Durham Bulls scorekeeper Chris Ivy is on the disabled list with a strained shoulder after repeatedly and briskly inserting and un-inserting Plexiglas numbers into the scoreboard: 20 runs, 18 hits—and that was just for the Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
OK, Ivy isn’t really hurt, but he could barely keep up with the barrage of batted balls, home plate passes—and in the Bulls’ case, errors—that kept the crowd teetering between surliness and somnambulance. After an admirable comeback in Game Three, the Bulls’ season collapsed like a dying star Friday night, losing 20-2 to the Yanks in the fourth game of the Governor’s Cup finals.
The Bulls were in a tough spot: Since April, the team lodged 172 transactions, as several players got bumped upstairs—notably Dan Johnson, who, earlier in the week was beckoned to the Tampa Bay Rays and helped them beat the BoSox; and Evan Longoria, who barely got his spikes dusty before ascending to the Rays in the Major League rapture. Thus, the Bulls filled some of the slots with trades and players from the AA Montgomery Biscuits, which would present a consistent challenge for any farm team and its coaching staff: to find a rhythm and chemistry when the lineup can change nightly. Even so, the Bulls finished first in their division with a 74-70 record. (Scranton, which played in the tougher Northern Division, went 88-56.)
Bulls’ pitcher Wade Davis, who was named the 2007 Rays Pitcher of the Year after a stellar season with the Biscuits and Single-A Vero Beach, rarely found the slot, and when he did, the Yanks connected. Davis allowed six walks—including one that resulted in a run—and struck out three after a little more than two innings. Under his watch, the Yanks scored five runs, although not all of them were earned, as the Bulls infield was as porous as cheesecloth. They committed three errors: bobbles and bad throws, and the battery fared no better, fumbling passed balls and lobbing wild pitches.
The offense couldn’t decipher Yanks’ pitcher Phil Hughes, who had a dozen strike outs, and twice struck out the side. He even twice cleaned the clock of cleanup batter Chris Richard and leadoff hitter Jon Weber, one time in three straight pitches.
The Bulls reached deep into their pitching rotation—what was left of it—and tried everybody except Wool E. Bull, but the Yanks kept pounding the ball—to left, center, right, over the fence, off the wall. Yankees fans gloated; Bulls fans grumbled.
“At this rate, they’ll score 40 runs,” my husband griped after the third inning, when the Yanks led 10-1. He was half right, although the Bulls did turn a couple of redemptive double plays, and managed to eke out two runs, including a late-game home run by Gabby Martinez.
By that time, the restaurants were turning off the taps, the seats were emptying and Chris Ivy was opening his second box of Icy Hot for his aching shoulder.
See ya next year.