Maybe the Bulls celebrated that South Division title a little too hard Thursday night.
Twenty four hours after clinching their 13th division title, Durham laid an egg, dropping the series opener to Norfolk 12-0.
“Definitely a little bit of a letdown,” Bulls’ manager Jared Sandberg said. “But I think we are also professionals. These guys are fighting for personal stats and goals so there is still a lot to play for. Us being professionals we know we have to go out there and compete.”
The 10,527 fans in attendance were hoping the team would ride that wave of momentum from Thursday night’s clincher. Instead the Tides (62-70) took it right to Durham (79-51) from the opening inning. Bulls’ starter Brent Honeywell, usually solid on the hill, didn’t get off to his best start. Honeywell only lasted 38 pitches, walking three of the six batters he faced before getting pulled for Jess Ames 19 minutes into the game. Sandberg said there wasn’t much to gain by leaving Honeywell on the mound any longer.
“The way they were working their at-bats, they were deep at-bats,” Sandberg said. “What if he goes another seven pitches? That’s too much. The guy has a bright future, he’s still young and we were just trying to protect him a little bit.”
Ames inherited a 2-0 deficit and didn’t fare much better against an aggressive Norfolk team. Ames gave up two runs in the top of the second - RBIs to Chris Johnson and Pedro Alvarez - to put the visitors up 4-0. By the time Durham got its first hit in the bottom of the third, a single by Johnny Field, they were already down 5-0. The Tides fifth run came by way of a solo home run from Chance Sisco. An unearned run gave Norfolk a 6-0 lead, and the visitors extended their lead to seven in the eighth out a double from Luis Sardinas to score Alveraz.
By that point Sandberg was out of arms and turned to utility man Mike McKenry to pitch, the third appearance on the mound for the catcher/outfielder. Taking advantage of a position player on the mound, Norfolk added five more runs to the board.
It was the sixth time this season the Bulls have been blanked and third time this month.
Durham and Norfolk continue the series Saturday at 6:35 p.m. Yonny Chirinos (11-5) starts for the Bulls. Jayson Aquino (3-8) will start for the Tides.