DURHAM, N.C. — Ernesto Mejia’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth inning led the Gwinnett Braves to a 6-4 victory over the Durham Bulls in the series finale on Sunday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The G-Braves entered the ninth trailing the Bulls 4-3 and three outs away from being swept in the four-game series. The Bulls’ closer Dan De La Rosa immediately got into trouble as he walked Josh Wilson and with one out, walked Brian Friday. G-Braves’ leadoff batter Luis Durango beat out a ground ball to short to load to bases with one out. Wilson then scored from third on a passed ball by catcher Chris Gimenez to tie the game, 4-4. After Josh Kroeger popped-up to short for the second out of the inning, Mejia delivered the clutch single, plating Friday and Durango with the decisive runs.
The comeback win for the G-Braves came after they allowed Durham to come back from a two-run deficit, taking a late lead 4-3.
With the game scoreless in the top of the fourth, Gwinnett got on the board first. Durham starting pitcher Cesar Ramos walked Stefan Gartrell to begin the inning and a groundout to first by Jose Yepez moved Gartrell to second. Terry Tiffee then singled to right, scoring Gartrell from third to give the G-Braves an early 1-0 lead.
Durham rallied in the bottom of the fourth, as former Braves’ infielder Brooks Conrad lined a two-out double to left off Gwinnett starter Sean Gilmartin and scored when Evan Longoria singled to left. The game was tied 1-1 after four.
In the top of the fifth, Rusty Ryal led off with a single to right and moved to third on a single by Friday. A bunt single by Durango scored Ryal from third giving the G-Braves a 2-1 lead. Then with one out, Mejia cracked a single that scored Friday from second moving the Gwinnett lead to 3-1.
Gilmartin gave up two runs in the bottom of the fifth, one unearned, enabling the Bulls to tie. Gimenez led off with a walk and a single by Reid Brignac put runners on first and second with no outs. Cole Figueroa laid down a bunt to the mound that Gilmartin fielded, but threw away at first. The error allowed Gimenez to score making it 3-2 Gwinnett, and moved Brignac to third. A groundout to second by Rich Thompson scored Brignac from third to tie the game, 3-3. Gilmartin gave the G-Braves a quality start in only his second AAA outing of the year. He went 6.2 innings with seven hits and three earned runs, including walking three and striking out one.
Then in the bottom of the seventh, Gimenez led off with a double to left-center off of Gilmartin. Gimenez was bunted to third by Brignac and scored on a single to center by Figueroa which edged the Bulls to a 4-3 lead and set up the dramatic G-Braves ninth-inning comeback.
Andy Russell (1-1) picked up the win in relief of Gilmartin, as he worked 1.1 innings with one walk. Anthony Varvaro pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth for his third save of the season. He allowed one hit with one walk and one strikeout.
De La Rosa (0-4) was trying for his third straight save in the series, but ended up with the loss. He gave up the three runs—two earned—along with two hits and two walks in the ninth inning. Ramos worked 4.0 inning in his third start of the season for Durham, as he allowed seven hits, three earned runs, one walk and struck out two. Josh Lueke worked 3.0 shutout innings with two hits and three strikeouts, meanwhile Frank De Los Santos pitched the eighth inning, giving up one hit and no runs.
Mejia was 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs for the G-Braves. He had seven RBIs in the four-game series, and now leads the International League with 82 RBIs and 129 hits. Tiffee and Ryal each went 2-for-4 and Durango was 2-for-5.
Brignac went 2-for-2 for the Bulls and Figueroa and Longoria were each 2-for-3.
The G-Braves (52-64) return home to begin an eight game homestand Monday night with the first of four against the Norfolk Tides (58-58). The G-Braves will have right-hander Randall Delgado (2-1, 4.32) on the mound against Norfolk left-hander Dana Eveland (3-4, 3.13). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.