Advance scout: Durham Bulls

The Durham Bulls wrapped the second half of their eight-game road trip last night winning 3-of-4 in Syracuse after doing the same to Scranton/WB to open the trip. The Bisons took 3-of-4 from the Bulls in the final week of April and make their only trip to Tobacco Road over the next four days.

The Bisons have now won seven of their last ten road games. On the year, the Herd has a .500 record (14-14) away from Coca-Cola Field. Buffalo hasn’t finished a season with a winning mark on the road since 2004 (42-31).

Hitting a Peak: Durham is 10 over .500 (34-24) for the fourth time this season. The Bulls have not been 11 over .500 this year.

Close Call: Durham has outscored the opposition by 115 runs in 59 games, the best differential in the league. Despite being 10 over .500, the team has gone 9-13 in games decided by one or two runs. Durham is 2-11 in its last 13 close games. However, the Bulls had those two wins on the most recent home stand.

Defense Darn Good: Durham played errorless ball yesterday. The Bulls have committed 29 errors, second fewest in the IL, and didn’t make a single error on the eight game road trip (none in 71 innings).

Over Early:
The Bulls have not lost a game when leading after seven frames (30-0). Durham is 4-1 when it’s tied after seven. However, Durham also hasn’t won (0-23) when trailing after seven innings.

All Good Streaks Must End: Durham’s bullpen allowed three runs in 3.1 innings Sunday. Durham had thrown 19.1 scoreless innings on the road trip, and 28.2 scoreless since May 28th (nine games). In that contest, the pen allowed three unearned runs. The pen’s stretch without allowing an earned run was 32.2 innings, when Dale Thayer gave up three on May 25th against Pawtucket. The bullpen ERA still is 2.62, more than a run lower than the starters.

Run Like the Bulls: Durham has 75 stolen bases, 16 ahead of everyone else. Elliot Johnson now has 19 with one yesterday, tied for second in the IL, Four Bulls, Johnson (19), Fernando Perez (16), Desmond Jennings (14) and Justin Ruggiano (11) are in double digits.

Tentative Pitching Match-ups: Durham vs Buffalo:
Tuesday 7:05pm: LHP Carlos Hernandez (4-3 3.21) vs RHP Dillon Gee (6-2 3.84)
Wednesday 7:05pm: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (8-2 2.28) vs RHP Tobi Stoner (3-5 4.91)
Thursday 7:05pm: LHP Heath Phillips (5-4 4.02) vs RHP Dylan Owen (2-1 6.14)
Friday 7:05pm: RHP Aneury Rodriguez (2-4 3.80) vs LHP Pat Misch (5-1 3.33)

Series I: Review for Buffalo & Durham:
4/30: BUF 12, DUR 7
Mike Hessman has the power to change the game with one swing and he did it again on Friday night in Buffalo as his fourth-inning grand slam sent the Bisons to a 12-7 victory over the Durham Bulls in front of 9,129 at Coca-Cola Field.

Fernando Martinez and Chris Carter also went deep as the Herd won three of four games from the top team in the International League.

Hessman’s slam was part of a six-run fourth inning that helped Buffalo take control of a slugfest. With the sacks packed and one out, the third baseman crushed a 2-1 offering from Bulls’ starter Aneury Rodriguez to left field. Buffalo plated two more runs in the frame, including Carter’s third home run of the season, to build a 9-5 advantage.

Hessman now has seven home runs and 24RBI in his first season in Buffalo.

Durham grabbed a 2-0 led in the second, but Martinez cut that lead in half with his second home run of the season in the bottom of the inning. The outfielder was playing his first game since April 23 because of mid back soreness.

Buffalo went ahead 3-2 with two in the third on RBI hits from Carter and Russ Adams. Durham took a 5-3 lead in the top of the fourth before the Bisons’ big rally.

The Herd added insurance with two more in the fifth inning and solo run in the sixth. By the end of the game, every Bisons hitter had at least one hit and one run scored.

Pat Misch (2-0) earned the win for Buffalo with five innings of work. Kiko Calero fanned five batters in 2.2 hitless innings of relief for the Bisons.

