Norfok, VA -- Zelous Wheeler smacked a two-run single in the last of the ninth past a drawn-in infield to lift the Norfolk Tides past the Durham Bulls 3-2 on Thursday night at Harbor Park.
Wheeler, who entered the game in the eighth as a pinch-runner, was thrust into the spotlight against Bulls closer Kirby Yates (L, 3-2) after a single and one-out double set up the Tides' rally. Wheeler drove a 1-2 pitch by the reach of second baseman Ryan Roberts for the game-winner, moving the Tides to within two games of the IL wild-card with 11 to play.
Durham (82-51) clinched the South Division title for the sixth time in the last seven years on Wednesday night, but could not hold off the Tides (70-63). Yates suffered just his third blown save of the season, with his only other loss this season on the same field back on April 7th against Norfolk.
The defeat spoiled Matt Buschmann's bid for a 14th combined victory in 2013. Buschmann stymied the Tides over 6 1/3 innings, permitting one walk and just five hits. Jeff Beliveau and Brandon Gomes partnered for 1 2/3 innings before turning the game over to Yates in the ninth.
Durham went ahead 1-0 against Zach Britton in the third on consecutive doubles by Chris Gimenez and Jesus Flores. In the fourth, Roberts walked, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Roberts then scored on a grounder by Vince Belnome for a 2-0 Bulls' lead.
The Bulls were outhit by Norfolk 10-4 in the defeat.
The home-and-home series concludes on Friday night at 7:05 PM ET with JD Martin (15-4, 2.84) starting against Josh Stinson (7-5, 3.75).
Bulls game story brought to you by Strayer University, Bringing Home the Bulls in September.