the fifth off Rainwater, as Dan Johnson leads off with a double and advances on a wild pitch before scoring on Colina’s two-out single to left .
Hernandez has his best outing of the season, allowing just one unearned run in a seven-inning stint in which he allows just three hits and strikes out five against a single walk. Dan Johnson ends up a triple short of a cycle, scoring three runs and knocking in two. Colina strokes two doubles for two RBI, while Desmond Jennings chips in three singles.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “Carlos was steady. We took him out with 83 pitches, but he had 104 last time and the bullpen was fresh. But he could have gone back for one more inning. He was on. He’s getting ahead and minimizing his pitches, doing what he wants to do instead of getting to 3-1, 3-2. We’re getting on the bus for 10 hours so the win feels pretty good. We took the lead early today and that was good. Dan Johnson is just a professional hitter. He just hits.”
Hernandez: “I felt good all the way through. Colina was doing a great job behind the plate. We were on the same page, pretty much. He called the pitches I wanted to throw. I feel good with all my pitches — curveball, changeup, cutter, two-seam fastball — I was just trying to get the first pitch for a strike, and that was something I hadn’t been doing my last 5-6 starts.”
Dan Johnson: “It was a guy we hadn’t seen before, so if we let him get comfortable it might have turned out a different way. So it was good to jump on him early with the fastball and capitalize on it. I’m always going to be a triple away (from a cycle) for the rest of my life. I’ll be a triple away as long as I live. If I ever get a right fielder to fall down I’ll be too worn-out to get a double in my next at-bat.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls are definitely headed back in the right direction, and have a five-game lead over the second-place Charlotte Knights in the International League’s South Division.
Stars of the game
2. Dan Johnson.
Play of the game
Dan Johnson’s homer in the first.
Durham: Won 2.
Toledo: Lost 2.
Toledo: C Angel Flores promoted from Lakeland.
Indianapolis at Toledo, 7 p.m.
Jeremy Powell (R, 3-3, 5.81) vs. Ryan Ketchner (L, 0-1, 2.77)
Bulls at Columbus, 7:05 p.m.
Jeremy Hellickson (R, 5-1, 3.38) vs. Yohan Pino (R, 4-1, 3.63)