4/29: BUF 4, DUR 0
In possibly the most dominating performance in Coca-Cola Field history, Bisons’ hurler R.A. Dickey retired a record 27 consecutive batters in a 4-0 masterpiece over the Durham Bulls on Thursday night.

Dickey gave up a single to the first batter he faced and then put the clamps down for a shade under two hours. Needing only 90 pitches, he mowed down the best hitting club in the International League in a complete-game for the ages.

All that stood in the way of Dickey making even more history was an 0-2 knuckleball that just stayed a little two high in the zone. Bulls’ lead-off hitter Fernando Perez went the opposite way with the pitch, poking a single through the right side of the Bisons infield to lead off the game.

After the lone mistake of the night, Dickey started his string of retired batters with a strike out of Rashad Eldridge -one of Dickey’s six punchouts. He then got Elliot Johnson and the league’s top hitter, Hank Blalock, to fly out to left to close out the first.

The rest seemed like easy work for Dickey. He induced a total of 12 ground outs and nine flyball outs. He had just one three-ball count and maxed out on pitches when he tossed 13 to get through the ninth inning. Dickey needed just seven pitches in the eighth inning and eight in the fifth inning to close out those frames.

All told, Dickey through 68 of his 90 pitches for strikes.

One run was enough for Dickey and the Bisons got that in the fourth inning. Jesus Feliciano led off with a single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Two groundouts later and the Herd had all the offense they needed.

Buffalo added insurance with a pair of runs in the seventh and one more in the eighth thanks to Ruben Tejada’s first Triple-A home run.

The Bulls entered the game with an International League-best .299 team batting average. Dickey knocked down the average by nine points in one night.

4/28: DUR 9, BUF 2
Durham got home runs from Chris Richard, Angel Chavez and Rashad Eldridge in a 9-2 victory over Buffalo on Wednesday night.

The Bulls had just three hits over the first five innings against Bisons’ starter Tobi Stoner, but two of them left the yard. Richard opened the scoring with a lead-off shot in the third inning while Chavez hit one out in left field with two outs in the fifth for the 2-0 lead.

Eldridge hit his first homer of the season with one out in the sixth inning. Justin Ruggiano and Hank Blalock followed with back-to-back doubles to build a 4-0 lead and knock Stoner from the game.

The Bisons cut the lead in half in the bottom of the sixth inning as Mike Hessman and Chris Carter produced RBI-singles. The Herd then had two cracks with the tying runs on base, but Bulls’ reliever Mike Ekstrom got Russ Adams and Josh Thole to fly out to end the threat.

Durham added two runs of insurance in the eighth inning and three more in the ninth for the 9-2 win.

Both Jesus Feliciano and Jason Pridie extended their hit streaks to seven games. Each have averaged over .400 during their stretches. Chris Carter finished the game 2-4 with a double and an RBI.

4/27: BUF 9, DUR 5
Mike Jacobs and Mike Hessman had the biggest hits on Tuesday night as they led Buffalo in a 9-5 victory over the Durham Bulls. Jacobs had a three-run double and Hessman launched a pair of two-run homers as Buffalo used a key two-out rally to defeat the IL’s top team.

The Bisons scored five runs with two outs in the fourth. Jacobs struck first with a booming double to left field that cleared the bases and tied the score at three. Four pitches later, Hessman hit his fifth home run of the season to drive in Jacobs as well as himself.

The active leader in minor league home runs struck again in the bottom of the eighth inning to clinch the victory. After the Bisons tacked on an insurance run on Jesus Feliciano’s RBI-double, Hessman launched his 317th career minor league home run. This one was clearly his most impressive blast in a Buffalo uniform as it flew past the protective netting in left field and onto Oak St.

Hessman now has six home runs and 18RBI in 18 games with the Bisons.

The Bisons bullpen earned the victory for the Herd as Kiko Calero (2-0) got the win and John Lujan earned his second save. Along with Mike O’Connor the trio combined to toss 4.1 innings of shutout relief.

Dillon Gee started for the Herd and allowed five runs in 4.2 innings of work.

Mike Cervenak saw his 11-game hit streak come to an end on Tuesday. Jesus Feliciano had two more hits to raise his average to .370.

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