Durham Bulls

Durham Bulls blast way past Charlotte Knights in home opener

-- The Durham Bulls bats provided plenty of blasts that made the post-game fireworks show a true celebration on Monday night.

Durham stroked 11 base hits, including three home runs, to top Charlotte 7-4 in the Bulls first home game of the International League baseball season at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

A crowd of 9,317 watched Durham benefit from two-run home runs by Shane Peterson and Dayron Varona in addition to Casey Gillaspie’s solo shot that completed the Bulls’ scoring in the seventh inning.

With the season not yet a week old, Durham (4-1) already has seven home runs.

“We’ve got some guys making some good in-bat adjustments,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said. “I think for a young team they are making some good adjustments to Triple-A.”

Durham’s lineup does feature International League newcomers like Willy Adames and Jake Bauers, two of the Tampa Bay Rays’ top prospects.

But, in the team’s’ first home game of the season, it was some Triple-A veterans who provided the biggest hits.

The 29-year-old Peterson has played games in Triple-A in each of the past six seasons, though all in the Pacific Coast League. After batting just .158 during Durham’s season-opening series at Gwinnett, Peterson slammed a two-run home run in his first DBAP at bat that propelled the Bulls into a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

Peterson’s long ball followed Patrick Leonard’s one-out single.

Charlotte’s Ryan Rayburn cut the Knights’ deficit in half with a solo home run in the top of the third. But Leonard’s two-out single in the bottom of the frame drove in Bauers for a 3-1 Durham lead.

Yoan Moncada’s solo shot in the top of the fourth again pulled the Knights within one run.

But Curt Casali singled to start the Durham fourth and Dayron Varona, back with the Bulls for the second year in a row, hit a two-run home run for a 5-2 Durham lead.

Peterson doubled in the sixth and scored on Jake Hager’s two-out single for a 6-2 Bulls lead.

Gillaspie’s solo shot in the seventh gave Durham a 7-3 lead.

Sandberg likes his team’s approach at the plate so far in the young season, particularly how the batters are learning from not only game to game, but at bat to at bat.

He pointed to the team’s 17 strikeouts in Friday;s 6-4 win at Gwinnett. But, in winning 11-4 the following night, the Bulls struck out only four times while benefitting from two-out RBI hits by Jake Hager, Mike Marjama and Peterson.

“We’re making good adjustments,” Sandberg said. “We struck out 17 times the other night and then we come out and have a good two-strike approach. So we’re making good adjustments.”

Chase Whitley started for Durham on Monday night and pitched three innings. Charlotte scored just one run of him as he threw 37 pitches with 22 strikes.

Whitley pitched in 33 Major League games with the New York Yankees and the Rays before spending last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s on an innings limit this season so the short night was expected since the season is so young.