by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls finish their longest homestand of the season today, and they’ll try to get their second win in their current three-game series with the Gwinnett Braves.
Durham has a nine-game lead over the second-place Charlotte Knights in the International League’s South Division.
The Bulls will send up their ace Jeremy Hellickson (10-2), who is coming off a shaky outing by his standards five days ago against Louisville. Jose Ortegano (2-4) will go for the Braves.
Hellickson is back in form as the Bulls roll to an 11-0 romp. It marks the 14th double-digit scoring game for the Bulls this season.
The Bulls start the whipping in the first inning. Desmond Jennings led off with a single to left, and then J.J. Furmaniak reached on an error to third baseman Wes Timmons. Justin Ruggiano follows with an RBI single to left before Dan Johnson blasts a 1-0 offering into the Diamond View seats in right to make it 4-0.
After a quiet second inning it gets worse in the third. Furmaniak leads off with a double to right followed by Ruggiano’s single to right center. Dan Johnson walks, and then Joe Dillon hits a two-run single to left center. With two out, Jose Lobaton rockets a 1-0 pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left and it’s 9-0.
It goes to 10-0 in the fifth, as with two out Alvin Colina ricochets a 2-1 pitch off the pitch speed indicator sign behind left center.
And it goes to 11-0 when Dan Johnson leads off the seventh by blasting a 3-2 pitch over the Blue Monster.
Hellickson goes six innings and allows five hits, striking out three and walking four before Brian Baker and Dale Thayer clean up.
Johnson, who now has 22 homers, finishes with his four RBI, while Ruggiano has a double and two singles for an RBI and Dillon doubles and singles for two RBI.
The Bulls’ three double plays help get the shutout.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “Jeremy threw great. We gave him a big lead. What was it Earl Weaver used to say? There’s nothing like a three-run homer. So all he had to do is go out and throw strikes. Those (5.p.m.) games are tough on the hitters here. We know we have a chance to win every time he takes the mound. … Dan Johnson has done it here already, and he went to the World Series with (Tampa Bay) a couple of years ago. That’s why we signed him back (after a year in Japan). We don’t take him for granted at all.”
Hellickson: “The defense made some great plays. Dan made a great diving catch, Chavez made a good play, J.J. — it was a great effort. Everybody helped out today. This team is really good. We’ve got, what, the best ERA in the league and the best offense. We’ve just got to keep it rolling. It’s always a good time here.”
Dan Johnson: “Both homers were on fastballs, but I saw a lot more pitches before that. I was just looking to get a decent pitch. I had been struggling at home, but this was a good homestand. We expected this team to be really good. We’ve got a lot of proven veterans with a lot of up-and-coming guys, so we’re not surprised.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls went 8-3 on the homestand and continue the same momentum they’ve had all season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Johnson’s first-inning homer.
Bulls lead 8-5.
Durham: Won 2.
Gwinnett: Lost 2.
Durham: Activated IF Elliot Johnson and P Dale Thayer from disabled list. Placed IF Omar Luna on temporarily inactive list. Sent P Aneury Rodriguez to Hudson Valley.
Bulls at Charlotte, Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Carlos Hernandez (L, 6-3, 3.14) vs. Carlos Torres (R, 6-5, 3.29)
Norfolk at Gwinnett, Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Zach Britton (L, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Mike Minor (L, 1-0, 1.17)