by Adam Sobsey
We got the slugfest we were due for, and the Bulls' first homer of the series as well (by Michel Hernandez, of all people---his first as a Bull this year and his second overall); but the Bats lived up to their name and outhit Durham, 10-7, on Saturday night. The win forced a fifth and final game of the divisional series.
Both starters fared poorly---Durham's Rayner Oliveros and Louisville's Tom Cochran were gone by the third inning, having allowed 11 runs between them in just 3 1/3 innings combined. The difference in the game was probably the two guys who followed them. The Bulls' Heath Rollins allowed three runs on four hits, including Danny Dorn's sixth-inning home run, in 4 2/3 innings; by contrast, the Bats' Lee Tabor threw four scoreless innings of two-hit ball in relief of Cochran. By the seventh inning, it was 8-6, Louisville.
The Bulls mounted rallies late, but they managed only one run during the seventh and eighth innings, when they had two hits and two walks, plus a pair of errors on Louisville pitchers to help move runners around the diamond. The final Durham reliever, Mike Wlodarczyk, surrendered two more runs to Louisville in the eighth to provide the final three-run margin.
The Bulls will start Paul Phillips on Sunday. Phillips made his first-ever professional start a couple of weeks ago at home against Norfolk. He'd previously been a reliever in 202 games spanning five seasons. Phillips pitched pretty well against Norfolk, shutting them out for five innings in a git-R-done, last-rites kind of game in which everyone was swinging early in the count. He needed just 63 pitches. He'll probably need a good deal more than that if he's to last five innings today. Phillips faced the Carolina Mudcats once this season when he was with Montgomery in the Southern League, but he didn't see any of the Mudcats who have since graduated to Louisville. His overall numbers this year in Class AA were very good, albeit in stints that lasted no more than two innings. Last Sunday's start was essentially terra incognita for him. No telling how he'll do in his return.
Phillips's opponent will be the fourth lefty of the series for the Bats, Camilo Vazquez. Like Phillips, Vazquez hasn't pitched much in Triple-A, just five games. He is a 25-year-old swingman who has pitched in both relief and starting roles: he has 107 starts in 167 professional games. He faced Montgomery back in May, allowing a double to current Bull Rashad Eldridge. Vazquez's problem has always been control: in his career, he has allowed 287 walks in 602 2/3 innings pitched, which is about one every other inning. That's a big enough sample size to call it a trait, and not a good one. The Bulls, who led the league in walks drawn this season, will need to be patient if they're going to win. This particular corral has some selective hitters in it, especially John Jaso (who should start in the alternating-catcher routine), Desmond Jennings and Sean Rodriguez.
Also: Bats closer Logan Ondrusek burned up 25 pitches in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday, so he'll probably be available for just one inning on Sunday, which could work in the Bulls' favor in a close game late. Winston Abreu didn't pitch for Durham, and he should be fresh. Calvin Medlock and Julio DePaula should also be rested and almost sure to see action, especially if Phillips quickly reaches his pitch limit, whatever it is. In other words, Charlie Montoyo saved a few bullets. Who knows, maybe Mitch Talbot will throw an inning or so?
An aside: some commenters were wondering about the attendance in Louisville, which was much higher on Friday night than it had been for either of the games at the DBAP. Neil Solondz pointed out that, on September 11, the International League offers discounted and/or free tickets to military personnel, EMTs, police and firefighters, which helped swell the attendance for that night's game. Saturday's crowd in Louisville was about half the size of Friday's.
Sunday's game is at 5:05 p.m. If you're reading this, you know what the outcome means to both teams. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who polished off a four-game series win over Gwinnett last night, await the winner.