G-Braves blow lead in opener

Ernesto  Mejia

Ernesto Mejia

DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham Bulls (1-0) rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Gwinnett Braves (0-1), 7-6 in the 2014 season opener Thursday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

In his first rehab start with the G-Braves, Atlanta Braves right-hander Gavin Floyd worked 1 1/3 innings, scattering two hits and allowing two earned runs. He made 42 pitches, hurling 21 strikes in his first professional outing since April 27, 2013.

The G-Braves spotted Floyd an early lead, as they struck for three runs in the very first inning. Ernesto Mejia delivered a towering three-run homer to left off of Durham starter Nathan Karns, giving the Braves an early 3-0 lead. The homer scored both Jose Constanza and Joey Terdoslavich.

However, in the bottom of the second, with Floyd on the mound, Durham’s Kevin Kiermaier delivered a two-run homer to center to cut the Gwinnett lead to 3-2.

The G-Braves extended the lead in the top of the third inning, scoring three more runs. With runners on the corner, Terdoslavich drove in the first run with a single to left field, while Tommy La Stella drew a bases loaded walk to make it 5-2. Mark Hamilton drove in the final G-Brave run of the game with an RBI single off of the glove of second baseman Mike Fontenot, increasing the lead to 6-2.

In the bottom of the fourth, G-Braves’ reliever Yunesky Maya gave up a leadoff double to Jerry Sands and an RBI single to Mikie Mahtook, cutting the lead to 6-3.

The Bulls tied the game with three in the bottom of the fifth. Former Braves’ infielder Wilson Betemit drilled a two-run homer off of Maya to make it 6-5, and then Sands greeted reliever Luis Vasquez with a solo homer to right to tie the game at 6-6.

The winning run for the Bulls came in the bottom of the seventh against Braves’ reliever Mark Lamm. Cole Figueroa walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, move to third on a single to left by Sands and scored the eventual winning run when the Braves failed to turn a double play.

Floyd went 1 1/3 innings with two hits, two earned runs, two walks and one strikeout. Maya worked 2 2/3 innings with four hits and two earned runs. He walked no one and struck out five. Vasquez pitched one inning with one hit, one earned run and two strikeouts. Lamm (L, 0-1) pitched two innings with one hit, one earned run, one walk and one strikeout. Ryan Buchter worked the bottom of the eighth, giving up one hit.

Karns went 2 2/3 innings with three hits, six runs—five of which were earned. After Karns left the game, four Durham pitchers combined to toss 6.1 shutout innings. Brian Boxberger (W, 1-0) recorded the win, pitching 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts, while Kirby Yates (S, 1) tallied his first save of the season, hurling a scoreless ninth inning.

At the plate, Mejia led the way with a homer and three RBIs. Constanza and Hamilton went 1-for-3, while Constanza added two stolen bases and two runs.

Sands led the Bulls going 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Figueroa was 2-for-3 and scored the game-winner.