by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s the first home game of the year for the Carolina Mudcats, who have gotten off to a sizzling start in their 20th season.
Montgomery, of course, is the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, which means most of these guys eventually will be Durham Bulls. Montgomery’s team colors are — say it with me, boys and girls — butter and blue.
Ozzie Timmons, who was a teammate of Mudcats hitting coach Ryan Jackson for the 2000 Bulls, is the Biscuits’ hitting coach. In the middle of that season, those two were among four Bulls who conspired to have their hair dyed about the color of the Biscuits’ “butter,” an episode I don’t think then-Durham manager Bill Evers has commented on yet.
Matt Klinker (pictured) will take the mound for the Mudcats tonight, having gone five scoreless innings as the starter in a win in the season opener. The Biscuits counter with lefty Alex Torres.
It’s partly cloudy and cool with no chance of rain. Montgomery is the better team tonight, as four Biscuits pitchers combine on a three-hitter in a 3-0 win.
The pitchers are dominant early, and the Mudcats don’t hit safely until there are two out in the fourth and Yonder Alonzo beats out about an eight-hopper up the middle.
Montgomery finally gets on the board in the fifth. Jose Lobaton leads off with a double to the gap in right, scoring on John Matulia’s one-out single to left.
The Biscuits double the score in the sixth as Matt Fields blasts a one-out first pitch off the right-field scoreboard for his second homer of the campaign. Klinker leaves the mound after a solid 5 2/3 and on comes lefty Daryl Harang.
And it goes to 3-0 in the ninth, as Emeel Salem hits a two-out double to right center and scores on second baseman Jose Castro’s errant throw following Drew Anderson’s infield hit.
That’s the way it ends, with the Biscuits finishing with nine hits including three for extra bases.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Torres is tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not in this league too much longer from what I can tell. Klinker was good. That’s what he does, gives you solid outings and keeps you in the game. He did everything he could do. I like the way we’re playing and our style of play. We’re fine. You want to win every game, but if we play like this we’ll do well.”
Montgomery manager Billy Gardner Jr.: “Torres was good tonight. He had good control over five innings. He was able to throw his breaking ball for strikes, and his changeup was good. Klinker pitched good for them. He just made a couple of mistakes and we were able to deal with them.”
Klinker: “It was just a tough game. I got outpitched today. (Torres) was excellent. I didn’t execute a couple of pitches and it ended up costing me in the end. (Fields’ homer) was supposed to be a fastball in, and I just left it over the plate.”
What does it all mean?
That both teams are playing quality baseball, and that as the Mudcats’ Denis Phipps said after the game (and I paraphrase) Torres has good stuff.
Stars of the game
2. Lobaton, with three hits.
3. Fields, with the home run.
Play of the game
Montgomery leads 1-0.
Carolina: Lost 2.
Montgomery: Won 4.
Montgomery at Mudcats, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.
Aneury Rodriguez (R, 0-0, 9.00) vs. Dallas Buck (R, 1-0, 1.50)