DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK The Durham Bulls are inching ever closer to their 12th division title and 13th playoff berth in their 17 seasons in the International League.
Heading into tonight's game with the second-place Norfolk Tides, Durham's magic number to clinch a second straight South Division crown is six with 13 games left in the season - all against either the Tides or the Gwinnett Braves.
Nathan Karns (9-6, 4.45) will look for his eighth straight quality start tonight against East Carolina alum Mike Wright (4-11, 5.16).
This time it's Wright that gets the quality start - an extremely high-quality one that gets him an extended standing ovation as he leaves for the dugout after 122 pitches - as he pitches 8 2/3 no-hit innings in a 5-2 Norfolk win.
The Tides jump on Karns for three runs in the first. Julio Borbon leads off with a walk and then Quintin Berry singles to right before Daniel Alvarez launches a 1-0 offering over the Blue Monster wall in left center for his first homer of the season. Karns retires the next three.
Karns loses the quality-start bid with two out in the fourth. Alexi Castilla and Steve Lombardozzi hit back-to-back singles and execute a double steal, followed by Borbon's RBI hit to second and Mike Fontenot's throwing error to score Lombardozzi.
Wright fires keeps a no-hitter through the 8 2/3, his longest outing of the season. With two out and one on in the ninth, Cole Figueroa reaches on an errant throw from shortstop Casilla, followed by Mikie Mahtook's RBI double to right. Brock Huntzinger comes on and fires a wild pitch to score Figueroa before getting the final out for the save.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: "Wright has s five-something ERA. Credit to him. We hit some balls hard and they made some good plays. He pitches well against us. Karns was struggling, but he hung in there a little bit. When the team's struggling and you go down 3-0 it's not good."
Wright: "Lately I've just tried to relax and have fun. The further I got into this game the more everyone was aware it was a big situation, so I just had to relax and do my thing. I haven't thrown a complete game since high school. Tonight my changeup kept everybody off my fastball, and I had a really good defense. That's what really helped me out. ... I had a lot of family and friends here. It was pretty awesome to get that standing ovation. It was great that the crowd appreciated it."
Norfolk manager Ron Johnson: "Mike started off pretty good this season and then struggled for about two months. He's always had really good stuff, but he's commanding all his pitches. We always look at young players and we want them to come here and immediately succeed and just deal the whole time. That's why we have levels. He's earned the right to develop and we're getting to see the fruits of that labor."
What does it all mean?
That the number doesn't move.
Stars of the night
Play of the night
Bulls: Lost 1.
Norfolk: Won 1.
Bulls lead 10-5.
Bulls (Alex Colome 6-5, 3.68) vs. Gwinnett (Cody Martin 6-7, 3.51)