DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK The Durham Bulls’ magic number is one heading into tonight’s contest with the Gwinnett Braves.
So if the defending Governors’ Cup champion Bulls win – or if the second-place Norfolk Tides lose at Charlotte – they’ll claim their 12th South Division title and 13th playoff berth in their 17 seasons in the International League.
Long-ago former Bulls skipper Brian Snitker manages Gwinnett.
Matt Andriese (11-7, 3.76) will take on the Braves’ Terry Doyle (3-3, 3.30).
Durham gets solid pitching all night, scratching out enough runs to clinch the division title with a 4-2 win.
The Bulls score two in the third.
Ali Solis leads off with a single, followed by Lee Hak-Ju’s fielder’s choice ball to second. Justin Christian singles to center with Lee scoring on the error to center fielder Todd Cunningham before scoring on Mike Fontenot’s grounder to short.
Gwinnett cuts the lead in half in the fourth, as Christian Betancourt singles to left and scored on Sean Kazmar’s double to center.
Andrese loses his chance for the win in the sixth. Cunningham is hit by a pitch and advances to third on Andrese’s errant pickoff attempt. After Brandon Boggs walks, Sean Kazmar also walks with catcher Solis committing a passed ball on ball four. On comes Steve Geltz.
But the Bulls get the run back in the bottom of the frame. Fontenot beats out a double to right center, followed by Cole Figueroa’s single. Fontenot comes home on Mikie Mahtook’s double-play ball to short.
And the hosts get some insurance in the eighth. With two out, Fontenot singles to left to chase Doyle, and then Figueroa singles to right off Chasen Shreve. Mahtook then singles to left off James Hoyt to make it 4-2.
Geltz gets the victory with Josh Lueke getting his 11th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
And the bubbly flowed.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “This never gets old. It’s not that easy and I don’t take it for granted at all. From now on (in the playoffs) it’s luck. It depends on how many guys big-league teams take. Our pitching has been outstanding. Kirby Yates was outstanding with (Jeff) Beliveau before they left. Geltz and (C.J.) Riefenhauser – the bullpen has been outstanding because everygame we play has been a close game.”
Figueroa: “Persistence has been the difference. There have been times when we struggled, but we just kept working harder and getting better. Charlie and the staff understand what we go through on a daily basis. It’s very loose. I think that’s the biggest aspect. He just asks us to come to play.”
Bulls general manager Mike Birling: “The key is ‘again.’ With Charlie and (coaches Dave Myers and Neil Allen) they do a great job getting the guys to play. We had a real strong team early in the year and had a tough stretch in July, but the guys did what they needed to do and hopefully it will carry into the playoffs. I’ll pay for the champagne every year – that’s fine with me.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls will make their regular trip to the playoffs.
Stars of the night
Play of the night
Fontenot’s double in the sixth.
Bulls: Won 2.
Gwinnett: Lost 2.
Bulls lead 12-7.
Bulls (Nathan Karns 9-7, 4.56) vs. Gwinnett (Zach Stewart 6-4, 4.94)