- File photo by D.L. Anderson
- Durham Bulls infielder Elliot Johnson
DBAP/DURHAM The Durham Bulls are back “home” from their much-ballyhooed game against the Toledo Mud Hens at historic Durham Athletic Park on Monday night, and now it’s time to get back to pure business.
The Bulls lost the opener of a four-game set 6-2 in front of a packed house at the old yard, but they go into their second meeting with the Mud Hens this season with a three-game lead in the International League’s South Division.
This is the Mud Hens’ only trip to Durham this season unless the teams meet in the Governors’ Cup Playoffs. That has happened twice — in 2002 and ’07 — and each time the Bulls needed only three games to take the Best-of-5 series.
It’s a cloudy and mild night as Jeff Bennett (0-2), who had been in storage on the paper roster at Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League, takes the hill for the Bulls against Armando Galarraga (3-2). The Bulls get 10 hits but walk nine Toledo batters in a 5-4 loss.
Toledo takes the lead in the first as Will Rhymes leads off with a walk and scores on Maxwell Leon’s double to right in which the batter-runner is retired at third.
But the Bulls even things in the third. Rashad Eldridge walks and takes second on a wild pitch, later scoring on Elliot Johnson’s one-out single to right.
Durham then takes the lead in the fourth with a two-run rally. Angel Chavez stars it with a single to center, and after Alvin Colina walks Eldridge reaches on a fielder’s choice. Desmond Jennings and Elliot Johnson then hit back-to-back RBI singles to make it 3-1.
But Bennett has a hard time with prosperity. He walks Rhymes with one out and then Danny Worth and Jeff Larish with two before Jeff Frazier strokes a three-run double to left. Brent Dlugach adds a double to left and Bennett is replaced by Aneury Rodriguez.
Ryan Shealy cuts the lead in half with one out in the seventh when he launches a 3-2 pitch from Josh Rainwater high over the Blue Monster wall in left.
There’s controversy in the eighth when Bulls catcher Colina tries to score from second with one out on Eldridge’s single to left and collides with Robinzon Diaz at the plate. Numerous players leave their positions and insults are exchanged, but cooler heads prevail before anyone throws a punch.
Leon, who finishes with a pair of doubles, and Elliot Johnson are the only players with two hits apiece.
The best night for a Bull is from reliever Rodriguez, who allows one hit with seven strikeouts against two walks in three scoreless innings.
They said it …
Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo: “It’s tough to come from behind. That team’s got pitching and that team’s got a closer (Jay Sborz). I know we’re not swinging the bats like we did before, but they’ve got good pitching over there. If you fall behind early it’s tough to come back from that. Rodriguez was good tonight. He gave us a chance. You’ve just got to being runs in from scoring position in close games. I thought Colina could score, and I was hoping he would because I knew what was coming next (out of the Toledo bullpen.)”
Toledo manager Larry Parrish: “We had some chances and scored four in the fifth, and after that we just sort of held on while the pitchers did a good job. Sborz did a real good job for us in an inning and a third there at the end of the ball game. … I’m sort of glad Colina came in like that. It’s easier to tag him out that way than if he’s sliding away from you. To me that’s just one of those plays that’s part of the game.”
Elliot Johnson: “I got to hit with men in scoring position what, four times? Des and Rashad are doing a great job. They’re getting on base for me and it’s my job to get them in if they’re out there. Two times I did and two times I didn’t. In the grand scheme of things I’m happy getting them in half the time, but when the game’s on the line late you always want to get them in.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls seem to have lost some of their momentum and need to get things together soon to protect their lead in the South Division race.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Frazier’s three-run double.
Toledo leads 2-0.
Durham: Lost 2.
Toledo: Won 2.
Durham: RHP Jeff Bennett promoted to Durham from Hudson Valley. LHP Heath Phillips played on Temporary Inactive List.
Toledo at Bulls, 7:05 p.m.
Enrique Gonzalez (R, 1-3, 4.02) vs. Richard De Los Santos (R, 1-1, 4.56)