For the second time in a week, the Durham Bulls dropped the opening game of a series. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs took an 12-6 win at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to win their fifth straight game.
The Bulls (59-38), who still are in command of the South Division, had lost the first of three against Indianapolis on Monday but came back to win the next two. Thursday's game was a sloppy one from the start, much like the one the Bulls played against Indianapolis.
Durham committed a three errors in the top of the first, a season high for errors in an inning, and fell behind the IronPigs 3-0. It didn't get much better from there despite a fairly sharp performance by starter Austin Pruitt (0-1). The Bulls later committed their fourth error in the eighth as Jake Bauers misplayed a ball hit to right field to match their season high for errors in a game.
“We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said. “They’re a good team and you can’ve give good teams extra outs. We did and they really capitalized.”
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Pruitt, who had no decisions in his previous eight appearances, including three starts, threw 17 pitches in the opening inning. All but three were strikes and yet he still was on the short end of a 3-0 game at that point.
“He’s a strike thrower and when he is on, he is fun to watch,” Sandberg said. “Once he establishes the strike zone, he is able to expand it. We didn’t give him much of a chance with that first inning but he was able to make it to the fifth.”
Designated hitter Rickie Weeks made the most of his injury rehabilitation assignment from the Rays by cracking a two-run home run to right power alley in right field that cut Lehigh Valley's lead to 3-2. Willie Adames had preceded him with a two-out double.
After giving up a leadoff home run to Pedro Florimon to make it 4-2 to start the fourth inning, Pruitt struck out the next three batters he faced. Pruitt went five before exiting, allowing five hits, two earned runs and striking out five.
Florimon also homered in his next at-bat, pulling one to right for a two-run shot off Bulls reliever Jeff Ames to make it 6-2. Andrew Pullin then followed with a triple to right that went off the glove of a diving Jake Bauers on the warning track. Pullin went on to score on an Ames wild pitch.
Harold Martinez kept it going for the IronPigs with his first triple. But before Ames could get out of the inning, he walked Scott Kingery. Martinez and Kingery scored on J.P. Crawford's single which ended Ames' night as he allowed four run, all earned, while issuing a pair of walks. Diego Castillo came in and cleaned up the mess by striking out Rhys Hoskins but not after the IronPigs had extended their led to 8-2.
Castillo got through the seventh but not the eighth. He allowed three consecutive hits and then the drive by Crawford to right that Bauers misplayed to cleared the bases. Hoskins hit a grounder to first that allowed Crawford to score to give the IronPigs a double-digit lead 12-2.
The Bulls got four of the runs back in the bottom of the eighth, including a two-run home run by Johnny Field. But the ninth inning was quiet for the Bulls.
The teams return to action tonight (7:05 p.m., WDNC-AM 620) with Ryan Yarbrough (9-4, 3.55) of the Bulls facing Lehigh Valley’s Mark Leiter (1-0, 4.74).