DURHAM, N.C. – The Gwinnett Stripers’ (1-2) bullpen allowed a 2-0 lead to slip away late in a 4-2 loss to the Durham Bulls (2-2) Monday night in the opening game of the three game series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
An early lead for the Stripers came off the bat of first baseman Carlos Franco, who led off the top of the second inning opposite-field solo homer (1) to left off Durham starter Vidal Nuno for a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, left fielder Ronald Acuna, Jr. drew a two out walk from Durham reliever Forest Snow, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single to center by Franco to extend the lead to 2-0.
However, the bullpen problems for Gwinnett began in the bottom of the seventh. Reliever Evan Phillips gave up a leadoff double to left to former Gwinnett player Brandon Snyder. A Phillips wild pitch moved Snyder to third and a sacrifice fly to left by Kean Wong cut the Stripers lead to 2-1.
In the bottom of the eighth, Phillips walked lead-off batter Jake Bauers, but Bauers was caught stealing to clear the bases with one out. Phillips then walked Willy Adames and Christian Arroyo putting two on and forcing the Stripers to bring in Phillip Pfeifer from the bullpen. Pfeifer gave up an infield single to Jason Coats, loading the bases. A single to left by Justin Williams scored Adames for a 2-2 tie.
After Pfeifer struck out Snyder for the second out, he bounced a wild pitch, allowing Arroyo to score from third with the 3-2 go-ahead run. A walk by Pfeifer to Wong reloaded the bases and another wild pitch allowed Coats to score from third with the fourth and final run of the game.
Starting pitcher Lucas Sims was solid in his 2018 debut for Gwinnett. He went 4.0 innings with three hits allowed, no runs, two walks and seven strikeouts. Andres Santiago worked 2.0 scoreless innings with one walk and two strikeouts in his 2018 Gwinnett debut. Phillips (L, 0-1) pitched 1.1 innings with one hit, three earned runs, three walks and one strikeouts. Pfeifer (BS, 1) tossed 0.2 of an inning with two hits, one earned run, one walk and two strikeouts.
For Durham, Nuno went 4.2 innings with one hit, one earned run and one strikeout. Ryne Stanek worked 0.1 of an inning with one hit and one strikeout. Snow tossed 1.2 inning with one hit one earned run, two walks and one strikeout. Cody Hall (W, 1-0) pitched 1.1 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Hunter Wood (S, 1) tossed 1.0 inning with two strikeouts.
Franco led Gwinnett with a 2-for-4 night, a homer, a run and two RBIs. Acuna Jr. was hitless in three times at the plate with a walk and a run; he is now 0-for-11 in the early going.
Williams paced Durham with a 2-for-3 night and one RBI.
The Stripers’ season-opening road trip continues Tuesday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Touted left-hander Kolby Allard (NR) makes his Triple-A debut for Gwinnett, while Durham will counter with right-hander Chih-Wei Hu (0-1, 6.75). First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 12:35 p.m.
The Stripers’ home opener at Coolray Field is set for Thursday, April 12 at 7:05 p.m. vs. the Rochester Red Wings. For tickets, call 678-277-0340 or visit GoStripers.com/tickets.