Early start right on time for Bulls
Justin Christian became the first Durham player to hit the bull above the Blue Monster this season, but he won’t be enjoying the prize that comes with it.
Christian said he gave up tobacco and red meat during spring training because of his high cholesterol and his family’s history of high blood pressure. So after pelting the “HIT BULL WIN STEAK” sign, he will be passing the reward off to a younger teammate.
“It’s tough sometimes — I want to eat a burger or a nice steak, but I make that sacrifice,” Christian said. “I want to make sure I was keeping it under control so you can play this game as long as you can.”
More importantly for Christian, his leadoff homer set Durham on course for an 8-1 win over the Charlotte Knights on a wet Monday night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Christian and Jerry Sands both homered and doubled to pace the offense, while Merrill Kelly (1-0) struck out five in three innings of relief and Erik Bedard gave up two hits in four innings in his first non-rehab minor-league appearance since 2004.
For the first time in seven years, the Bulls moved up the time of the first pitch — from 7:05 p.m. to 6:35 p.m. — to avoid an expected evening storm. The plan worked, as the two hour, 40-minute game was completed without a delay. But the early start time and the rainy weather meant that less than a hundred people were in the stands when the game started.
The fans that were there saw a rare sight — the 6-1, 195-pound Christian pulled an 0-2 inside breaking ball down the left field line to give the Bulls the lead. While the bull is an enticing target for many righties, Christian said he didn’t think hitting it when he arrived in Durham. Christian had three homers in 374 at-bats in the offense-heavy Pacific Coast League last season and hasn’t homered in 143 career major-league at-bats.
“I’m a little guy,” said Christian, who was the first Bull to hit the bull since Craig Albernaz on August 6. “I just try to put the ball in play and make things happen on the bases. Every once in a while you get a leadoff home run and help the team out early, but for the most part it’s get on base and let the guys behind me hit the ball over the fence.”
Wilson Betemit’s RBI single gave Durham a 2-0 lead later in the first inning off Charlie Leesman (0-1).
Charlotte (3-2) loaded the bases with no outs in the third, but Bedard got a double-play grounder from Josh Phegley to ensure that the Bulls (3-2) would stay on top.
Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said that he saw a sneaky fastball and above-average change-up from Bedard, who started 26 games for Houston Astros last year and was the Pittsburgh Pirates opening-day starter in 2012. Bedard, who was on a pitch count of 65, threw 60 pitches in his four innings and struck out five.
Kelly, Juan Carlos Oviedo and Steve Geltz pitched five innings of scoreless relief to clinch the win.
Durham added a home run from Jerry Sands in the sixth and then broke the game open with a five-run eighth, featuring back-to-back RBI doubles by Sands and Betemit, plus a passed ball and two errors by the Knights.
“You win a game like this, yeah, I’m really happy we started at 6:30,” Montoyo said. “Usually you start an hour later, not a half-hour before, but it worked out great. And both teams were okay with it — that’s the main thing.”
NOTES — The last time the Bulls started a game early was in June 2, 2007, when Josh Hamilton was on a rehab assignment with Louisville. … After averaging 8,192 fans in its first four games at the renovated DBAP, the official attendance was 1,901 on Monday. … Infielder Cole Figueroa was on base three times and has now reached safely on 13 of 18 plate appearances this season …The Bulls continue their four-game series against Charlotte today at 7:05 p.m. Nathan Karns (0-0, 16.87) will start for Durham against Scott Carroll (1-0, 0.00). Karns walked seven and allowed six runs in 2.2 innings in his first start, while Carroll pitched six shutout innings.
Durham Bulls (3-2) 8, Charlotte Knights (3-2) 1
April 7, 2014
|Danks, Jd, CF||3||0||0||0||0||2||0||.167|
|Sanchez, C, 2B||3||0||1||1||0||2||0||.200|
|Black, Da, DH||4||0||0||0||0||1||4||.263|
|Thompson, Ta, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Guerra, J, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
TB: Sanchez, C; Saladino; Wilkins; Phegley 2.
RBI: Sanchez, C (2).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Black, Da 2.
SF: Sanchez, C.
Team RISP: 0-for-4.
Team LOB: 7.
E: Phegley (1, throw), Saladino (1, fielding).
PB: Phegley (1).
DP: 3 (Wilkins-Saladino-Wilkins, Phegley-Sanchez, C, Saladino-Wilkins).
|Figueroa, C, SS||2||0||1||0||2||1||0||.500|
|Rodriguez, E, C||3||0||0||0||0||3||2||.000|
|Kelly, M, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
2B: Christian (1, Boggs), Sands (4, Boggs), Betemit (1, Boggs).
HR: Christian (1, 1st inning off Leesman, 0 on, 0 out), Sands (2, 6th inning off Thompson, Ta, 0 on, 1 out).
TB: Kiermaier; Betemit 3; Sands 6; Olmedo 2; Figueroa, C; Christian 6.
RBI: Christian (3), Betemit 2 (6), Sands 2 (4).
GIDP: Olmedo 2.
Team RISP: 3-for-7.
Team LOB: 4.
SB: Kiermaier (1, 2nd base off Boggs/Phegley).
CS: Olmedo (1, 2nd base by Leesman/Phegley).
DP: (Figueroa, C-Olmedo-Sands).
|Leesman (L, 0-1)||5.0||5||2||2||1||3||1||3.60|
|Kelly, M (W, 1-0)||3.0||3||0||0||1||5||0||0.00|
WP: Kelly, M.
HBP: Danks, Jd (by Bedard), Phegley (by Kelly, M), Rodriguez, E (by Guerra, J).
Pitches-strikes: Leesman 66-44, Thompson, Ta 29-21, Boggs 28-15, Guerra, J 10-6, Bedard 60-40, Oviedo 11-7, Kelly, M 54-37, Geltz 13-9.
Groundouts-flyouts: Leesman 8-1, Thompson, Ta 2-0, Boggs 2-0, Guerra, J 1-0, Bedard 4-1, Oviedo 1-1, Kelly, M 2-1, Geltz 0-1.
Batters faced: Leesman 19, Thompson, Ta 7, Boggs 8, Guerra, J 2, Bedard 15, Oviedo 3, Kelly, M 14, Geltz 3.
Inherited runners-scored: Guerra, J 2-0.
Umpires: HP: Toby Basner. 1B: Jon Saphire. 3B: Ben May.
Weather: 54 degrees, drizzle.
Wind: 5 mph, In from RF.
Venue: Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
April 7, 2014
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media