There wasn’t a warm welcoming for Durham as the Bulls returned from from a six-game road trip.
Waiting for Durham was rival Norfolk, and the Tides came to town with bad intentions, defeating the Bulls 10-2. It was the third consecutive loss for Durham, and the most lopsided of the three. The Bulls (41-28) made Norfolk (30-40) - last place in the South Division - look like the team to beat, surrendering 16 hits to the Tides, tying a season-high. The most hits the Bulls had given up in a game before Monday was 13.
Against Durham, Norfolk had 13 hits through three innings and a 6-2 lead. At that point, it still felt like the Bulls were in the game, but that feeling came and went as fast as one of the many rain storms that drenched the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Tides added two more runs in the fourth, ballooning the lead to 8-2, a deficit that proved too much to overcome on a night when Durham couldn’t get it going offensively.
Things didn’t help when ace pitcher Brent Honeywell left the game halfway through the second inning with a hand injury. During his brief appearance, Honeywell surrendered eight hits and six runs, all earned, while striking out three. It was the fourth time this season Honeywell has given up eight hits, all losses for the Bulls. His three strikeouts tied for a season-low. Honeywell gave up an RBI to Luis Sardinas in the second and another to Mike Yastrzemski to front Norfolk an early 2-0 lead. The Georgia native dropped to 6-6 on the year.
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“I didn’t throw the ball like I wanted to throw the ball,” Honeywell said. “The bottom line is I need to do better. This team is too good to have our starting pitchers go short. All of our starters are more than capable of pitching a good game every time we go out. I’m pretty sure everyone is sick of hearing it, but I have to be better.”
Several times, Honeywell got to two strikes, but didn’t have the “put away” manager Jared Sandberg said. Norfolk feasted on two strike hits in the win. Honeywell didn’t give up either of the homers, but said the Tides were killing him with singles early on to get on base. He simply couldn’t “stop the bleeding” once Norfolk got rolling.
“I thought I was heading in the right direction,” Honeywell said. “Then the blister happened and I look up and I’m 70 pitches deep in the third inning.”
Durham tied the game in the bottom half of the second, getting things off to a promising start when Patrick Leonard hit a single. Moments later Casey Gillaspie scored Leonard with a single and the Bulls added another run after a wild pitch.
However, the Tides got all the separation they needed in the third. Drew Dosch, Sardinas (2RBI) and Yastrzemski drove in runs to make it 6-2. Far from done with the offensive explosion, the Tides added two more in the fourth when Pedra Alvarez hit a solo shot and Sardinas drove in another run with a single. Chance Sisco provided the second home run of the day, giving Norfolk a 9-2 lead in the sixth.
Durham is now 13-9 in series openers in 2017. The team didn’t arrive back in town until 8 a.m., and had some bus trouble during the Toledo trip. Sandberg wouldn’t use any of that as an excuse.
“There’s no excuse for us to come out and go through the motions,” Sandberg said. “You look at the schedule, you know we have to show up and play, but you’re definitely hoping for a better outing.”
The Bulls were looking to bounce back from a 2-4 road trip, but will now have to regroup before game two with the Tides. First pitch for Tuesday is set for 7:05 p.m. Ryan Yarbrough (5-4, 4.46) will start for the Bulls, while Chris Lee (3-3, 5.80) gets the start for Norfolk.