by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls continue their 11-game homestand tonight as the Louisville Bats begin their four-game series here.
That they did last season, with Durham winning the best-of-5 semifinal series in five games before winning the next four en route to their first Triple-A National Championship.
Being the Cincinnati Reds’ affiliates the Bats are chock full of former Carolina Mudcats, including Yonder Alonso, Chris Denove, Michael Griffin, and Philippe Valliquette from this season’s team.
Tonight will be a battle of pitchers on the comeback trail, as Virgil Vasquez (2-0) starts for the Bulls on his first day off the disabled list while Edinson Volquez is with the Bats on Major League rehab. And catcher Dioner Navarro, sent down from Tampa Bay, makes his first appearance as a Bull.
At game time, there might just be a threat of rain. Normally, that’s a bad thing. Alas, the rain never hits Durham.
Louisville outhits the Bulls 12-7, but Durham gets its second comeback win of the season — and second in as many days — in a 7-5 victory.
Louisville gets three runs up in the third. Gary Matthews Jr. leads off with a double down the right-field line and then steals third. Zack Cozart reaches on an infield single to third, followed by Alonso’s two-run double to left. Wladimir Balentien singles to left before Juan Francisco scores Alonso with a fly ball to left.
The Bulls make it 3-1 in the fourth, as Desmond Jennings leads off by lifting an 0-1 offering off the Snorting Bull over the left-field wall for his first homer of the season.
And Durham cuts it to 3-2 in the sixth as Jennings hits a one-out single to right, advances on a wild pitch, and scores on Justin Ruggiano’s two-out double to right.
Louisville tacks on another run with one out in the seventh as Cozart hits the Bull on Aneury Rodriguez’ 2-0 pitch.
But the Bulls slice it to one again in the bottom of the frame off Aroldis Chapman, as Navarro is hit by a pitch with one out and later scores when Fernando Perez reaches on a two-out error by second baseman Chris Valaika.
Louisville tacks on another in the eighth. Francisco singles to right and advances on a wild pitch, later scoring on Valaika’s one-out fly to right. Todd Frazier is ejected in the middle of the rally for arguing balls and strikes.
The Bulls win it with four in the eighth as Chapman implodes. J.J. Furmaniak leads off with a single to right, and with one out Dan Johnson is hit by a pitch. Furmaniak, meanwhile, has taken third on a wild pitch and scores on another one. Durham ties the score with two out on Chris Richard’s single to left, and Jon Adkins comes on to replace Chapman. Things don’t get better for the visitors as Navarro walks before Angel Chavez brings Richard home with a single to right center, followed by Perez’ RBI double down the third-base line.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “It feels like the best win of the year for me. Just to battle back against those pitchers that we saw tonight, the Reds have a good staff there for a long time. Chris Richard’s at-bat made my night. He battled like the veteran that he is and got the big hit. Home runs aren’t Jennings’ game, but he’s happy now because he’s got one on his baseball card.”
Richard: “That’s the first time I’ve seen one that hard at my head (on Chapman’s previous pitch before the single.) I don’t know what it is, but it was a matter of time for us to have some comebacks. Now we’ve just got to keep it going. We always seem to have exciting games with them. We’ve got some familiarity with those guys and Rick Sweet has been the manager for a while, so definitely.”
Cozart: “Our pitching coach (Ted Power) said he hadn’t seen the Bull hit before, and then Jennings and I hit it in the same game. It’s pretty cool to hit it. Going along with the power numbers, I’ve tried to stay with lifting weights and that. Last year I had nine homers in June (at Carolina) and wound up with 10. I know we play intense games every time we play those guys.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls have something going with two straight wins in which they’ve trailed at the stretch, and they lead the second-place Charlotte Knights by 10 games.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Richard’s game-tying single in the eighth.
Bulls lead 3-2.
Durham: Won 2.
Louisville: Lost 1.
Durham: Virgil Vasquez activated from DL.
Louisville at Bulls, 7:05 p.m.
Ben Jukich (L, 2-4, 4.66) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (R, 10-2, 2.19)