Durham Bulls

The force is strong in Chirinos

Durham pitcher Yonny Chirinos wanted to go the distance, all nine innings. And the 23-year-old didn’t need any Jedi mind tricks to get him through the game. On Star Wars Night at the DBAP, all the Bulls starter needed was his strong arm, pitching a shutout as Durham defeated Toledo 5-0.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Bulls (22-12), who shutout an opponent for the fourth time this season and the first time since a 1-0 win over Norfolk earlier this month. A lot of that had to do with Chirinos, who improved to 3-0 and gave the Durham bullpen a much needed night off.

“The bullpen is definitely taxed,” Bulls’ manager Jared Sandberg said. “Yonny stepped up tonight. He found the strike zone and maintained his stuff throughout the outing.”

Sandberg said when he realized Chirinos was at 60 pitches through five innings, the decision was made to let him go the distance. Chirinos struck out nine batters, a season high for the Bachaquero, Venezuela native.

Once the Bulls got the run support, adding on three runs, including a two-run homer by Patrick Leonard in the sixth, there was no way Chirinos was coming off the mound. Not that leaving the game ever crossed his mind, anyway. Pointing out that he felt like he was in a groove right from the start, Chirinos wanted to see it through to complete his first professional shutout. After the coaching staff made a visit to the mound in the seventh with two runners on, the defense backed up their pitcher with a 4-3 double play to end the inning. Chirinos and the Bulls’ defense forced the Mud Hens (17-16) to go three up, three down in the eighth and ninth to secure the shutout.

“Inning by inning I started to feel better,” Chirinos said through a translator. “I so badly wanted to finish the game because it was going to be my first shutout.”

The defense wanted to make sure they did whatever they could to make sure Chirinos had a shutout on his resume.

“When a pitcher is going like that you want to play a good a defense as you can,” Leonard said. “You want to have good at-bats so he can get his rest in the dugout, especially when he is going nine innings.”

When Leonard stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulls led 2-0 thanks to an RBIs Kean Wong and an unearned run when Mike Marjama was hit by a pitch. Leonard, who saw his 17-game hit streak come to an end Friday, started another streak with his fourth home run of the season, giving the Bulls a 4-0 lead. Marjama, who took a pitch to the head in the fourth inning with the bases loaded, shook it off, driving in the final run of the night in the seventh to score Shane Peterson.

“It was kind of scary at first,” Marjama said about the wild pitch that ended up on the side of his helmet. “But everything cleared and we were good to go. It’s something you get out of your head, get back to your approach and get ready at the plate again.”

Marjama and Wong each had two hits for the Bulls, but the star of the night was Chirinos, who remained perfect in his third start since moving up from AA Montgomery earlier this month.

“Yonny threw a good game,” Marjama said. “It was fun to watch him do his thing tonight.”

Sandberg said Chirinos mixed the four and two-seam fastball well and showed off his improved slider.

“He just trust his stuff,” Sandberg said. “He pitches to contact and gives a little different look than some of the other pitchers in our bullpen.”

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV