The scoreboard only showed one error for the Durham Bulls in their 4-3 win over the Toledo Mud Hens on Sunday, but there were plenty of miscues to go around.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” manager Jared Sandberg said. “In the field, on the basepaths, you name it.”
The sloppy play led to plenty of missed opportunities, which sent the game to extra innings for the third time in the last five.
The Bulls jumped on top in the first inning, scoring a run on a Patrick Leonard double, but the damage could have been much greater for the Durham offense.
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Mallex Smith, who led off the game with a double, was caught stealing third base, breaking baseball’s cardinal rule: Never make the first out of an inning at third base.
Jake Bauers also had a faux pas on basepaths in the opening frame. He singled and was on first base when Leonard hit a rocket into the gap in right center.
“It wasn’t going to be caught,” Sandberg said. “He should have gone toward second on that hit.”
Instead, Bauers held at first, waiting to see if the outfielders had a play. When they didn’t, it was too late for him to score on the double, and he was stranded at third base when the inning ended.
“I just misread it,” Bauers admitted.
His next time up, Bauers again suffered a mental setback. He hit a rocket up the middle for what looked to be a base hit. Toledo shortstop Brendan Ryan went deep into the hole to field the ball, however, and threw off balanced to first base to nip Bauers, robbing him of a hit.
“I didn’t see the ball at first,” Bauers said. “I stayed in the box a fraction of a second too long. If I’d been running hard, I would have beaten it out.”
Bauers redeemed himself in the sixth with a two-run home run that put Durham on top. Toledo tied the game on an unearned run in the seventh and a solo home run in the eighth, giving Bauers a chance to unveil his hustle to win the game.
With one out in the eleventh, Bauers hit a sharp grounder to the right side of the infield. Toledo first baseman Efren Navarro fielded it deep in the hole.
“I saw where the first baseman was and knew I had a shot to beat it,” Bauers said.
Navarro saw he wasn’t going to beat Bauers to the bag, so he tossed to relief pitcher Mike Zagurski, generously listed at 240 pounds on the Toledo roster.
Bauers won the footrace with the portly Zagurski, tapping first base just ahead of the pitcher.
Five pitches later, Leonard hit another rocket. This one was up the first base line and landed in the right-field corner, just inside the foul line.
Bauers had no hesitation this time, speeding around the bases with the winning run before Toledo could get the ball back to the infield. Bauers went three-for-five on the day, and his two runs scored tied him with Charlotte’s Yoan Moncada for the league lead.
“You’ve got to give him credit for going all out in the tenth,” said Leonard, who improved to a league-leading .381 average on the season with a three-for-five day. His two RBI gave him a league-high 30 on the year.
While Bauers may have left additional runs scored and Leonard RBIs on the field, he found his hustle with the game on the line.