Russ Canzler high-fives Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo as he rounds third base.

DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls are facing a pretty important game as they host the Gwinnett Braves.

Yes, there are two months left in the season. But the Bulls dropped the opener of their four-game, two-city set 4-1 on Saturday night to fall into second place in the International League’s South Division.

There will be a full house on a hot night in the Bull City as the Independence Day weekend celebration continues.
Brian Baker (5-5, 5.68) will go for the Bulls against Eric Cordier (2-4, 3.65). Earlier in the day Durham gave Chris Bootcheck his release as per the agreement to promote him or give him up by July.

Durham gets a big lead early and holds on, surviving 7-4 before the big fireworks show.

The Bulls put up four runs in the second. Dan Johnson leads off with a double, and then with one out Russ Canzler launches his first pitch over the wall in center. With two out, Robinson Chirinos and Ray Olmedo crack back-to-back singles, followed by consecutive walks to Desmond Jennings, Leslie Anderson and Brandon Guyer to make it 4-0.

Durham adds two more in the third. Canzler leads off with a double to center, followed by Daniel Mayora’s single to right. Robinson Chirinos’ single to left scores Canzler, chases Cordier and brings on Steven Shell. Mayora then scores on Jennings’ grounder to short.

Gwinnett finally gets on the board when Mauro Gomez homers to lead off the fourth and make it 6-1.

The Bulls add a run in the seventh on an Anderson sacrifice fly.

Gwinnett rallies with a run in the eighth off Brandon Gomes and a two-run homer from Brandon Hicks to lead off the eighth off Dane De LaRosa before Jake McGee comes on for his ninth save.

Canzler finishes with the homer, double and single for two RBI, while Chirinos and Olmedo each add three hits.
Baker goes five innings and allows the run on two hits with four strikeouts against one walk. The Bulls outhit Gwinnett 14-5.

They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “It was good to see our offense explode there for a minute. We needed that. It always seems closer against that team there at the end, because we’ve come back on them and they’ve come back on us. Baker did a great job and did what we needed. He runs out of gas a little bit when he starts because he’s built to be in the bullpen. Canzler had cooled down for a little bit, but he had a great game today. He’s got pop and it’s fun to watch the ball when it goes.”

Canzler: “That (homer) felt pretty good. The last couple of games I’ve been taking a lot of strikes and being a little too selective. I just wanted to be aggressive and the first pitch was a good one to hit. If I do what I’m capable of I can hit 20 home runs, but I just want to be an RBI guy. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities on this team with runners in scoring position. Sometimes I get too selective when I’m looking for that perfect pitch to drive out, and I need to expand my zone a little bit.”

Baker: “This was a huge win for us after we had lost the last two and Gwinnett had taken over first place. I really wanted to come out and throw well. My last start was pretty crappy, so I just wanted to come out and pitch well again like I had the last time I faced them. I’ve had some really good outings and I try to do the same thing every night. Sometimes I try to throw too many strikes, and I need to throw more balls to set things up. The only thing that hurt me tonight was getting too many 3-2 counts and getting my pitch count up.”

What does it all mean?
That the Bulls are back tied for first place again.

Stars of the game
1. Canzler.
2. Baker.
3. McGee.

Play of the game

Canzler’s homer.

Series record
Bulls lead 8-5.


Bulls: Won 1.
Gwinnett: Lost 1.

On deck
Bulls (Dirk Hayhurst 4-1, 3.00) at Gwinnett (Todd Redmond 5-7, 3.07), 7:05 p.m.