by Mike Potter
After the Bulls won in a turbo-blowout in the finish of the game suspended by Saturday’s rain and lost a one-run shutout in the rain-extended seven-inning affair that finished the day, in the words of Warren Harding they’re expecting a return to normalcy.
The Bulls still have a 4 ½-game lead over the second-place Gwinnett Braves in the International League’s South Division, while Pawtucket is in fourth place and seven games out in the North.
Pawtucket has, of course, been the Bulls’ historical worst tormentor, leading the all-time series 56-41 including 31-20 at DBAP.
Durham ace Jeremy Hellickson (6-2) is on the hill against the PawSox’ Kris Johnson (3-2). And it turns out to be one of the better pitchers’ duels in the park in quite a while, with the Bulls prevailing 1-0.
The Bulls get the only run they need in the second, when Ryan Shealy blasts a two-out, 2-0 pitch onto the berm in right center.
Hellickson goes eight innings and gives up the hit, striking out five with one walk before Winston Abreu strikes out the PawSox in order in the ninth.
Hellickson’s outing overshadows a very strong outing for the Pawtucket pitching staff. Johnson goes six-plus innings and allows a run on three hits with two strikeouts against a walk before Dustin Richardson came on to retire all six batters he faced, five by strikeout.
N.C. State alum Aaron Bates breaks up Hellickson’s no-hit bid when he leads off the eighth with a soft line drive to right.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “I’m happy we way we pitch, but I’m a little disappointed in our hitting lately. It’s beautiful to win a 1-0 game. If we could do that every game, it’s beautiful. But that was all Hellickson and Abreu has been great since he’s been back. That’s as good as I’ve seen Hellickson this year. He located his fastball very well today and his other two pitches were very good, his changeup and his curveball.”
Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo: ““You don’t see 1-0 games in this ballpark very often, so you’ve got to give the pitchers some credit. Last night it was our guys out of the bullpen and tonight Hellickson was pretty impressive. It was great to see two starters going toe-to-toe with one another. K.J. (Kris Johnson) made one mistake and Shealy made him pay for it.”
Hellickson: “One swing of the bat and they’re back in it, so everybody was out there focused. Shealy did a good job on them in that second inning. It was 1-0, so I had to keep buckled down and get those next guys. Everything was working for me. Fastball felt better than it has, and my changeup and cutters were good.”
What does it all mean?
That Hellickson is right on track to make his big-league debut should anyone on the Tampa Bay Rays’ staff falter.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bulls lead 2-1.
Durham: Won 1.
Pawtucket: Lost 1.
Pawtucket: Promoted RHP Scott Atchison to Boston.
Pawtucket at Bulls, 7:05 p.m.
Michael Bowden (R, 1-2, 6.03) vs. Heath Phillips (L, 3-4, 4.58)