Durham Bulls

Hot bats, strong pitching propel Durham Bulls to fifth consecutive win

Another fast start on offense and another quality starting pitching performance sent the Durham Bulls to their fifth consecutive win on Sunday.

The Bulls scored two runs in the first inning and, thanks to solid pitching from Brent Honeywell and two relief pitchers, defeated Gwinnett 5-3 to complete a four-game sweep of their International League baseball series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Before a crowd of 9,742, the South Division-leading Bulls (28-14) collected 10 hits as eight of their nine position players reached base.

Durham won in its final home game before a road trip through Rochester and Pawtucket. The Bulls don’t return home until May 30.

“I was particularly proud of the way the guys played today going into an off day,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said. “It would have been very easy for them to kind of go through the motions. But they competed. They are very professional about their business.”

Honeywell (3-4) was brilliant over the first five innings of his day. The right-hander allowed just two hits -- both singles -- over the first five innings and needed just 58 pitches.

Durham second baseman Jake Hager’s error marred the sixth inning and led to Honeywell’s shutout being ruined. After the one-out error, Honeywell allowed a Sean Kazmar double and Mel Rojas two-run single. But he retired the next two batters to limit the damage.

He gave up two hits and a run in the seventh inning before being replaced by Austin Pruitt.

Honeywell pitched 6 ⅓ innings, throwing 91 pitches and allowing six hits and two earned runs with six strikeouts and no walks.

“He found his swing-and-miss stuff,” Sandberg said. “He had a good fastball for most of the game. He just kept the hitters off-balance with fastballs up, down in and out. The changeup was really good.”

Pruitt and Chih-Wei Hu finished the game with 2 ⅔ scoreless innings of relief work. Both were scheduled to work on Sunday.

For Hu, who is converting from a starting pitcher to a reliever, it was an important outing because it was his first save attempt. He pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out one.

“That was great,” Sandberg said. “Not knowing how he was going to respond having not been in that situation. He did an excellent job of keeping his composure.”

As has become the norm on this homestand, the Bulls scored in the first inning to break out in front.

Mallex Smith stroked a lead-off triple and scored on Willy Adames’ sacrifice fly to centerfield.

Jake Bauers got the rally going again with a single and Patrick Leonard, the league’s leading hitter followed with a double. Shane Peterson drew a walk to load the bases.

Casey Gillaspie pushed Durham’s lead to 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to left field.

In the fourth inning, Gillaspie singled and scored on Johnny Field’s double to right-centerfield for a 3-0 Bulls lead.

Durham extended its lead to 5-0 in the fifth inning as consecutive singles by Bauers, Leonard and Peterson added one run and another came in on a double-play grounder.