DURHAM, NC - The Gwinnett Stripers (2-3) had a rocky third inning in which starter Aaron Blair was injured and went on to lose to the Durham Bulls (3-3) by a 5-2 score Wednesday night in the finale of the three game series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third, when Gwinnett starting pitcher Blair walked both Micah Johnson and Jake Bauers, putting two on with no outs. Blair then retired the next two batters and had a chance to get out of the inning. But Stripers second baseman Tyler Smith dropped a Brandon Snyder pop-up behind the first base bag that he appeared to lose in the lights. The misplay allowed Johnson to score from second and moved Bauers to third and Snyder to second.
A wild pitch by Blair to the next batter, Justin Williams, enabled Bauers to score from third for a 2-0 Durham lead. Blair, in attempting to cover home on the wild pitch, was hurt on the play and had to leave the game with an undisclosed injury. David Peterson replaced Blair on the mound and threw another wild pitch, allowing Snyder to score from third for a 3-0 lead.
Durham added a run in the bottom of the fourth as Johnson legged out a leadoff double and scored from second as Peterson and Bauers collided on a play at first base.
The Stripers' first run came in the top of the fifth as Danny Santana (1) stroked a long homer to left off Durham starting pitcher Anthony Banda to cut the lead to 4-1.
But Durham got the run back in the bottom of the fifth as Joe McCarthy doubled to right and later scored on a single to left by Williams.
The final run of the game came off the bat of Gwinnett first baseman Carlos Franco (2), who drilled a homer to center field off reliever Hunter Wood for the eventual 5-2 final.
Blair (L, 0-1) pitched 2.2 innings with one hit and three unearned runs allowed, He walked five and struck out three. Peterson went 2.1 innings with five hits and two earned runs. Phillip Pfeiffer was dominant in 2.0 innings of relief with four strikeouts. Jason Hursh , called up earlier in the day from Double-A Mississippi, worked 1.0 inning with one hit.
Banda (W, 2-0) picked up his second win for the Bulls in as many starts. He tossed 5.1 innings with five hits, one earned run and eight strikeouts. Former Atlanta Braves pitcher Jonny Venters went 1.1 innings with three walks and one strikeout. Wood pitched 1.1 innings with one hit, one earned run and four strikeouts. Ryne Stanek (S, 1) closed the game with a scoreless top of the ninth with one walk.
Franco was 2-for-4 on the night for the Stripers with a solo homerun. Sean Kazmar Jr. went 2-for-3. Santana was 1-for-4 with a solo homer. Ronald Acuna Jr. was 0-for-4, finishing 2-for-19 on the season opening road trip.
For the Bulls, Jason Coats was 2-for-4.
The Stripers' home opener at Coolray Field is set for Thursday at 7:05 p.m. against the Rochester Red Wings. Right-hander Mike Soroka (1-0, 0.00) starts for Gwinnett, while the Red Wings will pitch righty Myles Jaye (NR). Dave Lezotte has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 6:35 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.