Bulls host Pawtucket for Governor’s Cup opener
To determine who has an advantage in postseason play, Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo looks no further than 60 feet, six inches from home plate.
“Pitching is the name of the game,” Monotyo said. “If our starters are going to keep going six or seven innings, that’s pretty good.”
That assessment played out perfectly for the Bulls in their three-game sweep of Indianapolis in an International League first-round playoff series last week.
Bulls starters will be asked to set the tone again as Durham plays Pawtucket in game 1 of the International League Governor’s Cup series today at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (7:05 p.m., TimeWarner Cable 151, Me-TV 50.2).
Jake Odorizzi fired seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit while striking out nine, in Durham’s 2-0 win over Indianapolis in the first game of last week’s series. Odorizzi gets the start in the first game of the championship series opposite Pawtucket’s Anthony Ranaudo.
On Wednesday night, Durham will start J.D. Martin, the IL pitcher of the year, against Pawtucket knuckleball specialist Steven Wright.
The most recent time Pawtucket, the IL North Division champion, visited the DBAP, the Red Sox won three of four games from the Bulls in July. But Durham, which cruised to the South Division title with a league-best 87 regular-season wins, played far better baseball against Indianapolis than against Pawtucket two months ago.
“It’s about this time right now and how the teams are,” Montoyo said. “We are playing good baseball right now.”
The Bulls, in the playoffs for the sixth time in the seven seasons under Montoyo, showed their postseason mettle against Indianapolis. The 2-0 win in the game Odorizzi pitched was the largest margin of victory. The other two games in the series were decided by 6-5 and 2-1 scores.
“We have a great team here and great pitching,” Bulls designated hitter Shelley Duncan said. “Pitching is what really wins it, and that’s’ what’s carrying our team all year, especially in the playoffs.”
Montoyo made a slight change to his pitching rotation for this series. After using Merrill Kelly in game 3 at Indianapolis on Friday night, he plans to start Matt Buschmann in game 3 of the Governor’s Cup series this Friday at Pawtucket.
Kelly is slated to go in a possible game 4 on Saturday, with Mike Montgomery ready to start a deciding game 5 on Sunday.
“Kelly has a lot of innings already, plus Buschmann deserves a chance in case we only go four (games) or whatever,” Montoyo said. “He’s a big reason we are here. He’s done a great job for us.”
Pawtucket is the reigning International League champions, having claimed the Governor’s Cup a year ago to end the franchise’s 28-year league championship drought.
Durham, which joined the International League in 1998, has won league titles in 2002, 2003 and 2009.
The Bulls, with Montoyo at the helm, went on to claim the Triple-A National Championship in 2009 by defeating the Pacific Coast League champion Memphis Redbirds.
Durham is playing for the Governor’s Cup for the eighth time, giving the Bulls twice as many Governor’s Cup Series appearances as the next closest club (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with four).
“It’s a different group,” Montoyo said of this year’s Bulls. “It’s a different group who hasn’t won it before. I’m really pulling for these guys because we’ve had a great year so far and, hopefully, we’ll end up with an even greater year by winning the thing.”