For the Durham Bulls it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. The Bulls returned home to the DBAP after a painful six-game road trip. Durham started the day by extending its losing streak to five games, but ended the evening starting, hopefully, a winning streak.
The Bulls split a doubleheader with Rochester, dropping the first game 6-1, and bouncing back to take game two 4-0.
Durham (30-20) went 1-5 on the road and didn’t fare any better in their return home. Luckily, they got a redo immediately after game one, where they collected just five hits in the first of two seven-inning contest.
After a 20-minute intermission, the Bulls’ bats were going in the second game as Johnny Field started the contest with a double. An unearned run quickly made it 1-0 and Field made it a 2-0 game in the second when he scored Curt Casali. Field’s second hit gave the Bulls five for the game, matching their hit total from game one in just two innings. Durham took advantage of an error in the field from the Red Wings to go up 3-0, and Jake Bauers doubled to scored Mallex Smith, who had an outstanding game in the field, to make it a 4-0 Bulls’ lead in the fourth. Smith was extra impressive on the bases, stealing three for the game to go along with his three hits. His defense, Smith said, carries over to the plate, as one gets the other going.
“It’s big to be able to play on both sides,” Smith said afterwards. “You have to separate the two. I take a lot of pride in my defense as well as my hitting. When you have one going it definitely sparks the other.”
A spark was needed in the break between games. The Bulls, to their credit, quickly put the loss behind them, coming out looking like a new team - fresh uniforms included - for game two. Manager Jared Sandberg didn’t stand on a chair and give a big speech to his team. In fact, the skipper didn’t say a word, trusting that his guys knew what needed to be done to avoid dropping two games at home.
“There’s no rah-rah speech, there’s nothing like that,” Sandberg said. “These guys know what they need to do to go out and compete every single day.”
Smith said the game of baseball is about bouncing back, sometimes 24 hours later, other times in less than 30 minutes.
“You can’t hang your hat on one game too much,” Smith said. “You have to make sure you’re ready for the next game all the time.”
Yoel Espinal paced Durham from the mound, not surrendering a run and only giving up one hit in four innings of work.
“Obviously the first game didn’t go our way, but Espinal and (Andrew) Kittredge picked us up,” Sandberg said. “It was a collectively effort that second game.”
In game one, the Bulls appeared to be going through the motions. The Red Wings jumped out to a 3-0 lead heading into the fourth. The highlight of that offensive explosion was a two-run homer from Niko Goodrum. Durham appeared to come alive when Patrick Leonard ripped a single and came home after an RBI from Shane Peterson. But the energy was shorted lived.
Rochester put up three runs in the top of the sixth to hold onto for the win in the opening contest.
Ryan Yarbrough dropped to 3-3, giving up seven hits and all six runs in six innings of work.
The Bulls and Red Wings continue their series Wednesday with a 7:05 p.m. start time. Blake Snell (1-0) is scheduled to start for Durham. Yohan Pino (0-0) will start for Rochester.