DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls have had at least a share of first place in the International League’s South Division since May 2, and they’ve recently been walking a tightrope to keep that streak alive.

Bulls pitcher Chris Bootcheck

So far they have had a very rough time with the Norfolk Tides, who until recently looked poised to run away with the worst record in the league.

But the Tides have suddenly won five games in a row — the last two of them wet affairs in the first two of the four-game series here — while the Bulls have lost two straight.

Chris Bootcheck (1-1, 4.40) will try to stop the bleeding tonight on a warm and sunny evening, while Brad Bergesen (2-0, 0.60) will go for Norfolk.

It’s exactly the kind of game the home team needs, a 4-1 victory that lasts only 2:12.

Durham takes the lead with one out in the third, as J.J. Furmaniak lifts the first pitch he sees off the face of the Snorting Bull in left. Then after Ray Olmedo’s two-out walk, Brandon Guyer smacks a triple to right center to make it 2-0.

The Bulls make it 3-0 in the fourth as Russ Canzler walks, steals second and later scores on Leslie Anderson’s one-out sacrifice fly.

Norfolk gets the run back in the fifth, as former Bull Rhyne Hughes takes a one-out first pitch into the Diamond View seats in right.

But the Bulls rally again in the eighth off Pat Egan. After Guyer singles to left and steals second, Canzler brings him home on a one-out single.

Bootcheck goes seven innings and allows the run on three hits, striking out four with no walks before Brandon Gomes pitches the eighth and Jake McGee gets his fourth save.

Furmaniak goes 2-for-3 with a double to get to .201. Guyer finishes with three hits including the triple with a stolen base and the RBI, while Canzler has three hits with an RBI and two steals. The Bulls win despite three errors from Canzler.

Bergesen has a quality start, going seven innings and allowing the three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts against a walk.

They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “There was great pitching on both sides. Bergesen is a good pitcher. Bootcheck did an outstanding job to keep us in the game, throwing strikes and getting ahead. It was a good team win today. Furmaniak is going to hit more. The last 10 games he’s hitting .300 and that’s how I see it.”

Bootcheck: “It was a quick one. Good tempo was the key. It allowed me to work ahead. (Robinson) Chirinos threw out a hitter, and guys played good defense behind me. We spent a lot of time here the last couple of days, so getting a quick win was good for the morale of the team and the bullpen.”

Furmaniak: “I kind of watched the first eight hitters and he was coming with the fastball with everybody early. He came middle-in and I kind of put a good swing on it and it went a long way, so that was good. I’m coming along a little better over the last couple of weeks. It was good to get a couple of hits, especially batting ninth in a home win because you’re going to get maybe three at-bats. ”

What does it all mean?
That Bootcheck is obviously back in top form, and that the Bulls hold onto first place for another day.

Stars of the game
1. Bootcheck.
2. Furmaniak.
3. Guyer.

Play of the game
Hit Bull Win Steak.

Series record
Norfolk leads 4-3.

Bulls: Won 1.
Norfolk: Lost 1.

On deck

Bulls (Jeff Niemann 0-1, 9.00) vs. Norfolk (Mitch Atkins 1-1, 3.80), 7:05 p.m.