DURHAM, NC - Leading 7-3 midway through the seventh inning, the Gwinnett Braves (64-63) couldn't put away the Durham Bulls (78-50), who scored six unanswered runs for a 9-7 win on Tuesday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
With the win in game two of the four-game series, Durham trimmed its magic number to clinch the International League South Division title to two.
The G-Braves entered the bottom of the seventh with a four-run advantage, but an RBI groundout by Patrick Leonard and two-run double by Johnny Field cut the lead to 7-6. Akeel Morris struck out Keon Wong with two outs, but a wild pitch on strike three allowed Wong to reach first base. Catcher David Freitas' throw to first took Carlos Franco off the bag for an error, and Field seized the opportunity, rounding third to score the tying run.
In the bottom of the eighth, Morris (BS, 2, L, 1-3) issued a leadoff walk to Mallex Smith and Willy Adames reached on a bunt single. Left-hander Philip Pfeifer replaced Morris, and after a sacrifice bunt by Jake Bauers moved the runners to second and third, Pfeifer walked Leonard to load the bases. Shane Peterson followed with a line drive to left that was caught by a diving Micah Johnson , but it was deep enough to score Smith from third for an 8-7 lead. Taylor Featherston added an RBI single, scoring Adames for a 9-7 Durham lead.
Johnson walked to lead off the ninth against Diego Castillo, but Matt Tuiasosopo grounded into a double play and Franco looked at a called strike three to end the game.
Things looked good early for the G-Braves as they took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against left-hander Ryan Yarbrough. An RBI double by Sean Kazmar Jr., RBI single by Rio Ruiz and RBI fielder's choice by Franco highlighted the frame.
Gwinnett made it 4-0 in the second as Kyle Kubitza tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ronald Acuna . After the Bulls cut the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the second, Franco's solo home run to right off Yarbrough made it a 5-2 lead in the third. An RBI single by Kazmar staked the G-Braves to a 6-3 lead in the fourth.
Right-hander Aaron Blair held Durham to three runs over the first 6.0 innings, but allowed a pair of hits before exiting with one out in the seventh. He finished with six earned runs on 10 hits over 6.1 innings in a no-decision. Morris allowed both inherited runners to score, as well as three additional runs, two earned, over two thirds of an inning. Pfeifer worked 1.0 scoreless inning, but allowed two inherited runners to score for Morris.
Yarbrough pitched 5.0 innings with six runs on 10 hits in a no-decision for Durham. Hunter Wood, Ryne Stanek (W, 2-0) and Castillo (S, 5) combined to yield an unearned run over the final 4.0 innings.
Offensively for Gwinnett, Acuna went 2-for-4 with a run scored, RBI and two stolen bases to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Kazmar, Ruiz and Franco all went 2-for-5, with Franco hitting his ninth Triple-A home run.
Smith, Adames, Bauers, Peterson and Featherston all had two-hit games for the Bulls. Peterson and Field each had two RBIs.
The G-Braves and Bulls play game three of the four-game series on Wednesday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Gwinnett will start right-hander Kris Medlen (2-6, 5.52 ERA), while Durham has not yet named a starter. Dave Lezotte has the play-by-play call beginning at 6:35 p.m. on 97.7 FM "The Other Side of the River."
The G-Braves are back home on Friday, August 25 for a doubleheader to begin a four-game series against the Charlotte Knights. For tickets, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.