DURHAM, NC - The first-place Durham Bulls scored four runs in the sixth inning to beat the Pawtucket Red Sox 5-2 at the DBAP Tuesday night in the opener of a four-game set.
Durham (36-24) drew first blood in the fourth, when Justin Christian doubled and scored on a Mikie Mahtook grounder. The lead was short-lived, however, as starter Nathan Karns gave up a home run to Corey Brown on the first pitch of the fifth inning to tie the game at 1-1.
Karns gave up only two hits in five innings, but he walked the bases loaded in the fifth, leading to an early exit. Reliever Adam Liberatore gave up a run in the sixth to give Pawtucket (28-32) the lead and set up Durham's game-clinching rally.
The first three Bulls batters reached in the sixth on a hit batter, a Hak-Ju Lee single and a sacrifice bunt where Pawtucket pitcher Chris Hernandez tried to get the out at third base but couldn't to load the bases.
Third baseman Gavin Cecchini then couldn't handle Christian's slow grounder, allowing the tying run to score on the error. Mahtook and Jayson Nix then gave Durham the lead with back-to-back sacrifice flies, and Cole Figueroa drove in the final run on a double to center.
Liberatore (2-1) earned the win in relief, allowing a run in 1 1/3 innings, while Kirby Yates loaded the bases in the ninth inning, but worked out unscathed to register his league-leading 15th save in as many chances. Hernandez (2-6) took the loss for the PawSox, allowing five runs (two earned) on four hits in 5 1/3 frames.
The Bulls and Red Sox play game two of the series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. LHP Mike Montgomery (6-1, 3.59) starts for Durham against RHP Allen Webster (3-2, 2.93) for Pawtucket.