by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls come into tonight’s game carrying some pretty good momentum, on the heels of a three-homer contest on Monday that was their first win over the Columbus Clippers this season.
Columbus comes in with Triple-A Baseball’s best record at 35-16, while the Bulls hold a three-game lead over the Gwinnett Braves in the International League’s South Division.
The Clippers come with one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in Zach McAllister (7-0, 2.29), while the Bulls answer with Brian Baker (3-3, 6.21) who about a month ago was a spot-starter.
This time Baker comes up the winner, allowing just two hits in seven innings as the Bulls win 4-1.
Columbus gets onto the board first in the third inning. Paul Phillips leads off with a double to left and scores on Luis Valbuena’s single to right.
The Bulls take just one swing to tie it in the fourth, as Russ Canzler launches a two-out, 1-0 pitch just into the Diamond View seats in right.
And the Bulls take control with three runs in the sixth. Desmond Jennings leads off by reaching on an error to shortstop Valbuena. With one out Jose Lobaton walks, and Dan Johnson — in his sixth game since coming down from Tampa Bay - launches the next pitch into the Diamond View seats.
Baker goes seven innings and allows the run on two hits, striking out six with one walk. Johnson homers and singles to lead the Bulls' six-hit attack. Mike Ekstrom picks up his fifth save.
McAllister finishes the complete game, going eight innings and allowing three earned runs with three strikeouts and three walks.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “How about Baker? He gave us a chance. What can I say about that team? They’re that good. But he was locating better than he has been. And right before Dan hit that ball I said “Somebody’s going to pay pretty soon with Dan Johnson. He’s a good hitter.”
Baker: “Tonight I felt like I had really good fastball command and was able to locate in and out. I saw (McAllister’s) record and knew it would be a close game. He’s a great pitcher. Until this year I hadn’t been a regular starter since college. But when I have games like this it feels good. My arm feels good and I feel great.”
Johnson: “Three-run homers never get old. McAllister commands his strike zone. He’s got at least five pitches, and if you’re throwing five pitches for strikes and putting them in the zone you’ll have a lot of success. … I really needed to come down here. I hadn’t been getting any playing time and I really needed some at-bats to get it going.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls can definitely compete with the best team in Triple-A.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Columbus leads 4-2.
Bulls: Won 2.
Columbus: Lost 2.
Bulls (Chris Bootcheck 1-1, 4.43) vs. Columbus (Corey Kluber 3-3, 6.36), 7:05 p.m.