DURHAM, NC - The Gwinnett Braves downed the Bulls by a score of 10-5 in the opener of a nine game homestand on Saturday night. An eight run fifth inning, which saw 12 Braves come to the plate, led to the Bulls' demise. With the Bulls loss and the Charlotte Knights' victory at Norfolk, Durham has been eliminated from the IL South division race for the first time since 2006.
Josh Kroeger and Jose Yepez hit back-to-back doubles to score the Braves first run of the game in the second. The Bulls fired right back in the latter half of the inning, taking a 3-1 lead on two homers. Brooks Conrad crushed his third round tripper of the year over the right field wall and two batters later, after a single from Cole Figueroa, Nevin Ashley went yard over the Blue Monster. Ashley reached base in all four of his plate appearances, finishing with a double and two walks. Durham tagged on a fourth run in the following frame thanks to three straight hits from Stephen Vogt, Henry Wrigley and Leslie Anderson.
After getting out of bases loaded jams in two consecutive innings, things apart for the Bulls in the top of the fifth. Jim Paduch left the game after allowing the first two batters to reach base. Josh Lueke (L, 2-4, 5.16) entered in relief and started by striking out Felix Pie. That would be the only out he would record. The Braves strung together nine consecutive hits off of the righty, scoring a season-high eight runs off the Bulls in the inning. Kroeger added an RBI single in the frame, his third of four hits on the night.
Lueke left the bases loaded for lefty Adam Liberatore, who needed just one more out to end the fifth. Pie, appearing at the plate for the second time in the inning, plated two with a single before Ernesto Mejia struck out to end the dreadful fifth. In total, 12 Gwinnett batters stepped to the plate in the fifth and every member of the Braves order had a hit in the frame.
After Randall Delgado (W, 4-2, 5.13) left the game after six strong innings with nine strikeouts, the Bulls tagged on another run in the seventh. Wrigley smoked an RBI single to right field off of Andy Russell, plating Ashely from second base. That would be all the Bulls could muster, as the Braves kept it a five run game with a ninth inning tally.
Gwinnett and Durham conclude their season series with Sunday's 5:05pm game. RHP Jeff Niemann (NR) will make a rehab start for the Bulls against RHP Julio Teheran (7-7, 5.05). Kids Run the Bases following the game thanks to Pepsi.