DBAP/DURHAM It’s Game 3 of the Durham Bulls’ series against the Louisville Bats, and the Bulls are continuing their roll.

Bulls pitcher Brian Baker
  • Photo courtesy Durham Bulls
  • Bulls pitcher Brian Baker

Durham, which won the first two games of the current four-game set, comes in with the best record in the International League and a nine-game lead over the second-place Charlotte Knights in the South Division race.

The Bulls will send Carlos Hernandez (6-3) to the hill against Matt Maloney (6-4) on a proverbial perfect night for baseball. It won’t be a sellout crowd, but respectably close as the Bulls are going with post-game fireworks for the first of four straight nights. It’s announced at 8,257.

Durham explodes for five eighth-inning runs on three homers, rolling to a 6-0 victory.

It’s quite a pitchers’ duel from the outset, as nobody scores until the fifth when the Bulls make it 1-0. Dioner Navarro leads off by reaching on Maloney’s throwing error. With two out, Omar Luna singles to center, followed by Fernando Perez’ double to left to score the run.

The Bulls tack on a big inning in the eighth. Luna leads off with an infield hit, and then with one out Chavez blasts an 0-1 pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left center to chase Maloney and bring on Daniel Ray Herrera. And the rally continues. Justin Ruggiano then greets Herrera by ripping a 1-1 pitch over the Monster. After Dan Johnson singles to right, with two out Navarro rockets an 0-2 pitch over the Monster to make it 6-0.

Louisville outhits the Bulls 10-9, but the big hits are of course the three homers.

The starting pitchers are outstanding as Hernandez goes 4 2/3 and allows five hits while striking out six against a pair of walks. Maloney goes 7 1/3 and gives up three runs — two earned — on six hits with four strikeouts against one walk. But the big star is Durham reliever Brian Baker, who goes 3 1/3 and allows four hits while striking out three without a walk.

Louisville receives a big transaction before the game as Carolina Mudcats ace Matt Klinker, who was leading the Southern League in ERA and elected to play in the all-star game, joined the club in preparation to start on Friday night.

They said it …

Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “I never thought that was going to be a 6-0 game. I thought it was going to be a 1-0 game with the way Maloney was pitching. You never know about this game. That was a nice eighth-inning there. Baker was outstanding — he’s saved us many times and he’s doing great. It’s hard to be 7-0. He had it the whole way tonight. Hernandez battled. He lost a little bit of control, but he battled in a close game.”

Baker: “I just come into the right situations, apparently. We have a great offense and I get lucky, really. I do whatever Charlie and X (pitching coach Xavier Hernandez) need. Start, come in long relief, that’s what I’m here for. Out of spring training they told me what my role was going to be, and I try to do the same thing every time out there. I try to get ahead of the hitters and let them get themselves out.”

Chavez: “I was sitting on a fastball and made good contact. We’ve been scoring in the late innings and we’ll take it. Their pitcher was doing a great job, too. He might have gotten tired but he was making good pitches. Everybody on this team works together and is like a family. We’re having a lot of fun.”

What does it all mean?
That even though the weather isn’t hot right now, the Bulls are.

Stars of the game

1. Baker.
2. Chavez.
3. Hernandez.

Play of the game
Chavez’ homer to make it 3-0.

Series record
Bulls lead 5-2.

Durham: Won 4.
Louisville: Lost 3.

Durham: Activated P Carlos Hernandez from disabled list.
Louisville: Promoted P Matt Klinker from Carolina.

On deck
Louisville at Bulls, Friday 7:05 p.m.

Matt Klinker (R, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Heath Phillips (L, 6-6, 3.98)