Chris Richard's three-run, ninth inning homer gave Durham a 3-1 win over Norfolk Thursday night at Harbor Park.
The Tides led the contest 1-0 entering the final frame, but the Bulls opened the inning with a single by Joe Dillon off of Bob McCrory (0-2) to ignite the game-winning rally. After a fielder's choice, single and two stolen bases put runners on second and third with one out, Richard launched a 2-2 offering into the bullpen in right field to give the Bulls a 3-1 advantage.
Durham closer Winston Abreu followed by pitching a scoreless ninth to record his 14th save of the season and put the Tides seven games back in the IL wild card chase.
The loss was the Tides fourth in the last 10 games in which they blew a lead entering the final inning.
Norfolk starter Chris George was excellent in his Harbor Park debut, as he faced just two batters over the minimum in five innings of work. George did not yield a hit until a leadoff double by Dillon in the fifth inning, and after a one-out single in that frame put runners on first and third, George escaped any further damage by getting back-to-back shallow fly ball outs to escape the threat.
The 29-year-old southpaw threw just one pitch in the sixth inning before heavy rains forced the game to be delayed for 36 minutes, ending his outing. George struck out four without walking a batter in the contest, throwing 43 of his 62 pitches for strikes.
Norfolk took an early lead in the third inning on back-to-back doubles by Brandon Pinckney and Jeff Fiorentino.
Joey Gathright added two hits in the contest, upping his season-high hitting streak to 12 games. Gathright is now hitting .327 for the season, 4th in the IL.
The Tides and Bulls will wrap up their series on Friday night, with first pitch from Harbor Park scheduled for 7:15. Chris Lambert (6-8, 3.66) will make his first home start for Norfolk against Bulls right-hander Wade Davis (10-7, 3.26).
On Friday the first 5,000 fans will receive coupons for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich, and 200 fans chosen at random will win a 2009 Neighborhood Stars bobblehead set of local stars Mark Reynolds, Ryan Zimmerman and Bruce Smith in their high school uniforms, courtesy of the Bank of the Commonwealth.