DURHAM, NC-The Gwinnett Braves (65-64) could not hold a late 1-0 lead as three bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the eighth inning led the Durham Bulls (78-51) to a 3-2 win on Thursday night in the finale of the four-game series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
With the win, the Bulls clinched the International League South Division title, ending the G-Braves' hopes for a second straight divisional crown.
Durham starter Michael Roth was sharp to start the game. But in the top of the fourth, a Rio Ruiz comebacker hit Roth, and he exited the field with the trainer. Mike Broadway entered in relief for the Bulls and retired Matt Tuiasosopo to end the inning. Roth finished his start with five strikeouts over 3.2 scoreless innings.
Making his Triple-A debut, Gwinnett left-hander Max Fried was also on top of his game. After walking Willy Adames in the first, Fried promptly picked him off in a clean inning. In the fourth, the Bulls put runners on first and third with one out, but Fried worked around it by striking out Patrick Leonard and inducing a fly out from Taylor Featherston to end the inning, and his start. Over 4.0 scoreless innings, Fried gave up just one hit and two walks while striking out six.
The game remained scoreless into the seventh thanks to the strong relief work of Broadway for Durham while Jason Hursh and David Peterson did the same for Gwinnett.
Against Durham reliever Hunter Wood, the G-Braves finally broke through in the seventh. With two outs and Tuiasosopo on third, Kade Scivicque lined an RBI single to center the 11th pitch of the at-bat, giving Gwinnett a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Enrique Burgos (L, 0-1) walked the first two hitters he faced to start the inning and was replaced by Philip Pfeifer . The left-hander didn't fare much better as he issued bases-loaded to Mallex Smith, Jake Bauers, and Patrick Leonard give the Bulls all the support they would need.
The G-Braves cut the deficit to a run in the ninth as Scivicque lined an RBI double to right-center to score Micah Johnson with two outs. But Durham closer Diego Castillo (S, 6) rebounded to strike out Ronald Acuna to end the game and finish the win.
For the Bulls, Jamie Schultz (W, 1-0) tossed a scoreless eighth inning to earn the win. Offensively, Adames recorded the Bulls' only hit of the night, a one-out single off Fried in the fourth inning.
Scivicque led the way for the G-Braves by going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs while Acuna went 1-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. On the mound, six Gwinnett pitchers combined to toss the second one-hitter on this season-high 10-game road trip, with the other coming on Sunday in a 1-0 win at Buffalo.
The G-Braves are back home on Friday night for a doubleheader to start a four-game series against the Charlotte Knights. Left-hander Luiz Gohara (0-2, 3.91) will start for Gwinnett in the first game at 5:05 p.m. against Charlotte's Carson Fulmer (7-8, 5.61). In game two, Chris Volstad (2-9, 5.72) will start for Knights against the G-Braves' Manny Barreda (1-0, 2.53). Both games will be seven-inning affairs, with the second game to start 30 minutes after the first one concludes. Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 4:35 p.m. 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.