by Mike Potter
The Bulls have a five-game lead in the International League’s South Division and are on a four-game winning streak.
Meanwhile the Yankees, who over the past couple of seasons have been their biggest rivals, have lost three straight.
The teams have split the last two Governors’ Cup Championships, with the Yankees winning the title in 2008 and the Bulls taking it last season en route to their first Triple-A National Championship. The two Finals were memorable smackdowns, as two years ago the Bombers won in four games with the clincher a 20-2 annihilation right here before the Bulls came back to sweep a three-game set last time.
A good pitchers’ duel looms on a warm afternoon, as the Bulls’ Carlos Hernandez is 2-0 and the Yankees’ Jason Hirsh gave up just one hit in seven innings in a victory at Norfolk six days ago. Hirsh comes out on top, getting the benefit of four unearned runs in the pivotal fourth inning as his team gets off the schneid with a 4-2 win.
The Yankees jump on Hernandez for a quartet of runs in the third. P.J. Pilittere leads off with a double to left and later scores on a throwing error during a two-out rundown. David Winfree then comes up with the big blow, a three-run homer on a two-out, 3-1 fastball.
Durham halves the lead in the bottom of the frame on singles from Desmond Jennings and Elliot Johnson.
And the rest of the game is the promised solid pitchers’ duel, with Durham collecting only two hits over the last six innings.
Hirsh (3-3) goes 5 1/3 innings and allows two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and five walks. After a solid relief outing from Zack Segovia, Jonathan Albaladejo strikes out two in the ninth to earn his sixth save.
Hernandez, reactivated before the game from the paper roster at Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League, lasts four innings, allowing four unearned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts against a pair of walks.
Winfree finishes with two hits while Pilittere’s double is the Yankees’ only other extra-base knock.
In the loss the best news for Durham is the play of Jennings, the top minor-league prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization, who finishes with two hits including a double, adds the RBI and the run scored. Jennings, who has a sore left shoulder, had only played as a late-inning defensive replacement in the last five games.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “Carlos had 90 pitches in four innings. He just couldn’t get anything going. His fastball and breaking ball were all over the place. Of course we did make an error or he would have been out of the inning, but it’s a team sport. If he gets the next guy out we don’t have to talk about the error. It’s tough to sweep anybody. Give credit to their starter — he’s got good numbers for a reason. And any time you can keep this lineup to five hits that’s pretty good.”
Yankees manager Dave Miley: “Hirshy gave us what we needed today. Obviously the walks, we were a little concerned with, especially the way those guys hit over there. But he was able to pitch around it and we caught a break on a throwing error and hit the home run after that, so we’ll take it. Believe me, we’ve given up our share of unearned runs. I don’t know how bad we needed a win, but that’s a tough club over there. Any time you can come in here and win it’s good.”
Jennings: “I felt all right, actually, and hopefully it will stay like that. I’ve got to play every day. That’s the plan. I felt real good at the plate. I’m having a little pain but it’s not too bad.”
What does it all mean?
That the Yankees are very tough to sweep in a four-game set, but that the Bulls general momentum is still headed the right way.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bulls lead 2-1.
Durham: Lost 1.
SWB: Won 1.
Durham: LHP Carlos Hernandez promoted from Hudson Valley.
SWB at Bulls, Sunday, 5:05 p.m.
Ivan Nova (R, 2-0, 2.43) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (R, 5-0, 2.57)