by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls come home after a middling 11-game road trip and an off-day looking for momentum in the International League’s South Division race.
Tonight’s opponent will be the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals’ affiliates, who are in town for a four-game series in the team’s only visit to DBAP.
J.P. Howell has joined the Bulls on Major League rehab, and will pitch later in the game.
Edgar Gonzalez (2-2, 3.86) will go against Syracuse’s Tom Milone (1-3, 5.40) on a cool night at the park.
And it turns out to be a happy night for the home fans, as the Bulls score the last three runs and prevail 4-3 on a walk-off single from Desmond Jennings. With Gwinnett losing 3-2 at Rochester, Durham takes over first place.
And after the game, outfielder Brandon Guyer is called up to Tampa Bay to make his Major League debut.
Syracuse puts up a run in the first as Corey Brown smacks a one-out double to left and scores on Tug Hulett’s double to left center.
The Chiefs get a similar run in the next inning as Jhonatan Solano hits a one-out double to left and scores on Chris McConnell’s one-out double to left.
The Bulls cut the lead in half in the third as Justin Ruggiano doubles to left, then steals third and continues home on an errant throw from Jhonatan Solano.
But Syracuse responds in the fifth as Roger Bernadina gets a leadoff hit, later steals third with one out and continues home on Robinson Chirinos’ throwing error.
The Bulls tie the score in the eighth off Adam Carr, as Jennings leads off with a double to left and then Ruggiano blasts a 3-1 pitch onto the berm in center.
So it goes to the ninth and Josh Wilkie takes the hill for the Chiefs. Chirinos leads off with a walk and Omar Luna comes on to pinch run. J.J. Furmaniak follows with a sacrifice bunt to first, followed by a broken-bat infield hit from Ray Olmedo. Jennings then hits a liner which is about three feet away from the outstretched glove of shortstop McConnell and the Bulls win.
The starting pitchers are very solid, as Milone goes seven and gives up the run on four hits with 11 strikeouts against a walk.
Gonzalez gets the quality start by going six innings and allowing three runs — two earned — on eight hits with six strikeouts against one walk. Howell pitches the seventh and Ryan Reid the eighth before Cory Wade goes the ninth and wins it.
Jennings finishes with the double and two singles for one RBI, while Ruggiano’s hits are the homer and the double.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “I wasn’t so happy after the seventh inning. I called Guyer in here and told him about his bad bunt, and then said, ‘Oh, by the way, you’re going to the big leagues.’ I thought we were kind of flat at the beginning. But Gonzalez gave us a chance. Ruggiano gave us a big bomb.”
Guyer: “I’m happy. Everyone who plays this game, that’s their ultimate dream. I’ll just try to make the most of the opportunity and see what happens. I didn’t see it coming. I’m just going to try to make the most of it. I’ve showed them every aspect of my game. I just try to do everything I can to help a team win, and so far it’s worked out.”
Ruggiano: “Always a good way to end games is to walk them off. We had a long road trip, and this is a good way to build some excitement. We’re having fun playing right now, and we’ve got a good group of guys. The homer was a fastball away — he threw the 2-1 at my nose and it kind of lit me up a little bit, so I had to make sure I got him good.”
Jennings: “I was trying to hit the ball in that perfect spot. Actually I was just trying to barrel it up and keep it off the ground. It’s always good to win at home, especially after a long road trip like that. It’s good to just play at home for a while. I felt like we’d been gone forever. There’s nothing like playing here.”
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Jennings’ game-winning hit.
Bulls lead 1-0.
Bulls: Won 2.
Syracuse: Lost 1.
Bulls (Alex Cobb 3-0, 2.05) vs. Syracuse (Craig Stammen 1-1, 3.20)