Toledo, OH --- Mikie Mahtook and Hak-Ju Lee turned in pivotal defensive gems in the final two innings to protect a 4-3 Durham Bulls win over the Toledo MudHens on Monday night.
Leading 4-3 in the eighth with the tying run at second, Mahtook raced back and made a leaping catch of a blast off the bat of Trevor Crowe. Then in the ninth, Lee sprinted up the middle to corral a grounder by the speedster Ezequiel Carrera, spun violently and threw Carrera out to snuff out a rally.
The Bulls (31-21) improved to 5-0 on their eight-game road trip, and opened up a 2 1/2 game lead in the South.
Merrill Kelly (W, 5-1) worked through five innings, allowing five hits and two runs to earn his fifth victory.
The Bulls took a 3-1 lead in the fifth thanks to a pair of two-out hits. Justin Christian singled into left-center to score Vince Belnome from second base, then Mike Fontenot doubled into deep left-center to plate two more.
Michael Hessman connected twice with leadoff home runs, one against Kelly in the fourth, and again in the eighth off of CJ Riefenhauser. Hessman is the minor's active home run leader with 402, and leads the I.L. with 13 this season.
Jeff Beliveau, who was working back-to-back days for the first time this season, earned his fifth save by pitching a perfect ninth, retiring two lefties in the process.
The Bulls will send Enny Romero (2-4, 4.73) to the mound Tuesday night against Toledo (23-28) lefty Robbie Ray (3-2, 1.53) at 6:30.