Bulls pitch their way into title series
Durham third baseman Cole Figueroa had a feeling the final out was going to come his way.
That was just fine with him.
After an earlier throwing error in the ninth inning helped lead to some tense moments, Figueroa easily handled a grounder by Indianapolis shortstop Robert Andino to finish off Durham’s 2-1 win, completing a sweep in the first round series of the Governor’s Cup Championship.
“I think in that situation, with two outs, that the last ball is going to come to you,” Figueroa said. “I just kept telling myself to get ready because the ball was going to be coming right at me, especially with (Juan) Sandoval throwing sinkers.”
Durham entered the bottom of the ninth with a 2-0 lead, but as was the case on Thursday, nothing was finished easily.
Sandoval induced a groundout to Figueora to open the bottom half of the ninth inning. The same scenario nearly played out with the next Indians batter, Lucas May, but Figueroa made a throwing error on a ball he had to charge.
May scored two pitches later on Ivan DeJesus’ RBI single, cutting the Bulls’ lead in half.
But as was the case all series, Durham’s pitching staff came through when needed most. Sandoval induced a pair of grounders to finish the game.
“Our pitchers did a great job when guys got in scoring position with two outs,” Figueroa said. “Even if the guy got to third base, they were bearing down and not letting that guy score. That was pretty much the jist of the entire series.”
Durham’s strong pitching on Friday started with Merrill Kelly, who threw 5.2 scoreless innings to earn the win. He allowed seven hits but struck out six.
It was stark difference from his first postseason start, which came a year ago with Double-A Montgomery, in which he allowed six earned runs in 4.2 innings.
“He has confidence right now and is throwing all of his pitches for strikes,” Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said. “ He’s getting ahead with the fastball and has a good changeup and slider.”
Durham scored both of its runs in the third inning off Wandy Rodriguez, who was making a rehab start from Pittsburgh. Figueroa’s RBI single scored Kevin Kiermaier, while Jason Bourgeois beat out a potential inning-ending double play, allowing Tim Beckham to score.
“We find ways to score just enough runs to win games,” Montoyo said.
Indianapolis had more than twice as many hits as Durham (10-4) but left 15 men on base, including at least one in every inning but the eighth.
“I give Indianapolis a lot of credit because every game could have gone either way,” Montoyo said. “But we made the big pitch when we needed to every time.”
Adam Liberatore tossed 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, while Sandoval didn’t allow an earned run in two innings of work, picking up the save.
The Bulls also left 15 men on base, as Indianapolis starter Jameson Taillon, ranked the top prospect in the Pittsburgh organization by MLB.com, allowed just one hit over five innings of relief, though he did walk five.
Durham will meet the winner of the Pawtucket-Rochester matchup for the Governor’s Cup Championship, hosting the first two games of the best-of-five series on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bulls 2, Indians 1
Beckham ss|5|1|1|0|d’Arnaud dh|5|0|1|0
Figueroa 3b|4|0|1|1|Andino ss|4|0|1|0
Bourgeois lf-rf|4|0|0|1|Polanco cf|4|0|1|0
Belnome 1b|2|0|0|0|Hague 1b|3|0|1|0
Anderson rf|3|0|0|0|Goedert 3b|4|0|0|0
Frey lf|0|0|0|0|Canzler lf|4|0|0|0
Duncan dh|4|0|1|0|Sands rf|4|0|3|0
Fontenot 2b|3|0|0|0|May c|4|1|2|0
Kiermaier cf|3|1|1|0|Bocock 2b|3|0|0|0
Flores c|4|0|0|0|de Jesus ph|1|0|1|1
E—Figueroa, Rodriguez. LOB—Durham 8, Indianapolis 10. 2B—Duncan, Polanco, Andino. S—Andino. SB—Ford (1).
Kelly (W, 1-0)|5.2|7|0|0|1|6
Liberatore (H, 1)|1.1|1|0|0|0|0
Sandoval (S, 1)|2.0|2|1|0|0|0
Rodriguez (L, 0-1)|3.0|3|2|1|0|1
WP—Kelly, Liberatore, Rodriguez. Umpires—HP, Kelvin Bultron; 1B, Ben May; 2B, David Rackley; 3B, Jeff Gosney. T—3:01. A—11,327.