Durham Bulls continue record pace
Closing in fast on another International League South Division championship and with a good chance to set the club record for regular-season wins, the Durham Bulls emphatically showed why those achievements are possible Saturday night.
Returning to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to start a nine-game homestand, the Bulls pounded Gwinnett 11-3 before a crowd of 8,735.
Durham (73-42), which has 29 games left, clinched a winning record – the earliest the team has even done so at the Triple-A level. The Bulls also extended their South Division lead to 14.5 games over second-place Norfolk.
The Bulls are on pace to surpass franchise regular-season records for Triple-A wins (88) and overall wins (89).
Returning to Durham after a long trip with stops in Columbus and Toledo, the Bulls were certainly comfortable at home.
“It was good to see our offense,” Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We averaged like 2-3 runs (per game) on the road. We still won games. But it was good to see them swing the bats tonight. A lot of good at bats.”
The Bulls used a two-out rally to take a 3-0 lead in the second inning. After Gwinnett pitcher Kameron Loe retired the first two batters, five consecutive Bulls batters reached.
Chris Gimenez and Kevin Kiermaier each singled before ninth-place hitter Evan Frey drew a walk to load the bases.
That flipped the lineup over to leadoff man Tim Beckham, who lined a single to right field to drive in two runs for a 2-0 Durham lead. Cole Figueroa followed with a groundball single to right, driving in Frey, for a 3-0 Bulls lead.
The Braves struck right back in their third inning as Bulls pitcher Mike Montgomery issued a lead-off walk to Matt Pagnozzi, who moved to third when Greg Golson followed with a double.
Pagnozzi scored on Jordan Schafer’s groundout to shortstop and Phillip Gosselin’s single to centerfield drove in Golson leaving Durham ahead 3-2.
But the Bulls offense proceeded to easily put away Gwinnett.
Two Braves errors in the fourth inning allowed Durham to score twice, with Jason Bourgeois’ RBI single the only hit of the inning.
After Pagnozzi’s solo home run for Gwinnett left Durham with a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning, the Bulls scored four runs on four hits in the bottom of the fifth to take a 9-3 advantage.
Gwinnett’s third error, this one on a dropped fly ball by left fielder Stefan Gartell, opened the door for two more unearned runs for Durham in the seventh inning. Shelley Duncan’s two-run double extended the Bulls lead to 11-3.
Beckham paced the Bulls with a 2-for-5 night and a team-best three RBIs. Figueroa was 3-for-3 with two runs driven in.
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brandon Gomes, recovering from lat muscle strain and rehabilitating with the Bulls, pitched a scoreless seventh inning. Following Montgomery to the mound, Gomes allowed a single and struck out one in his lone inning of work.
Gomes has made two appearances for Durham this week, allowing no runs with four strikeouts over his two innings of work.
Notes: The start of Saturday night’s game was delayed 13 minutes by rain…Longtime Bulls employee Bill Law received the Spirit of the International League Award during an on-field ceremony at the end of the second inning on Saturday night. International League president Randy Mobley presented Law the award, which recognizes individuals who help ensure fans have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark. Law was the DBAP’s public-address announcer from 1995, when the park opened, until 2007. He has been the Bulls ambassador since then….The Bulls and Braves continue their series today at 5:05 p.m. Merrill Kelly (6-1, 2.55) will start for Durham with Yohan Flande (6-6, 4.68) on the mound for Gwinnett.
Bulls 11, Braves 3
Schafer dh|4|0|1|1|Beckham ss|5|2|2|3
Gosselin 2b|4|0|1|1|Figueroa 3b|3|0|3|2
Boggs rf|3|0|0|0|Bourgeois lf|5|0|2|2
Mejia 1b|4|0|2|0|Anderson dh|5|0|0|0
Gartrell lf|4|0|0|0|Duncan 1b|5|0|1|2
Leonard 3b|4|0|0|0|Fontenot 2b|4|1|2|0
Kazmar ss|4|0|1|0|Gimemez c|4|2|1|0
Pagnozzi c|3|2|1|1|Kiermaier cf|3|3|2|1
Golson cf|4|1|2|0|Frey rf|4|3|0|0
E—Loe, Kazmar, Gartrell. DP—Durham 1. LOB—Gwinnett 6, Durham 11. 2B—Schafer, Golson, Mejia, Fontenot, Beckham, Duncan. HR—Pagnozzi (6). S—Figueroa 2, Gimenez. SB—Figueroa (7), Bourgeois (21).
Loe (L, 4-3)|4.0|6|5|3|3|2
Montgomery (W, 6-5)|6.0|5|3|3|2|4
WP—Cedeno, Lamm. HBP—Beckham (by Lamm). Umpires—HP, Brad Myers; 1B, Ian Fazio; 3B, Seth Buckminster. T—3:09 (:13 delay). A—8,735.