DURHAM, NC - An early start and strong finish gave the Durham Bulls an 8-1 win over the Charlotte Knights at the DBAP Monday night. The win moved the defending Governors' Cup champions into a tie with the Knights for first in the International League South Division.
After raining most of the day, the weather let up in late afternoon and, with skies threatening, the team decided to move up the first pitch by half an hour to 6:35 p.m. It's the first time since June 2, 2007 that weather has forced an early start to a Bulls home game.
Justin Christian was a fan of the early start, as the Bulls left fielder hit Charlie Leesman's third pitch of the game off the snorting bull sign in left field for a solo dinger. He's the first Bull to hit the sign this year and first since Craig Albernaz hit a grand slam off the sign last August.
Wilson Betemit singled in Kevin Kiermaier later in the inning, as Betemit was 2-for-4 on the game with a pair of RBIs.
The Bulls (3-2) added a run in the sixth on a mammoth home run to left center by Jerry Sands. Durham then took advantage of some sloppy Charlotte (3-2) fielding in a five-run eighth inning.
Durham scored one run on a passed ball, another when the catcher overthrew second base on a Kiermaier stolen base, and another on a fielding error by shortstop Tyler Saladino.
Sands and Betemit added RBI doubles to cap the scoring.
In his first Bulls start, Erik Bedard struck out five over four two-hit innings, and Durham got five scoreless frames from its bullpen. The rehabbing Juan Carlos Oviedo tossed a scoreless fifth, while right-hander Merrill Kelly (1-0) struck out five in three innings while surrendering just three hits to earn the win.
The Bulls and Knights play game two of the four-game series at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday. RHP Nathan Karns (0-0, 16.87) makes his second Bulls start of the year against Charlotte RHP Scott Carroll (1-0, 0.00).
BULLet Points: Bulls infielder Cole Figueroa went 1-for-2 with two walks, and has now reached base safely in 13-of-18 trips to the plate this season… Dating back to last season, the Bulls have now won 16 of 22 games against the Knights, and 15 of the last 18.