[Via email from the Durham Bulls' broadcaster Neil Solondz.]
Chris Richard's three-run homer with one out in the ninth gave Durham its fourth straight win, and the 3-1 victory over Norfolk moved the Bulls into a first place tie with Gwinnett with 11 games left in the regular season.
Joe Dillon started the winning rally off Bob McCrory with a ground single to center. Jon Weber bounced to the hole at short, and Blake Davis had trouble getting it out of his glove, preventing a potential double play, as Weber beat Melvin Dorta's relay. Fernando Perez pinch-ran, and Justin Ruggiano singled to center on the next pitch, putting runners at first and second. Richard fell behind 0-2, and then fouled three pitches off. Perez and Ruggiano then executed a double steal, as Richard worked the count even. He then drilled a 2-2 pitch into the right field bullpen for his 22nd homer. The long ball was his 62nd in three seasons with the Bulls and that tied him with Scott McClain for Durham's all-time Triple-A mark.
After Joe Nelson (1-1) worked around two walks to pitch a scoreless eighth, Winston Abreu pitched a hitless ninth for his 14th save. Jason Cromer allowed just a run over seven innings to keep Durham in the game. The Bulls also threw out two Tides at the plate.
Durham (75-58) is 17 games over .500 for the first time this year. The Bulls moved into a first place tie with Gwinnett, as the Braves dropped their fourth straight to Charlotte, 6-4. Durham and Gwinnett are 4.5 games ahead of Syracuse in the wild card race. The Bulls magic number to clinch a playoff spot is eight. Durham will host Gwinnett beginning on Saturday.
Wade Davis takes the mound on Friday as the Bulls look to complete the road trip with a sweep of the Tides. Fellow righty Chris Lambert starts for Norfolk. Coverage on 99.9 the Fan ESPN Radio begins at 6:55, with first pitch at 7:15.