DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK It’s a bit too late to do anything about the pennant race, but the Durham Bulls are very hot right now.

Bulls pitcher Jeff Niemann

Heading into the fourth of a five-game home set with the Norfolk Tides, the Bulls have won four straight games.

And they’ll have a solid arm on the mound on an unseasonably cool, as big Jeff Niemann (0-0, 8.31) will make his second rehab start. Zach Clark (4-1, 1.44) will go for Norfolk.

The Bulls get the fourth save in five days from Dane De La Rosa, who gets his 19th of the season in the 5-3 win.

Leadoff man Xavier Avery gives the Tides the first-inning lead by blasting a 3-1 offering into the right-field bleachers.

Norfolk stretches the lead to 3-0 in the fourth. Bill Hall leads off with a single to center and advances on Joe Mahoney’s double to right. Luis Exposito scores Hall on a single to center and then Brandon Waring brings Mahoney home on a one-out sacrifice fly to center.

The Bulls get on the board in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Sean Rodriguez and Chris Gimenez walk before Leslie Anderson hits an RBI single to center to make it 3-1.

Niemann lasts four innings and allows three runs on five hits with a strikeout and two walks, exiting the game after taking a line drive off the back of his pitching hand and throwing to first to end the inning. X-rays are negative.

The Bulls then rally in the fifth off Clark. Cole Figueroa leads off with a double to left, followed by Reid Brignac’s single to right center. Jesus Feliciano hits an RBI single to right, and following Rich Thompson’s sacrifice bunt to the mound Rodriguez puts Durham ahead with a RBI double to left.

Durham tacks on another run in the seventh as Thompson draws a leadoff walk, steals second, takes third as
Rodriguez reaches on a sacrifice bunt and scores on a passed ball.

Ryan Reid (5-3) is the winning pitcher.

No Bull gets two hits as the club wins despite only seven safeties.

They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “De La Rosa deserves it. He’s going to be our pitcher of the year. He’s done a great job. Every time we give him the ball he takes it. Pitching is giving us a chance. That’s why we’re winning now. At least Niemann’s hand is not broken. When he made that throw, that’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Niemann: “It got my hand around the top of the pinky. It’s pretty sore right now, but we got great news because there’s no break, no fracture. It’s tough to deal with, but that’s the best news we can get.”

De La Rosa: “We’ve been behind most of the game and then take the lead late, so it’s cool to get those saves. I’m happy to keep rolling. Our bullpen has been keeping leads for me. It’s easier having momentum and having guys in front of you that get the job done. I’ve been injury free. It’s been a good season.”

What does it all mean?
That it’s too little and too late for the playoff race, but the Bulls are fun to watch right now.

Stars of the game
1. De La Rosa.
2. Rodriguez.
3. Reid.

Play of the game

Niemann’s throw to get Avery to end the fourth inning after taking the line shot off the hand.


Bulls: Won 5.
Norfolk: Lost 4.

Season series
Bulls lead 11-7.

On deck
Bulls (Cesar Ramos 4-5, 4.18) vs. Norfolk (Dana Eveland 5-4, 2.54), Sunday, 5:05 p.m.