The return of Blake Snell, who has been back in Durham for three games now, caused a buzz a couple of weeks ago. However, it was another return that sparked the Bulls to a 5-1 win over Rochester.
Dayron Varona finished 3-for-4 with a stolen base, returning to Durham after a stint with the Hudson Valley League and not having a spot on the Bulls’ active roster. Varona last played for on May 2. In his first action at the DBAP since, the Havana, Cuba native had himself a nice welcome back party, looking right at home. It was the fifth multi-hit game for Varona this season and the first time he’s collected three hits in a contest.
“It just shows you what type of person he is as far as determination and preparation,” Durham manager Jared Sandberg said. “With him being taken off of the roster and your playing time gets taken away, it makes you a little more hungry. He said he was hungry tonight, he gets put back in the lineup and gets three hits. I’m proud of him.”
Varona was admittedly frustrated during his time away, but that didn’t change his approach. He said he was nervous his first at-bat after not seeing a live pitch in more than a month, but it didn’t show as he hit a single to get his day started.
“I knew this was not going to be the end of my career and I just kept working everyday,” Varona said. “Just staying in my routine and staying healthy. I knew it was going to be hard in the beginning, but I just went to the plate, saw the ball and hit it.”
Snell, who improved to 2-0 since returning May 17, did have his brilliant moments as well. In the top of the third the lanky lefty struck out the side. In the top of the fourth he got the Bulls out of a jam. After giving up a run, runners advanced to second and third after a wild pitch from Snell. The next batter, J.B. Shuck, felt the wrath of Snell, as he struck out swinging, unable to locate Snell’s fastball. When he finally took a seat, Snell had thrown 112 pitches, striking out six. Since returning to Durham from Tampa Bay Snell has struck out 27 batters and given up 17 hits and just six runs.
“That inning (the fourth) could have unravelled, but he turned the corner,” Sandberg said. “They (Rochester) got the one run, he was frustrated, but he threw strikes.”
After the game Snell said he felt good about the progress he has made in his return to the Bull City.
“I’m where I need to be,” Snell said. “I’ll just keep getting better and better, doing what I’m supposed to do and I’m happy about it.”
Adam Kolarek faced one batter, Zack Granite, before the seventh inning stretch, fanning the leadoff batter.
Shane Peterson got the Bulls off to an electric start, blasting a two-run home run in the second inning, his fourth of the season, to put the home team up 2-0. After the Red Wings pulled to within one run in the fourth, Johnny Field hit an RBI double to score Varona. Durham (31-20) really got it going later in the contest, starting off the seventh inning with consecutive singles from Curt Casali, Varona and Kean Wong. Field made it four in a row, and even though Casali was thrown out at home to prevent a score, Willy Adames first hit of the day scored both Varona and Wong to make it 5-1. The Bulls could have added to that lead, but Patrick Leonard just missed a grand slam with bases loaded. Red Wings centerfielder Zack Granite robbed Leonard of his 5th home run with an impressive catch at the wall.
The Bulls now improve to 18-9 at home and a perfect 26-0 when leading after six innings. Durham and Rochester (23-24) wrap up the series Thursday night at the DBAP, first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Jake Faria (5-1, 3.48) will start for the Bulls, while Nik Turley (0-1, 3.38) will start on the mound for the Red Wings.