The Durham Bulls have been the nemesis of the International League for the last 3 years. The reigning IL Champions and AAA World’s Series winner from 2009 are poised to repeat again as they head into the post season as IL South Champions, a crown that they have worn since 2006. This year the Bulls have pretty much owned the Tides going 14 and 5 against Norfolk going into today although 7 of those losses were by two runs or less.
The Tides started Zach Britton against Durham starter Ramon Ortiz. The Tides offense jumped Ortiz in the 1st inning. Ortiz walked Paco Figueroa with one out and then gave up a single to Jeff Salazar. He then committed an error missing a catch at first to allow Michael Aubrey aboard and load the bases. Scott Moore then took a 2 and 0 pitch over the over the right field wall for a grand-slam home run to give the Tides a 4-0 lead. Rhyne Hughes came to the plate and singled before Ortiz was pulled in favor of Dale Thayer having given up 4 runs on 3 hits registering only 1 out. Thayer got Buck Britton to ground into a double play to end the inning. The Bulls took two of those runs back in the bottom of the 1st inning when J.J. Furmaniak singled to lead off the inning. Britton struck out Omar Luna before giving up a single to Elliott Johnson to put runners at first and second with 1 out. Britton then tossed a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third. Chris Richard singled to drive in both runners before Britton retired Joe Dillon and Leslie Anderson on strikes.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning Britton hurt himself in allowing a third run. He gave up a leadoff single to Nevin Ashley and stuck out Bobby Livingston. He then got Fernando Perez to ground out sending Ashley to 2nd. With Omar Luna batting catcher Adam Donachie then allowed a passed ball to get Ashley to third before making a wild pitch to score Ashley. He then stuck out Luna to retire the side with the score 4-3. The Tides scored a run in the top of the 3rd inning as with 1 out Jeff Salazar walked and stole second. Michael Aubrey flied out bringing up Scott Moore who doubled to drive in Salazar to make the score 5-3 but Moore was thrown out going for third to end the inning.
The score would remain 5-3 until the top of the 8th inning. Britton left the game after 6 innings having given up 3 runs, 2 of which were earned on 4 hits striking out 9 bulls while walking two. Pat Egan relieved Britton in the 7th sending the Bulls down in order. In the top of the 8th the Tides scored again when with one out Paco Figueroa singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Jeff Salazar singled to send Figueroa to 3rd and with runners on first and third Michael Aubrey hit a sacrifice fly to score Figueroa and the lead was 6-3.
At this point the Tides bullpen got into trouble. J.J. Furmaniak singled to lead off the inning and Egan then retired Oamr Luna on a fly ball to right and Elliott Johnson on a ground ball which advanced Furmaniak to second. Alberto Castillo relieved Egan and unlike his appearance against Charlotte on Friday night was beaten about by the Bulls. Chris Richard took Castillo’s first pitch over the right field wall to make the score 6-5. Castillo then gave up consecutive singles to Joe Dillon and Leslie Anderson before he was pulled for Frank Mata. Mata got Ashby to ground into a force at second to end the inning.
Winston Abreu came into the game in the 9th giving up a 1 out walk to Adam Donachie before getting Miguel Abreu to ground into a double play to end the inning. Mata came back out in the bottom of the 9th to attempt the save. Kyle Holloway came into the game as a pinch hitter for Bobby Livingston who hammered Mata’s first pitch into left for a leadoff double. Fernando Perez bunted to sacrifice Holloway to third for the first out. J.J. Furmaniak singled to score Holloway before Mata retired the side sending the game into extra innings knotted at six.
Abreu remained in the game for the Bulls and issued a leadoff walk to Blake Davis. Davis advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Paco Figueroa and to third on a ground out by Jeff Salazar. Now with two outs and Davis on third Michael Aubrey came to the plate. Abreu tossed a wild pitch to score Davis before giving up a single to Aubrey before retiring Scott Moore on a comebacker. The Bulls came to bat in the bottom of the 10th against Mata who walked Chris Richard but then sent down Joe Dillon, Leslie Anderson and Nevin Ashley in order to end the game with the Tides winning 7-6.
Frank Mata (5-3 3.16 ERA) got the win in relief for the Tides while Winston Abreu (0-4 2.28 ERA) got the loss for the Bulls. The Tides had 7 runs on 10 hits with no errors leaving just 4 runners on base. The Bulls had 6 runs on 10 hits with an error leaving 7 runners stranded. The teams will play this evening with the Tides starting Armando Gabino (7-0 2.29 ERA) on the hill against Brian Baker (9-5 3.56 ERA). Chris Tillman was called up by the Orioles to start against the Rays where he left the game with 5.2 innings pitched giving up 3 runs and ending up with a no decision in his first appearance in front of Buck Showalter in a game that is still underway as this post is published.