by Mike Potter
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK It’s Day 6 of “Matsui Mania” with the Durham Bulls, and not only does the Japanese legend have some work to do at the plate but his team needs to do some bouncing back.
And he went 0-for-4 the previous night, as the Bulls took a 7-1 whipping from the Charlotte Knights in the opener of their four-game series. Charlotte has won six of seven in the season series with the Bulls, who sit in an unfamiliar last-place spot in the International League’s South Division.
Game 2 today will pit Matt Torra (2-5, 6.26) against the Knights’ Matt Zaleski (1-1, 7.47). And the Bulls will be celebrating Wool E. Bull’s birthday.
Charlotte has Duke alumnus Jim Gallagher on the roster as well as former Bulls Hector Gimenez – who had four hits Saturday – and Dan Johnson and Ray Olmedo.
But it turns out that today is the Bulls’ day. Durham gets three home runs and another score on Matsui’s mad dash from first in routing the Knights 6-0.
The Bulls take control from the start by getting marks in each of the first five innings.
Jesus Feliciano leads off the game with a double and scores on Matsui’s one-out sacrifice fly to left when Tyler Kuhn robs the slugger of an extra-base hit with a diving catch.
It goes to 3-0 in the second, as Mayo Acosta reaches on a one-out error to shortstop Ozzie Martinez before Cole Figueroa launches an 0-1 offering into the bleachers just inside the right-field foul pole.
Durham stretches it to 4-0 in the third, as Matsui rips a two-out single to right and scores all the way from first on Henry Wrigley’s double to right.
Acosta makes it 5-0 in the fourth by blasting a one-out, 2-1 pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left for his first Triple-A homer. And in the sixth, Leslie Anderson blasts a two-out, 1-0 pitch into the right-field bleachers to make it 6-0.
Figueroa leads the Bulls’ eight-hit attack with a homer and a single for two RBI, while Wrigley doubles and singles with the RBI.
Torra is solid throughout his outing, going six innings and allowing just three hits while striking out three with one walk. John Gaub strikes out five against a walk in three hitless innings for the save.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “Torra gave us the lead and then we threw strikes and didn’t walk anybody. That was beautiful. Hopefully his confidence will be up and he’ll give us a good outing next time. … Matsui has been robbed like four times already, and I’m not talking about the umpires. But he’s hitting better than the numbers. I called him in and told him I don’t take anything for granted, and I appreciate the professional that he is. He’s doing everything with us, taking infield, and doing things like a normal player. He runs pretty good. I’m glad I wasn’t coaching third. I don’t know if I would have sent him or not.”
Torra: “I just tried to attack the zone with all my pitches and keep the ball down and I was able to do that. The defense made some great plays chasing some balls down in the outfield for me, and that really helped. The run support and the defense were there – it was nice to have the whole team in synch at the same time.”
Matsui: “I think overall today was a good day. I felt pretty good at the plate and saw the ball well. It’s been a while since I ran from first to home that hard. I felt fine, and it was good that I was able to score. I feel healthy and I feel confident about my physical health right now.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls can play a very high-level game on a good day and need to keep it up.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Matsui’s sprint from first to score the run.
Bulls: Won 1.
Charlotte: Lost 1.
Knights lead 6-2.
Bulls (Lance Pendleton 1-1, 4.15) vs. Charlotte (Charlie Leesman 3-4, 2.59), Monday, 7:05 p.m.