HAVIN' A BLAST
Last September, when Jerry Sands’ last played in Durham, he wore a different uniform and the ballpark that looked distinctly different.
Success via the long ball, though, bracketed both games.
In his first game with the Bulls Thursday night after playing with Indianapolis last season, Sands reached base four times and blasted a home run as Durham rallied to beat Gwinnett 7-6 at the renovated Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
A season-opening night crowd of 9,483 watched Sands, a former star at Smithfield-Selma High School, go 3 for 3 with a homer, double, single and a walk while scoring three times.
“If he comes through, he’s going to help us a lot,” Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He struggled last year in Indy but he has a history of hitting. I know he’s happy playing here because he’s from the area.”
A .207 hitter with Pittsburgh’s Triple-A team in Indianapolis last season, Sands did have one shining night in an Indians uniform. It came Sept. 5 in the second game of Durham’s three-game International League playoff sweep of Indianapolis when Sands smacked two home runs and collected three hits.
Since that night, the DBAP has seen approximately $20 million of renovations, including an improved lighting system and a completely new playing surface.
Sands, though, sees the ball just fine here, $20 million of work or not.
“I hit really well here,” Sands said. “I’ve enjoyed my time hitting here and I hope it continues.”
Among his three hits was a solo home run in the fifth inning that tied pulled Durham and Gwinnett even at 6-all. That was part of back-to-back home runs as Wilson Betemit hit a two-run home run just before Sands hit his solo blast.
The Bulls (1-0) had three home runs in the game as they rallied from a 6-2 deficit to claim the opening night win.
After Gwinnett scored three times in the first inning, Sands drew a walk to open the second inning against Braves right-hander Gavin Floyd. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a line drive that just cleared the fence in centerfield.
When the ball bounced back into the playing field, Kiermaier sprinted to third base thinking he’d bagged triple. But the umpires, and Montoyo in the third-base coaching box, told him the ball had cleared the fence.
“I figured the ball bounced off the wall,” Kiermaier said. “So I said I was going three to start us off with a bang. But it was a relief when once I got to third and Charlie did (the home run signal). So I was happy to see that.”
Floyd, trying to work his way back to the major leagues after having elbow surgery while with the Chicago White Sox last season, lasted only two more hitters. He threw 42 pitches to get four outs, allowing two hits, two walks and two runs.
Durham starting pitcher Nathan Karns had an even more difficult opening night. The righty walked seven while allowing six runs (five earned) over his 2 2/3 innings of work for the Bulls.
Ernesto Mejia slammed a three-run home run off Karns in the first inning and the Braves chased him with three runs in the third inning to lead 6-2.
Montoyo called on Merrill Kelly to slow the Braves and the move proved successful. Kelly struck out Christian Bethancourt to escape a two-on, two-out mess in the third inning and proceeded to toss three scoreless innings.
“The key was Kelly,” Montoyo said. “He came in and gave us a chance.”
The Bulls started their comeback when Sands doubled and scored on an error in the fourth inning.
Down 6-3, Durham tied the score in the fifth inning on the back-to-back home runs by Betemit and Sands.
The Bulls scored the eventual game-winning run in the seventh inning when Cole Figueroa walked and took second on a wild pitch before Sands singled and Kiermaier drove in the run with a groundout.
NOTES — After dealing with Floyd on Thursday night, the Bulls will face another pitcher whom the Atlanta Braves hope will help them soon tonight. Ervin Santana, who has pitched in the majors for the last nine seasons, will start for Gwinnett in tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game. Atlanta signed Santana on March 12. He’s 105-90 in his big-league career, spent with the Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals. Santana went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA for the Royals last season. Left-hander Enny Romero will start for Durham … The Braves and Bulls will play earlier games on Saturday (5:05 p.m.) and Sunday (1:05 p.m.) to complete their four-game series ... Durham first baseman Vince Belnome was promoted to Tampa Bay on Thursday as the Rays placed Sean Rodriguez on the paternity list.
April 3, 2014
|Cunningham, T, CF||3||1||0||0||2||3||2||.000|
|Mejia, E, 1B||2||2||1||3||1||0||0||.500|
|La Stella, 2B||3||0||1||1||1||0||1||.333|
|Hamilton, M, DH||3||0||1||1||1||0||1||.333|
HR: Mejia, E (1, 1st inning off Karns, 2 on, 1 out).
TB: Hamilton, M; Mejia, E 4; Constanza; La Stella; Terdoslavich.
RBI: Mejia, E 3 (3), Terdoslavich (1), La Stella (1), Hamilton, M (1).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Bethancourt.
Team RISP: 3-for-6.
Team LOB: 6.
SB: Constanza 2 (2, 2nd base off Karns/Solis, 2nd base off Karns/Solis).
CS: Cunningham, T (1, 2nd base by Karns/Solis).
E: Salcedo (1, fielding).
|Figueroa, C, SS||3||2||2||0||1||1||0||.667|
2B: Figueroa, C 2 (2, Floyd, Maya), Sands (1, Maya).
HR: Kiermaier (1, 2nd inning off Floyd, 1 on, 0 out), Betemit (1, 5th inning off Maya, 1 on, 0 out), Sands (1, 5th inning off Vasquez, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Sands 7; Christian; Betemit 4; Kiermaier 4; Figueroa, C 4; Mahtook.
RBI: Kiermaier 3 (3), Betemit 2 (2), Sands (1).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Betemit; Christian; Solis; Olmedo 2.
Team RISP: 3-for-12.
Team LOB: 7.
SB: Fontenot (1, 2nd base off Maya/Bethancourt), Mahtook (1, 2nd base off Maya/Bethancourt).
E: Sands (1, interference).
PB: Solis (1).
Outfield assists: Mahtook (La Stella at home).
|Lamm (L, 0-1)||2.0||1||1||1||1||2||0||4.50|
|Boxberger (W, 1-0)||1.2||0||0||0||0||2||0||0.00|
|Yates (S, 1)||1.0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0.00|
Maya pitched to 2 batters in the 5th.
WP: Floyd, Lamm.
HBP: Mejia, E (by Boxberger), Christian (by Maya).
Pitches-strikes: Floyd 42-21, Maya 61-40, Vasquez 16-10, Lamm 32-21, Buchter 15-10, Karns 69-34, Kelly, M 38-28, Liberatore 5-5, Boxberger 18-13, Yates 12-9.
Groundouts-flyouts: Floyd 3-1, Maya 3-1, Vasquez 1-0, Lamm 2-2, Buchter 1-2, Karns 3-1, Kelly, M 5-0, Liberatore 0-0, Boxberger 1-2, Yates 2-0.
Batters faced: Floyd 8, Maya 14, Vasquez 4, Lamm 8, Buchter 4, Karns 16, Kelly, M 12, Liberatore 2, Boxberger 6, Yates 3.
Inherited runners-scored: Maya 1-0, Kelly, M 2-0, Liberatore 1-0.
Umpires: HP: Ben May. 1B: Toby Basner. 2B: Jon Saphire. 3B: Joseph Born.
Weather: 75 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 5 mph, R to L.
T: 3:20 (:18 delay).
Venue: Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
April 3, 2014