Durham Bulls

Bulls take 2-1 series lead over Tides with home win

Durham Bulls
Durham Bulls

June has been good to Durham. The Bulls improved to 8-2 this month, the best start of the year for the team, after a 7-3 win over Norfolk at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Durham (39-22) now has a 2-1 advantage over Norfolk in the current four-game series. The latest win was the most impressive of the three, with the Bulls never trailing after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Durham’s defense has given up an average of just two runs per game to the Tides in the latest homestand.

Lefty Blake Snell (8IP, 2 runs, 8K’s) picked up the win, improving to 4-0 since returning to the Bulls last month. Centerfielder Johnny Field continued his hot streak at the plate, collecting three hits (all doubles) and two runs scored. It was the fourth multi-hit game this month for Field and his sixth in the last 10 games. Lead off has been the sweet spot for Field, who likes to take advantage of the early fastballs from opposing pitchers.

“I feel like lead off, you get a lot of fastballs in that spot,” Field said. “I try to get up there and get on some heaters, drive the ball and try to score some runs.”

Field started the game with a double and scored when the next batter, Kean Wong, hit a single and came home thanks to an error. An RBI double by Mike Marjama gave Durham a 2-0 advantage, which head until the fourth when the Tides (26-36) tied the game after a base hit from Logan Schafer scored two. The Bulls got the separation they needed in the fifth and sixth innings, combining for five runs, four earned. Durham went up 3-2 when Field came home on a wild pitch. Patrick Leonard, who finally came out of his slump Friday night, scored Wong with a double. In the sixth, Casey Gillaspie hit a two-run homer and Jake Bauers drove in the final run of the night with a single.

Bulls’ manager Jared Sandberg said it was nice to see Gillaspie get hold of one and drive it over the outfield fence.

“He continues to put pressure on himself,” Sandberg said. “A lot of the struggles he’s had are self inflicted. Hopefully this is the swing that allows him to regain some confidence and turn the page on the first part of the season, take off and do some damage like he did last year.”

Gillaspie hit .307 in 47 games with Durham a year ago. Six of the Bulls starters collected at least one hit as Durham improved to 4-2 this season against Norfolk, despite being out hit (12-9) by the Tides. The Bulls now have a commanding nine game lead in the division and improve to 21-8 against the South. Field said the team is “limping toward the finish line” with an off day around the corner (Monday) before heading out for a six-game road trip.

“We want to win this series,” Field said. “A couple of guys are banged up right now, but we just have to take care of business, then we’ll have the day off to relax before our next stretch on the road.”

The Bulls and Tides conclude their series Sunday at the DBAP. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Yonny Chirinos (5-0, 2.00) will start for Durham. Tyler Wilson (0-4, 5.58) gets the start for Norfolk.

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