DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK The Durham Bulls are in their usual top spot in the International League’s South Division as they start a five-game, four-day series with the Buffalo Bisons(sic).
Heading into the doubleheader the clubs have identical 61-55 records, although Buffalo is in fourth place in the loaded North Division.
The Bulls have won all three meetings this season as well as 10 straight against Buffalo in Durham.
Former Bulls star Wil Myers is in town on a rehab assignment, but isn’t scheduled to play until Saturday. Buffalo brings in a familiar face in hitting coach Richie Hebner, who was formerly the Bulls’ hitting coach.
Merrill Kelly (6-3, 3.19) will go against Buffalo southpaw Brad Mills (1-0, 3.86) in the opener, with Enny Romero (4-11, 5.31) facing the visitors’ Kendall Graveman (0-1, 2.25) in the nightcap.
And in an odd twist, Buffalo will be the host team in Game 2 that was postponed from an earlier road trip, so the Bulls will wear road grays at DBAP for the first time ever.
The first game wipes out all the streaks, as Buffalo wins 5-1. But in the second Romero pitches six very strong innings and Josh Lueke finishes up a 1-0 victory for the split.
Durham finishes the opener with four hits, the only extra-base knock coming from Justin Christian.
Kevin Pillar leads Buffalo’s 11-hit attack with a double and a single for an RBI.
The nightcap is a classic pitchers’ duel, scoreless until one out in the top of the sixth when Nick Franklin – who played for the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game here but is in his debut home game as a Bull since coming over from Seattle in the three-way David Price trade – rockets a 1-0 offering into the right-field stands.
Romero allows just one hit in six innings, striking out six against two walks before Lueke comes on for his eighth save.
One added highlight of the night is that the two teams combine for 14 innings of errorless baseball.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “We had one big hit in that game and it was a home run. But Romero was fun to watch. Our offense is struggling, but Romero gave us a chance. He was a big-leaguer today, throwing 98 from the left side. His velocity was great and he was throwing strikes. … Being in the gray at home helps the clubbie wash the whites. We don’t need these again until Monday.”
Romero: “I was feeling good because I was throwing strikes. All my pitches were pretty good today. Buffalo has good hitters, but I was able to control my fastball in in the zone. It was probably the best I’ve thrown all season. I made good pitches to good hitters, and I stayed ahead in the count.”
Franklin: “I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit. (Graveman) threw it over the plate, I took a hack at it and it felt pretty good. He was doing a great job mixing up his pitches. I was looking for something I could drive somewhere in the gap.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls finish the night right where they started.
Stars of the night
Play of the night
Christian’s diving catch in center of a third-inning fly ball from Buffalo’s Jonathan Diaz in the nightcap.
Bulls: Won 1.
Buffalo: Lost 1.
Bulls lead 4-1.
Bulls (Matt Andriese 11-6, 3.55) vs. Buffalo (Sean Nolin 3-4, 3.02), Friday, 7:05 p.m.