Durham Bulls

Durham Bulls rally but can’t catch Columbus Clippers in Governors’ Cup finals opener

Wool E. Bull races around the warning track with the Durham Bulls flag as opening day ceremonies start for the Triple A National Champions Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Durham, N.C.
Wool E. Bull races around the warning track with the Durham Bulls flag as opening day ceremonies start for the Triple A National Champions Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Durham, N.C. cliddy@newsobserver.com

It took Columbus Clippers first baseman Bobby Bradley four pitches to make his presence known in the Governors’ Cup finals.

Bradley, whose 31 home runs led the International League, sent a 1-2 pitch from Durham Bulls starter Jose De Leon over Huntington Park’s 22-foot wall in right field to stake the Clippers to a three-run lead in the first inning in the opener of the best-of-five series.

Bradley’s home run, combined with some timely hitting and solid pitching from starter Michael Peoples, led the Clippers to an 8-3 win Tuesday night.

“A three-run home run at any point in the game is big,” Clippers manager Tony Mansolino said. “Big swing by Bobby.”

The second Bradley made contact, he knew he had a home run. He took two steps to watch the ball before flipping his bat and throwing his hands above his head, helping set off a celebration inside Huntington Park.

The Bulls had a chance to respond top of the third when an Bulls second baseman Emilio Bonifacio single put runners on first and third with one out. That opportunity was short-lived, however, thanks to Clippers second baseman Ernie Clement, who made a spectacular backhand flip out of his glove to start a double play.

After Durham hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to cut the Clippers’ lead to 3-2, they responded with some power of their own.

Clippers centerfielder Ka’ai Tom launched a three-run homer to left field in the bottom of the inning that extended the Clippers’ lead to 6-2. That lead got larger on the next pitch when third baseman Andrew Velasquez hit a home run of his own to not only extend the Columbus lead to 7-2, but also end De Leon’s night.

Peoples managed to keep the Durham lineup in check, scattering three runs over six innings. Josh D. Smith and Jon Edwards combined to throw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Clippers, a move that keeps the rest of their bullpen fresh for the quick series.

“You couldn’t script it any better for us tonight,” Mansolino said after the game. “Not that you go into a game with a blueprint, but as the game evolved you see a blueprint begin to develop. It really worked out in our favor tonight.”

After De Leon’s shaky start, the Durham bullpen surrendered one run over five innings, 2 1/3 of which were thrown by former Clipper Ryan Merritt.

The win gets the Clippers one game closer to winning the best-of-five series. Durham and Columbus have combined to win seven of the past 10 International League championships.

“Momentum is game-to-game in a short series,” Mansolino said. “We need to get ourselves ready to go out and win tomorrow.”

Game two will be Wednesday night at 6:35 p.m. Logan Allen (1-1, 7.66 ERA) will start for the Clippers, and Josh Fleming (1-3, 5.14 ERA) will start for Durham.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

  Comments