by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM There’s another first-place showdown starting tonight.
The Durham Bulls come into the opener of their four-game, two-city series with the Gwinnett Braves tied for the top spot in the International League’s South Division.
Tonight the Bulls will send ace Alex Cobb (5-0, 1.35) to the hill against Yohan Flande (3-4, 4.23). There’s a huge crowd on hand — 10,163 — as the Bulls begin their holiday weekend festivities with postgame fireworks.
Former Bull Chris Carter is now with the Braves and in the lineup in the cleanup spot as designated hitter.
In a game that is a stellar pitchers’ duel over the final seven innings, the Braves take an early lead and hold on to win 4-1.
Gwinnett jumps on Cobb for four runs in the top of the first. Jose Constanza reaches on an error to third baseman Daniel Mayora, advances on a walk to Matt Young and scores on Mauro Gomez’ double to left. Carter scores Young on a grounder to second, followed by Brandon Hicks’ RBI single to center and then Diory Hernandez’ two-out RBI single to center.
The Bulls get on the board in the second. Dan Johnson leads off with a single to right and takes second on a wild pitch, and then scores on Mayora’s double to right.
And the scoring stops right there. Gwinnett never gets an other runner to second base, and while the Bulls put together some threats in the sixth, seventh and eighth the score doesn’t change.
Both the starters have quality starts. Flande goes six and allows the run on five hits with seven strikeouts against no walks. Jairo Ascencio, the Braves’ fourth pitcher of the night, fires the last inning and picks up his 12th save.
Cobb goes six and allows four runs — two earned — on four hits with five strikeouts against two walks.
The Bulls outhit Gwinnett 6-5 behind a pair of singles from Dan Johnson.
Brandon Guyer misses the game for Durham with a sore back and is day-to-day.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “One play. Every time we play Gwinnett whoever makes that error loses the game. I believe if we make that play in the first, after that it’s a different story. (Flande) had a lead and he did a job and threw strikes and shut us down. Cobb gave us a chance. He was himself and he got them out after that.”
Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage: “They made a mistake and we capitalized on it and pushed four runs across. It’s nice the jump out of the gate like that in a big series. It certainly allows our pitchers — and our pitching has been our most consistent asset — to pitch their ball game. We got some big outs and big double plays along the way.”
Cobb: “That’s the way baseball works. You make some good pitches here and bad pitches there. Sometimes you don’t really notice but it all came together that inning. They capitalized on bad pitches, and I made some good pitches that got through the infield. ”
What does it all mean?
That Gwinnett has a little leg up in the standings with two months to go.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Gomez’ double in the first.
Bulls lead 7-5.
Bulls: Lost 2.
Gwinnett: Won 1.
Bulls (Brian Baker 5-5, 5.68) vs. Gwinnett (Eric Cordier 2-4, 3.65), 7:05 p.m.