by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM It’s Game 3 of the Durham Bulls’ four-game home set with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and both teams are playing in their hottest game of the year.
The Bulls are in their familiar spot in the International League’s South Division, with an eight-game lead over the second-place Charlotte Knights.
Lehigh Valley is half a game better than the worst record in the league, and comes in looking to break a five-game losing streak.
Despite the oppressive heat there’s a great crowd in the house, announced at 8,130.
It’s a battle of lefties, as big Heath Phillips (6-6) takes the hill for the Bulls against Brian Mazone (4-7).
And the IronPigs take advantage of two unearned runs to win 4-2.
Phillips is solid from the start, but Mazone is better.
It’s zeroes across until the Iron Pigs scratch with one out in the fourth.
Melvin Dorta doubles to left center, then scores when Paul Hoover — who as the Bulls’ catcher was the hero of the 2002 Governors’ Cup Finals — hits an infield single to short and Omar Luna boots the ball.
It goes to 2-0 in the sixth as Andy Tracy leads off with a single, takes third on Domonic Brown’s one-out double to right and scores on Dorta’s sacrifice fly to center.
But the Bulls tie it in the seventh. After Jose Lobaton reaches on a fielder’s choice for the first out, Fernando Perez rockets the first pitch off the Tobacco Road Sports Café behind the Blue Monster wall in left. It’s the second straight day in which Perez has homered and third in 66 games.
Lehigh Valley gets an ugly run off R.J. Swindle in the eighth. Tracy doubles to right, then scores with one out when Brown singles to center and catcher Jose Lobaton makes a wild throw during a rundown.
The visitors make it 4-2 in the ninth as Willy Tavares hits a one-out triple to right and scores on Greg Dobbs’ sacrifice fly to center.
Mazone goes seven innings and allows two runs on seven hits, with Oscar Villareal going an inning before Scott Mathieson picks up the save.
Phillips goes six innings and allows two runs, one earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts against two walks.
Brown leads the IronPigs with three hits.
Tomorrow’s game will be shown live in high definition on MLB Network (Durham cable 542 or 1542).
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “Phillips did a good job. When you play close games a couple of errors can get you. When you’re in the game the whole time, it’s good. When you play close games, the team that makes the errors is the team that’s going to lose.”
Lehigh Valley manager Dave Huppert: “Both starters threw the ball well. Pitching in that heat — it’s tough to keep up your energy to pitch. (Mazone) worked hard and kept his pitch count down. He didn’t have any real long innings where he threw a lot of pitches. He was locating the ball, changing speeds. It’s great to be back on the winning side.”
Perez: “I don’t know if I’ve hit a building before. I’m not really a guy with a plan to hit home runs. But they get a lot of attention. It’s always nice when it happens.”
What does it all mean?
That Phillips is back in good form and Perez is on a power surge.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Brown’s single in the eighth.
Durham leads 2-1.
Durham: Lost 1.
Lehigh Valley: Won 1.
Lehigh Valley: none.
Lehigh Valley vs. Bulls, 1:05 p.m.
Drew Carpenter (R, 6-5, 3.63) vs. Richard De Los Santos (R, 6-3, 4.67)