by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls return home from a split against Charlotte, still with a big lead in the International League’s South Division.
Norfolk has a boat load of familiar faces in former Bulls Rhyne Hughes, Michel Hernandez and Joey Gathright as well as former Durham hitting coach Richie Hebner.
Richard De Los Santos (6-4) will pitch for the Bulls against Zach Clark (0-3).
This one turns out to be easy for the home folks, as the Bulls get hits from everybody who goes to the plate and win 11-3.
The Bulls jump on Clark for a pair of runs in the first. Desmond Jennings leads off with a single to left, followed by Elliot Johnson’s single through the glove of a leaping shortstop Robert Andino. With one out, Dan Johnson hits an RBI single to right followed by another RBI single to right from Joe Dillon.
Norfolk comes back for three in the second. With one out, Paco Figueroa singles to center and then Hernandez reaches on an error to Chris Richard at first. Blake Davis hits an RBI single to right, followed by Jonathan Tucker’s RBI double to left, followed by Matt Angle’s sacrifice fly to center.
But the Bulls recover to take the lead again in the third. Elliot Johnson singles past second and takes second on a wild pitch. Justin Ruggiano’s double to left ties the score, and with two out Richard doubles to right for a 4-3 Durham lead.
They stretch it to 6-3 in the fourth with a two-out rally. Jennings singles to left, followed by Elliot Johnson’s launching of a 3-2 offering high into the Diamond View seats in right to chase Clark and bring on Mike Hinckley.
And it goes to 7-3 in the fifth, as Angel Chavez hits a two-out single up the middle, advances on Jose Lobaton’s single to center and scores on Fernando Perez’ single to center that gives everyone in the Bulls’ lineup a hit.
Durham makes it 10-3 in the seventh, with the big hit a two-run single from Elliot Johnson.
And Ruggiano leads off the eighth by blasting a 3-1 pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left.
De Los Santos gets the win, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing three runs — one earned — on six hits with two strikeouts against three walks.
Elliot Johnson, in just his third day off the disabled list after spending nearly a month on it with a pulled quad, goes 4-for-5 with four RBI and three runs scored to lead the Bulls’ 18-hit attack. Justin Ruggiano homers with a pair of doubles for two RBI, while Chris Richard doubles and singles with an RBI.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “It was good to see what Elliot did. He’s a good player and was having a great year before he got hurt. It’s nice to see the way he’s swinging the bat. He took a while to come back, but those injuries take forever. You need to be sure you’re 100 percent when you come back, because if you pull it again you’re out for the year. … De Los Santos battled. He was almost in trouble every inning, but he made the pitches he needed to make.”
E. Johnson: “It’s just a matter of getting a good pitch and putting a good swing on it. My first game back I was a little bit off. I’m not really 100 percent yet. I was a little bit late on the off-speed stuff and a little bit late on the heater, but I’m getting better. I can’t expect it to be back right away. I’m seeing it like I’m used to. The bat will get quicker.”
De Los Santos: “My two-seam was working well. The sinker, that was a key. I like the run support. I gave up three runs after they got two, but my guys kept scoring and helped me get the win.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls still lead the Charlotte Knights by 9 ½ games in the division race.
Stars of the game
1. E. Johnson.
2. De Los Santos.
Play of the game
Elliot Johnson’s two-run homer in the fourth.
Bulls lead 6-3.
Durham: Won 2.
Norfolk: Lost 1.
Norfolk at Bulls, Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Tim Bascom (R, 2-2, 5.47) vs. Virgil Vasquez (R, 3-0, 4.44)