Tim Beckham led the offensive charge for Durham with three RBI, as the Bulls defeated Charlotte 6-2 at the DBAP in Wednesday night's homestand opener. Righty J.D. Martin led an impressive outing by the Bulls pitching staff, working 5.1 innings of two-run baseball. With the victory, the International League South leading Bulls improve to 5-1 at home and 9-5 overall.
Martin surrendered two early runs in the first frame of the game, but settled down soon after. The right-hander yielded just five hits, while walking just two and striking out a season-high seven en route to the win.
The Bulls offense played possum on the road in Charlotte, but the bats awakened on Wednesday amidst a raucous crowd of K9 spectators during the first Bark in the Park event of the season. Following a hit-by-pitch of Chris Gimenez and a double off the bat of Brandon Guyer, Beckham plated the first Bulls' run with an RBI single. Cole Figueroa then followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to right field in which the outfielder Jim Gallagher would have thrown out Guyer at the plate, had the catcher not dropped the ball, as Durham tied the game, 2-2.
As Martin hit cruise control, the Durham offense continued to put the pedal to the metal, crossing the plate four times in the next two innings. Guyer grounded into a possible would-be double play but an errant throw sailed into the Bulls dugout to plate Vince Belnome after his first of three hits on Wednesday. Beckham then tattooed his second run-scoring hit of the evening as the second baseman drove in two runs on his double to left-center, boosting the Bulls lead to 5-2.
Charlotte starter Simon Castro allowed six earned runs on seven hits, while he struck out five and walked three en route to the right-handers second defeat of the season. Following the exit of Castro from the game, his bullpen combined to work 3.0 innings of scoreless relief for the Chicago White Sox affiliate.
Durham added a run in their half of the fourth when Hak-Ju Lee scored following a mishandled ball in centerfield by Jared Mitchell of Charlotte.
The Bulls pitching staff totaled a season-high 16 strikeouts on Wednesday evening. LHP Adam Liberatore relieved Martin and continued the brilliance. The southpaw struck out the side in the seventh, but the final batter reached base on a drop-third strike. RHP Kirby Yates entered the fold and struck out the first batter he faced for a season-high four strikeouts in one frame by the Bulls' staff. Durham's bullpen of Liberatore, Yates and Josh Lueke combined to work 3.2 innings of scoreless relief, including nine strikeouts.
The Durham Bulls (9-5) will be seeking a continued effort from both their offense and pitching against the Charlotte Knights (5-9) on Thursday, with a special first pitch scheduled for 11:05am. RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 3.00) will take the mound for Durham against Charlotte's RHP Matt Zaleski (1-0, 3.27). The two dueled last week in Charlotte as Odorizzi struck out a team-high nine batters but walked away with the no decision. Following the conclusion of Thursday's contest, the Knights will exit town and Norfolk will enter for a three-game series beginning Friday night.