DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK It’s the finale of the Durham Bulls’ homestand, which may become known for years as the “Matsui mania” stand.
- Photo courtesy Durham Bulls
- Bulls outfielder Hideki Matsui
Hideki Matsui and many of the 35 Japanese journalists he has in tow are still in the house as he tries to impress the Tampa Bay Rays enough for a callup.
Matsui, who will play left field for the second straight night, comes into tonight’s contest hitting .121 with no homers and four RBI in nine games in the cleanup spot. Whether or not Matsui will still be with the Bulls – or promoted, or released – when they get back home on June 5 against the Empire State Yankees.
Tonight’s opponent, the Norfolk Tides – who pitched a one-hitter against Durham on Thursday – have a former big-league star of their own on the roster in Miguel Tejada. Tejada is hitting .429 with no homers and three RBI in four games with the Tides.
Shane Dyer (0-1, 7.20) will go for the Bulls against Brad Bergesen (2-2, 5.03).
This time Matsui delivers, going 3-for-4 with an intentional walk plus the single to start the winning rally as the Bulls win 4-3 in 10 innings.
The Tides get to Dyer with a run in the first. Lew Ford leads off with a single up the middle, followed by Ty Kelly’s single up the middle and then Tejada’s one-out sacrifice fly to right.
Durham ties the score in the bottom of the frame as Henry Wrigley blasts a two-out first pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left.
Leslie Anderson gives the Bulls the lead with one out in the second when he blasts a first pitch into the Diamond View seats in right. With two out, Matsui punches a ground-rule double down the third-base line.
It goes to 3-0 in the fourth as Juan Miranda reaches on a Bermuda Triangle pop single to center and eventually scores on Jeff Salazar’s two-out bunt single down the third-base line.
Norfolk ties it in the fifth. Brandon Waring leads off with a single to left and advances on Scott Thomas’ single to left before Jai Miller reaches on a fielder’s-choice ball to second. With two out, Ford and Kelly hit back-to-back RBI singles.
And the heroics come in the 10th off submariner Pat Neshek (2-2) With one out, Matsui hits an 0-2 pitch into right field and Jesus Feliciano comes on to pinch-run. With two out Miranda just beats out an infield single to first and steals second. Then on a 3-2 pitch Reid Brignac lines the ball into center and it’s party time, Japanese style.
Brignac finishes with two hits as does Miranda. Brandon Gomes (3-0) is the winning pitcher with two innings of relief.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “(Matsui) just needs at-bats. He’s a professional hitter. Now he’s getting his timing down. He had a great night today. Our guys can see how professional he is. He makes his out, he puts his helmet down and is ready to go play. That’s why he’s a good player. He doesn’t take it to the field. It’s good timing for us guys to see a professional like that. … Brignac’s at-bat was great for him and us. It was great to see, and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid. It was awesome, and we got there because Miranda busted his butt running hard on a routine ground ball to first base.”
Matsui: “On my second at-bat (the double) it just worked out, with the way I hit it it got through. It was lucky because it was two strikes. If I had been ahead in the count I probably wouldn’t have swung at that pitch. … The next two at-bats were good from my perspective. I hit the ball pretty well. I don’t recall the last time I faced a submariner, probably sometime last year. The pitch is more of a deception than anything. But eventually I was able to get my timing down and put a good swing on it.”
Brignac: “I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit. I had a feeling once Juan took the bag that they were going to be a little more careful. I was trying to get a good pitch and hit it right back up the middle. Fortunately the last pitch I got was the best pitch for me to handle. I really needed that game. I had good at-bats and had a good approach and a good plan. … We’ve all seen (Matsui). He’s a special player in the big leagues. He just needs games to play.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls are starting to get their pride back, and that Matsui may have gotten a boost on his quest to get back to the show.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Brignac’s walk-off single.
Bulls: Won 1.
Norfolk: Lost 1.
Norfolk leads 4-2.
Bulls (Matt Torra 3-5, 5.51) at Norfolk (Chris Tillman 3-6, 5.01), Saturday, 7:15 p.m.