DURHAM, NC - The Gwinnett Braves scored three runs in the ninth inning off of Dane De La Rosa, rallying to beat the Bulls 6-4 and avoiding a four game sweep. The loss snapped Durham's four game winning streak and a five game home victory streak.
Gwinnett struck first with a run in the top of the fourth inning, but Durham led by rehabbing Tampa Bay Ray Evan Longoria, quickly erased the 1-0 deficit. Longoria smashed an RBI single off the Blue Monster allowing Brooks Conrad to score from second base. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year finished his 10th game as Bull going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.
The Braves bounced right back, scoring two runs in the top of the fifth and knocking starter Cesar Ramos out of the game. Ramos left two on for reliever Josh Lueke, who limited the damage and got the Bulls of a jam. Lueke worked three scoreless innings, keeping the Braves bats silent by allowing just two hits while striking out three. Lueke extended his scoreless innings streak to 17.0 IP.
Durham's offense pulled Ramos off the hook, matching the Braves run-for-run in the sixth. After the first two batters climbed aboard, Cole Figueroa laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Gwinnett starter Sean Gilmartin fielded the bunt and threw the ball away, allowing a run to score and putting runners at the corners for Rich Thompson. Thompson grounded out to second, but earned an RBI, tying the game at three all.
Figueroa broke the 3-3 tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Durham manufactured the run after Chris Gimenez doubled and moved to third via sacrifice bunt from Reid Brignac. Figueroa fisted a ball into shallow center, scoring Gimenez and giving the Bulls a 4-3 edge. The team was poised to score more, but left the bases loaded in the inning.
Dane De La Rosa entered in the ninth with a 1-run lead, looking for his 15th save of the season. De La Rosa struggled through inning and had one out with the bases loaded, before a passed ball by Gimenez allowed the Braves to tie it at 4-4. Ernesto Mejia, who broke up the Bulls scoreless streak at 25 games on Friday night, made the Bulls pay again. Mejia smacked a 2-run single passed the diving Brignac, giving the Braves a 6-4 advantage. Despite getting the tying runs on base in the bottom of the ninth, Durham failed to answer Gwinnett's rally as Matt Mangini grounded out to end the game.
The Bulls welcome back 2011 International League MVP Russ Canzler and the Columbus Clippers to the DBAP on Monday night. Canzler finished the 2011 season leading the league in doubles (40) and extra-base hits (62) on his way to becoming the second Bull in two years to win the title. The Clippers will send LHP Matt Packer (0-0, 0.00) to the mound against RHP Lance Pendleton (6-4, 4.72). Game time is set for 7:05pm.