by Adam Sobsey
The Bulls edged Pawtucket again Monday, 3-2, after winning 5-4 Sunday and losing 2-1 Saturday. To complete the sequence, the PawSox need to win 1-0 or 6-5 on Tuesday --- but of course, it's doubtful that they're mathematicians, and in any case this is a Durham Bulls blog.
Wade Davis bulldogged his way through six scoreless innings. He needed 69 pitches to complete three frames, but stranded seven Sox in the process, bearing down when he needed to; he then settled down and retired the last ten hitters he faced, using 108 pitches overall. He's now 6-3 with a 3.18 ERA. It was another step in Davis's evolution, as the big young pitcher made adjustments after laboring early (I'd be curious to know what the changes were) and dominated in the latter half of his outing. His previous start was much the same.
Neither Julio DePaula nor Dale Thayer, who earned a two-inning save, was perfect: each surrendered a run (although DePaula's was facilitated by a throwing error by catcher John Jaso). But they held the line, and the Bulls eked out another close victory.
The events of the night for the Bulls' hitters were Henry Mateo's first homer as a Bull, a solo shot leading off the third inning, and Justin Ruggiano's ejection in the same frame for protesting a called strike three. (It's rarely useful or wise to grouse at umpires for their strike zone judgment, and perhaps especially inappropriate when you've got the second most K's in the league.) Ruggiano's ejection set off a domino effect of substitutions. Matt Hall came in to play third base; Ray Olmedo moved from third to left field, Jon Weber moved from left to right, and Rashad Eldridge went from right to center, where Ruggiano had started the game.
You might have expected Ray Sadler to be involved in the outfield shuffle, but Sadler was in the lineup as the designated hitter, largely because Chris Richard aggravated his hamstring injury and sat out. That forced Chris Nowak to play first base, which in turn meant that Olmedo needed to man third---and although Weber could have DH'd, Sadler's leg might still be slightly gimpy since his run-in with the bullpen railing last weekend. (He did, however, beat out an infield hit, and then scored.)
In other words, a couple of the dominoes had already fallen, or at least wobbled, before gametime, so Montoyo had limited options (another reason why Ruggiano might have thought twice before getting himself tossed). But as so often happens, Montoyo played his pieces well. Hall held third down, Olmedo did the same in left field---only the second time he's played there this season---and Rashad Eldridge topped them all with a diving catch of Freddy Guzman's soft liner to shallow center field in the fourth inning. So perhaps losing Ruggiano was an unexpected gain. (Eldridge also went 2-4 with a double, and hit the ball hard all four times at bat.)
The Bulls and PawSox finish their four-game series Tuesday. On paper (or online, at any rate), it looks like a pitcher's duel: Carlos Hernandez, who has been the Bulls' best starter over the last few weeks, takes on Pawtucket's Clay Buchholz. Buchholz threw a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox in just his second major-league start, back in September of 2007. He hasn't been able to keep all of the pieces together since, however, and has spent the last two seasons in the minors. He might not be there long, though; Buchholz leads the International League in ERA (now that Tommy Hanson has been called up to Atlanta from Triple-A Gwinnett), and less than two weeks ago he just missed a perfect game.
So the Bulls will need to bring their A-game against Buchholz. Might I suggest that they (or any Triangle Offense readers up in Pawtucket/Providence) fortify themselves by taking breakfast or lunch at the Modern Diner? The venerable 1940 Sterling Streamliner was the first diner to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's only about five minutes from McCoy Stadium by car. It also happens to make the best pancakes I've ever eaten.