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Stadium friendly to long ball, not G-Braves

LAWRENCEVILLE - In the first three innings Wednesday afternoon, the wind at Gwinnett Stadium changed directions as many times.

But whether it blew out toward right-center or across toward the left field wall, it blew right where Durham's Chris Richard needed it, too.

The first baseman homered in his first two at bats, the first a three-run shot and the second scoring two. The home runs accounted for five of Durham's six runs in a 6-2 win over Gwinnett.

They were the first two home runs for Richard this season, and last year he hit just 26 in 467 at bats. Both of Richard's home runs Wednesday barely left the park, bouncing off the small space between the top of the wall and the lower berm fences.

And both left the park traveling with the wind.

"The ballpark today played offensive," said G-Braves manager Dave Brundage. "But both teams got to hit."

Home runs at the newly christened Gwinnett Stadium come often. Through six games, Gwinnett, Norfolk and Durham have combined to hit eight home runs and after Wednesday's game Gwinnett holds a slim 5-3 advantage. It's quite a change from the triple-A Braves last home in Richmond, Va. Last season, there were 74 total home runs at The Diamond. The pace is on track for 95 in Gwinnett.

The changing and outward-blowing wind did more than just lift the pair of homers, it carried balls over the heads of the outfielders and nearly confounded the infield on high pop flies. There were six extra base hits on Wednesday and at different times the ball curved away from left fielder Brandon Jones and center fielder Gregor Blanco. Wednesday's third baseman Brooks Conrad watched pop outs wobble back and forth in the air, turning routine into perilous.

"That wind plays tricks on us," said the infielder who was 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. "You have to keep watching the flags."

There were no Gwinnett errors, and all three for Durham came on groundball mishaps, but the lifting wind helped put the Braves in a hole too deep to claw out.

"(Falling behind) has been our nemesis so far," Brundage said. "We don't want to fall into the pattern."

Starter Charlie Morton's ERA nearly doubled to 6.43 after he labored through three innings and 71 pitches. He gave up eight hits and only struck out one. The bullpen carried its weight, not allowing another run and only one hit, but Gwinnett used four pitchers over the final six innings. Mariano Gomez pitched three hitless innings, walking and striking out two. The lefthander is 1-0 with an ERA of 0.71 in 92/3 innings.

"(The bullpen) has done an outstanding job," Brundage said. "That is just one component. We can't keep on putting them out there."

But in a park proving friendly to hitters, any team needs strong pitchers for nine innings.

"The ball was carrying today," Brundage said. "We are just learning the ballpark."

SideBar: INSTANT REPLAY

Bulls 6, G-Braves 2

What happened: Durham's Chris Richard homered in the first and the third as Durham built a 6-0 lead in the first three innings and held on from there to take the three-game series with Gwinnett. Braves' starter Charlie Morton gave up eight hits and all six runs in three innings.

Stat of the day: Chris Richard collected five of the Bulls' six RBIs on two swings. The home runs where the first baseman's first two of the season.

Hustle play: Gwinnett catcher Clint Sammons knuckled a dribbler down the third base line and took off toward first base just beating the throw of Durham's Ray Olmedo.

Worth noting: Gwinnett's Barbaro Canizares nine-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-5 day. The DH and first baseman is still batting .354.

On deck: The Gwinnett Braves return to their regular night game schedule and welcome the team's second meeting with Charlotte. The G-Braves took three of four from the Knights in the franchises' first-ever series. RHP Todd Redmond faces off with RHP Lance Broadway with first pitch set for 7 p.m.