DURHAM, N.C. — A day after the Gwinnett Braves’ offense erupted for 18 runs off a season-high 21 hits, including four home runs, the Durham Bulls found their coolant in Dirk Hayhurst.
The former big-league reliever and best-selling author, was perfect through 5 1/3 inning and didn’t allow an earned run, striking out six G-Braves and allowing just two hits in his 6 2/3 innings.
The one unearned run helped send the game into extra innings and it was the Bulls’ Justin Ruggiano blasting his second home run of the game, this time off Anthony Varvaro, to give Durham a 4-1 win in 11 innings. With the loss, the G-Braves (6-5) drop the series with the Bulls 2-1.
Varvaro’s home run came with two on and two outs, leading to the right-handed reliever’s second loss of the season. He is now 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA.
But until Varvaro gave up the game-winning home run, both offenses stayed almost completely mute.
Gwinnett countered Hayhurt (1-0, 1.02 ERA) with its own pitcher with time in the majors, lefty Mike Minor, and in his second outing since his rocky start in Atlanta he was just as dominant.
Minor made one mistake, the first of two Ruggiano home runs in the third inning, but struck out five over six innings, walking one and allowing just four hits. His ERA stays at 1.50 after two no-decisions.
The G-Braves tied the game in the sixth after Shawn Bowman ended Hayhurst’s perfect-game with a double. The Bulls’ crowd gave the starter an ovation following the hit.
Bowman advanced to third on a fly ball and a throwing error on Jordan Schafer’s ground ball to shortstop Omar Luna allowed Bowman to even the game at 1-1.
Over the next four innings, Gwinnett relievers Yohan Flande, Stephen Marek and Corey Gearrin didn’t allow a run. But the Durham bullpen was just as stingy.
Varvaro started his outing in the same fashion in the 11th, getting the first two batters out. But two walks with two outs set the table for Ruggiano’s game-winning blast to right-center field.
With only four hits over 11 innings, the G-Braves stranded just four runners and no Gwinnett batter had more than one hit. Mauro Gomez joined Bowman with a double that hit off the top of the wall in the 10th.
Gwinnett’s road trip continues today with a 7:15 p.m. first pitch at Norfolk. Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (2-0, 1.32 ERA) puts his perfect record on the line against the Tides’ right-hander Ryan Drese (0-1, 8.18 ERA).