Durham Bulls manager tried something new on Friday night, calling on pinch-hitter Shane Peterson with his team one out away from a fourth consecutive loss.
The move worked as Peterson smacked a solo home run to centerfield with two outs in the ninth, tying the score in thrilling fashion.
As great as that was, it still didn’t end the Bulls losing streak.
That’s because Toledo’s Steven Moya hit a three-run home run in the top of the 12th inning that gave the Mud Hens a 6-3 International League win before a crowd of 7,099 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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Sandberg, in his third season managing the Bulls, hasn’t done in any situational pinch hitting previously as he only made changes due to injuries or if a plan was in place to get a player a set number at bats.
That’s the developmental nature of minor league baseball.
This season, though, with Sandberg managing in the dugout rather than coaching third base, his job is more like a big-league manager.
“I have not had the ability to pinch hit in the past,” Sandberg said. “This is really one of the first opportunities of my career as a manager. So it was a good experience for me. When you can put somebody in the lineup in a matchup like that with Shane Peterson’s ability. Obviously I wasn’t expecting a home run.”
With Toledo leading 3-2 with two outs in the ninth inning and hard-throwing right-hander Arcenio Leon on the mound, Sandberg sent the left-hand batting Peterson up in place of Johnny Field.
Peterson, has already played 14 games in the big leagues with Tampa Bay this season, caught up to a 97 mph fastball for the game-tying home run.
After Peterson’s homer, Sandberg rolled the dice again sending Kean Wong up for Jake Hager. But Wong struck out.
Still, it was another learning experience for Sandberg and the players because that’s how the game in played at the next level in the big leagues.
“When our guys go to the big leagues,” Sandberg said. “That’s how they are going to break in. They are going to break in learning to play off the bench. There’s a lot of different reasons why it’s important for us to have the ability to do it here. Some of these guys have never pinch hit or pinch run or been put in in the middle of an inning for defense. We don’t want them to experience anything like that for the first time at the big league level.”
For all the moves and learning, though, the Bulls (21-12) saw their losing streak stretch to four in a row.
The game couldn’t have started better for Durham as lead-off batter Mallex Smith slammed a home run to right field for a 1-0 Bulls lead,
Durham pushed its lead to 2-0 in the third inning when Adames singled with one out and scored on Jake Bauers’ double to right-centerfield.
With Bulls starter Ryan Yarborough having faced the minimum batters during four scoreless innings where Toledo managed just one hit, Durham looked on its way to ending its losing streak.
That all changed in the fifth inning.
John Hicks led off with a home run to right field cutting Durham’s lead in half.
Jason Krizan followed with a well-struck double to left field and Omar Infante followed with a line-drive single to centerfield that drove in Krizan.
Just like that, the game was tied 2-2.
Toledo took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning when Argenis Diaz doubled and scored on a one-out single by Navarro.