August 23, 2017 - International League (IL) - Durham Bulls
DURHAM, N.C. - The Durham Bulls were four outs away from winning the International League South Division Wednesday night before letting two separate leads slip away late in a 6-5 loss to the Gwinnett Braves at the DBAP.
The Bulls let two separate chances slip over the final two innings, as the home team couldn't hold on to a 4-1 lead in the eighth or a 5-4 advantage in the ninth. Durham nearly salvaged the game in the bottom of the ninth when the first two batters reached safely to bring the winning run to the plate with no outs, but Braves reliever Rex Brothers retired the next three batters in order to squelch the rally and end the game.
The night looked good early on for the home team, as the Bulls' lineup staked rehabbing major league starter Matt Andriese with a 3-0 lead in the first. Leadoff batter Mallex Smith started the rally with a double to left which was promptly followed by an RBI single from Willy Adames to plate the first tally just two batters into the frame. One out later, Patrick Leonard lined a two-run home run to dead center field to give the Bulls a 3-0 advantage.
The Braves got on the board with an RBI, ground rule double in the top of the third, but the Bulls quickly countered with a solo homer by Jake Bauers in the bottom of the inning to make the score 4-1. It looked like that would be the night's final margin, but Gwinnett posted three runs on four hits in the top of the eighth to tie that game at 4-4. The Braves nearly took the lead in the inning as well, but the go-ahead run was gunned down at the plate to end the frame and preserve the tie.
Suddenly in need of another run, the Durham lineup went back to work in the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff double by Bauers putting the go-ahead runner in scoring position. Following a groundout by Leonard that moved Bauers to third, Shane Peterson drove in the tally with an RBI sacrifice fly to left to give the Bulls a 5-4 lead.
Once again Gwinnett wouldn't go down without a fight however, as the visiting team came back for two runs on three hits in the top of the ninth to take their first lead of the night at 6-5. The Bulls had one last push in them as well though, as a leadoff double by Johnny Field and a hit-by-pitch to Jake Hager brought the winning run to the plate with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. The walk-off win was not to be however, as Bauers flew out to the base of the Blue Monster in left for the final out to end the game.
Reliever Chaz Roe (0-4) took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits, one walk, and one strikeout over 1.1 innings pitched. Gwinnett reliever Evan Phillips (2-3) earned the win with one run allowed over his one inning of work, while Brothers (1) recorded the save with a scoreless ninth inning.
Bauers paced the Bulls' bats with a 2-5 game including a home run, double, RBI, and two runs scored, while Leonard also went 2-4 with a homer, two RBI, and a run scored.
The Bulls (79-50) will have another chance to clinch the division against the Braves (64-64) Thursday night in the finale of the four-game set, with LHP Michael Roth (2-4, 5.53) taking on LHP Max Fried (0-0, 0.00) at 7:05 pm.