by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls come into their Independence Day meeting with the Gwinnett Braves comfortably in their usual first-place spot in the International League’s South Division.
Whatever happens tonight is going to be witnessed by a huge crowd, and that’s not hyperbole. Seats were sold out before the gates opened, and the standing-room-only crowd for the city’s official fireworks show is likely to set a park attendance record. It does. 11,674 breaks the old mark of 11,300, set on June 19, 2009.
Virgil Vasquez (2-0) takes the hill for the camouflage-clad Bulls against Ryne Reynoso (2-5). Jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit the USO.
Vasquez is outstanding as a noisy 6-4 win jump-starts the post-game fireworks celebration.
Gwinnett takes the lead in the fourth, as Matt Young leads off with a double to left and scores on Wes Timmons’ single to center.
But the Bulls tie it in the bottom of the frame, as Justin Ruggiano draws a leadoff walk and scores on Chris Richard’s two-out double to center.
Durham then breaks it open with four runs in the fifth. Fernando Perez leads off with a walk, followed by Desmond Jennings’ single up the middle before J.J. Furmaniak bunts to third and reaches on Timmons’ error. Then with one out, Dan Johnson hits a two-run double to right to chase Reynoso. Richard draws a two-out walk, and then two runs score when shortstop Joe Thurston boots Dioner Navarro’s grounder.
And it goes to 6-1 in the seventh, as Johnson draws a one-out walk and scored on Richard’s two-out double to left.
Gwinnett gets a big inning in the eighth off Darin Downs. Young hits a one-out double to left and scores on Timmons’ single to left. Freddie Freeman then follows by launching a 3-1 offering into the Diamond View seats in right, chasing Downs and bringing on Winston Abreu.
Vasquez, in just his second start for Durham after being on the disabled list since April with broken bones in both wrists, goes six innings and allows the one run on six hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
Gwinnett outhits the Bulls 9-6. Richard has two doubles and walks twice, while Johnson scores a pair of runs and Jennings has two singles.
Timmons is 4-for-4 for the losers.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “Vasquez was great and kept us in the game. If he can pitch like that he’s going to help us a lot. I love when you win a game and you don’t really hit. We kept finding ways to score, and that’s what we did tonight. Richard had a couple of big hits for us. The crowd tonight was awesome. It was really great to win in this situation and now we can enjoy the fireworks.”
Vasquez: “I had to really focus when I was down in Florida and work on recovering instead of feeling sorry for myself. I think the only other time I had 10 Ks was against the Bulls a couple of years ago (for Toledo.) (Catcher Navarro) and I were on point all night. I was glad our guys took their momentum away with that four-run inning.”
Richard: “I got some good fastballs and put some good swings on them. We always have a good series with that team. We seem to match up really well. Vasquez was awesome — he kept them off-balance and his velocity is back. He’s going to help our team out a lot now that he’s back.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls are back to nine games ahead of Charlotte and 9 ½ on Gwinnett.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Durham: Won 1.
Gwinnett: Lost 1.
Gwinnett: OF Willy Taveras received from Atlanta.
Gwinnett at Bulls, 5:05 p.m.
Jose Ortegano (L, 2-4, 4.94) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (R, 10-2, 2.35)