Bulls come up short in Triple-A title game
Every time Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo took someone out of the Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday, he made sure to greet the player with a big hug in the dugout.
“You never know if you’re going to see them again or not,” Montoyo said.
Like most Triple-A teams, the Bulls expect a lot of turnover between now and the start of next season. Two of the players, infielder Tim Beckham and starter Jake Odorizzi, were told immediately after the game that they would be called up to the Tampa Bay Rays.
At least for Montoyo, this year’s group made it to the last possible day before dispersing. The Bulls cruised through the International League regular season and won the Governors’ Cup before falling to the Omaha Storm Chasers 2-1 at Coca-Cola Park, the home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Leslie Anderson, who was named the Bulls’ MVP for the second straight year, homered in his first at-bat as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. But Durham got only two other hits — two-out singles in the seventh and ninth — as its offense scored two or fewer runs for the 10th time in the final 12 games.
Clemson product Chris Dwyer, a fourth-round pick in 2009, retired the first 20 batters before giving up a single in the seventh and recorded the win for Omaha, the Pacific Coast League champions who finished four games under .500 in the regular season but won seven of eight playoff games.
“It’s one of those things when you play one game, if the pitcher’s on, it’s going to be a long one for you,” Bulls infielder Cole Figueroa said. “We went in the first couple at-bats trying to feel him out because we haven’t seen him before. We saw he could be erratic at times, but he was lights-out tonight.”
The Bulls got two runners aboard in the ninth for the first time, when Figueroa singled with two outs and Beckham drew a full-count walk. That brought up Vince Belnome, who grew up 90 minutes away in Coatesville, Pa., but the IL All-Star struck out against sidearmer Zach Jackson to end the season.
“This game’s more fun,” Figueroa said. “We would really like to have won it, but we really feel like we had a great season. I don’t think anyone’s going to have any bad feelings towards it.”
The Bulls were seven games better than anyone else in the 14-team IL during the regular season and won the Governors’ Cup for the fourth time since moving to the Triple-A level in 1998.
Odorizzi (0-1), who pitched for Omaha a year ago, took the loss after giving up one run in four innings.
The Bulls set an IL record for strikeouts this season, and Odorizzi started off by striking out the side in the first inning.
But Omaha ended two long scoreless streaks in the second inning when Lane Adams doubled with two outs and scored on a single up the middle by Manuel Pina. It was the first run allowed by Odorizzi in 29.2 innings and the first run allowed by any Bulls pitcher in 30.2 innings.
Odorizzi didn’t give up another run, but after throwing 79 pitches, allowing five hits and striking out eight, he was replaced by IL pitcher of the year J.D. Martin.
Martin, whose 16 wins were the most by a Bull in 45 years, matched Odorizzi’s effort by also giving up one run and five hits in four innings.
But the Bulls couldn’t get a runner aboard against Dwyer, as Durham’s best two chances were both foiled by center fielder Paulo Orlando. In the fifth inning, Orlando made a sliding catch on a sinking liner by Belnome. Then in the sixth, he made a running underhanded catch on a fly ball to right center by Mike Fontenot.
The Bulls finally got their first base runner on Beckham’s clean single with two outs in the seventh. Beckham moved to second on a wild pitch, but the former No. 1 overall pick was stranded when Belnome struck out on a failed check swing.
Durham finally got on board against righty reliever Michael Mariot in the eighth when Anderson, a left-handed hitter who came in for righthander Shelly Duncan, hit the Bulls’ first pinch-hit home run of the season.
But that would be it the Bulls, who led the IL in runs and batting average but cooled off late in the year. The IL fell to 3-5 against the PCL in the championship, including the Bulls’ win in 2009 in their only previous appearance in the game.
“We’re not happy about losing but we’re still champions,” Beckham said. “It’s an honor to play on this team.”
Storm Chasers 2, Bulls 1
Falu ss|5|0|3|1|Kiermaier cf|4|0|0|0
Colon 2b|5|0|1|0|Figueroa 3b|4|0|1|0
Seratelli rf|2|0|1|0|Beckham ss|3|0|1|0
Broussard 1b|4|0|1|0|Belnome 1b|4|0|0|0
Navarro 3b|4|0|0|0|Bourgeois lf|3|0|0|0
Fletcher dh|4|0|0|0|Guyer rf|3|0|0|0
Adams lf|4|1|2|0|Duncan dh|2|0|0|0
Pina c|3|1|1|1|Anderson ph-dh|1|1|1|1
Orlando cf|4|0|1|0|Fontenot 2b|3|0|0|0
LOB—Omaha 9, Durham 3. 2B—Adams, Broussard. HR—Anderson (1). S—Seratelli. SB—Seratelli (1).
Dwyer (W, 1-0)|7.0|1|0|0|0|8
Mariot (H, 1)|1.2|2|1|1|1|0
Jackson (S, 1)|0.1|0|0|0|0|1
Odorizzi (L, 0-1)|4.0|5|1|1|1|8
WP—Dwyer. Umpires—HP, Chad Whitson; 1B, Gerard Ascani; 2B, David Soucy; 3B, Kellen Levy. T—2:58. A—9,602.