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Bulls turn tables on G-Braves

LAWRENCEVILLE - The amazing streak by Gwinnett's starting pitchers obviously couldn't last forever. When it finally ended, though, it was certainly done in dramatic fashion.

The G-Braves had gone 12 consecutive games without a starter allowing more than one earned run. Durham's Justin Ruggiano snapped that streak with one mighty swing.

The right-handed hitting outfielder blasted a grand slam off Todd Redmond in the third inning and that was just the beginning of the power display by Ruggiano and his team as the Bulls ripped the G-Braves 7-0 on Saturday night at Gwinnett Stadium.

Redmond (2-2) gave up back-to-back homers to Reid Brignac and Ruggiano in the fourth inning before getting the hook, the G-Braves' three-game winning streak already history.

But Ruggiano, 27, wasn't done playing long ball. He connected for his third homer - tying the Durham record - in the sixth inning of Gwinnett reliever Vladimir Nunez.

So much for a slump. Ruggiano, who played in 45 games with Tampa Bay last season, came in hitting .200 with three homers and 11 RBIs. He finished the game batting a more respectable .222 with six homers and 17 RBIs after 3-for-4 with a walk.

"I've had a rough stretch for awhile and it was good to finally get locked in," said Ruggiano, who had never hit three homers in a game before. "I've been doing a lot of extra work and I felt something click the last week. It finally paid off."

Redmond had been masterful even by Gwinnett's high standards in his previous start, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out seven over eight scoreless innings in a victory over Syracuse.

That mastery was gone against Durham, however, as Redmond lost his way in the third and couldn't recover from that 40-pitch inning as he became the first Gwinnett pitcher to give up three homers this season.

Two hits and a walk loaded the bases with no outs in the third, bringing up Ruggiano. Redmond tried to hit the outside corner with a first-pitch fastball, only to catch too much of the plate.

Ruggiano, a former Texas A&M standout, got full extension on his swing and blasted a grand slam onto the berm just to the right of center field, the ball traveling well over 400 feet.

Redmond was able to keep it at a four-run game by pitching out of a second bases-loaded jam following the grand slam, but could couldn't get another out after fanning the leadoff hitter in the fourth for his fifth strikeout.

Brignac hit a high drive that just got over the leap of right fielder Brian Barton for his third homer of the season. Then Ruggiano, who came in hitting .200, connected again, his smash flying out in left-center field.

That was it for Redmond, who saw his ERA jump from 2.33 to 3.86. But Ruggiano wasn't done. He sliced a drive to right field in the sixth off Nunez that ended up in the Durham bullpen.

The G-Braves, meanwhile, got just three singles off a trio of Durham pitchers. Left-hander Carlos Hernandez (1-2) worked six innings, giving up all the hits. He struck out five, walked one and hit another.

Ruggiano didn't play in the series opener Friday night, manning a TV camera near the visitors' dugout to break the boredom and loosen things up a little.

"It's good to have a short memory in this game when things aren't going good," Ruggiano said. "When you press and press, baseball isn't fun anymore. And that is what it is supposed to be. Baseball should be fun."

Ruggiano was having plenty of fun Saturday night. Gwinnett, not so much.

The loss, though, was just the fourth in the past 12 games for the G-Braves, who had moved to within a game of .500. Now they will have to win the final two games of the series to reach the break-even point.

At least Gwinnett will have its twin aces in Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen going today and Monday. The G-Braves starters need to get back on a roll. Ruggiano and the Bulls will try to see that they don't.

SideBar: INSTANT REPLAY

Bulls 7, G-Braves 0

What happened: LF Justin Ruggiano hit a third-inning grand slam and hit two more homers later as Durham evened the series at Gwinnett Stadium with a big-time power display Saturday night. It was just Gwinnett's fourth loss in the past 12 games.

Star watch: Ruggiano, who played in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season, was hitting just .200 before the three-homer outburst that doubled his season total. He had 20 homers for Durham in 2007 and batted over .300 each of the past two seasons with the Bulls. Ruggiano's middle homer came right after a blast by SS Reid Brignac.

Mound opposites: While RHP Todd Redmond (2-2) was faltering, LHP Carlos Hernandez (1-2) was blanking the G-Braves on three hits through six innings in his longest outing of the season, finally getting a win.

Streak stopper: Gwinnett DH Barbaro Canizares went 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak at 13 games.

Web gems: Durham 2B Ray Olmedo ranged wide to his left to start a double play that ended the sixth inning. For Gwinnett, CF Reid Gorecki threw out Bulls DH Jon Weber trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth inning.

Web flops: Gwinnett committed four errors, including two on one sloppy play in the eighth inning.

n Counting the house: Attendance was 9,123, but the G-Braves didn't give the near-sellout gathering much to cheer.

Worth noting: G-Braves manager Dave Brundage started a lineup with Brandon Jones the only left-handed hitter against Hernandez. CF Gregor Blanco sat, as did LF-2B J.C. Holt, who had three hits against the Bulls on Friday. ... Durham 2B Adam Kennedy was traded by Tampa Bay to Oakland and will become a regular for the A's with Mark Ellis sidelined. The veteran was hitting .280 with three homers and nine RBIs for the Bulls.

On deck: Looking for his first win at Gwinnett Stadium, RHP Tommy Hanson (1-3, 1.65 ERA) faces Bulls LHP James Houser (1-1, 5.54 ERA) today at 2 p.m. in the next-to-last game of the homestand. RHP Kris Medlen (4-0, 1.12 ERA) will pitch for the G-Braves against Durham RHP Mitch Talbot (3-2, 3.90 ERA) on Monday, also at 2 p.m.