Mired in a hitting slump, the Durham Bulls benefited from an errant knuckleball and an overdue clutch hit to beat Pawtucket 2-1 in the final game at the DBAP this season. The victory ties the best-of-five Governors’ Cup Championship Series at one game each.
The Bulls, who led the IL in batting this season, entered Game Two hitting .202 during the postseason, and on pace to have their lowest average in the Governors’ Cup Playoffs in team history.
For the first five innings, the Bulls struggled to muster any offense against Pawtucket knuckleballer Steven Wright. Vince Belnome’s two singles were the only Bulls hits until Craig Albernaz added a double in the fourth.
The Bulls couldn’t come up with a clutch hit, however. After Tuesday’s 0-for-8 showing with runners in scoring position, Durham was 0-for-6 Wednesday leading into the late innings.
Jason Bourgeois led off the sixth with a line single to center and advanced to third with two outs.
That’s when the Bulls were visited by lady luck. A wayward knuckleball got away from catcher Dan Butler, his third passed ball of the night. Bourgeois scored to tie the game and kept IL Most Valuable Pitcher J.D. Martin from taking a hard-luck loss.
Martin pitched 6.0 innings, allowing four hits and one walk. Two of the hits came to lead off the third, however, and Butler scored on a groundout by NC State alum Jonathan Diaz.
C.J. Riefenhauser entered the game in the seventh, coming one borderline pitch away from striking out the side on 9 pitches.
In the bottom of the seventh, Albernaz reached on a two-base throwing error by shortstop Heiker Meneses. Kevin Kiermaier broke through with a double to left center to score Albernaz, giving the Bulls their first hit with runners in scoring position in the series.
Riefenhauser earned the win in his first appearance of the postseason. Kirby Yates pitched the ninth for his third save of the postseason.
The win closes the doors on the DBAP this year. The series will conclude in Pawtucket where the Governors’ Cup champion will be crowned. Game Three is Friday at 7:05pm. RHP Matt Buschmann (8-2, 2.97 in the regular season) makes his first start of the postseason for the Bulls, against RHP Matt Barnes (0-1, 9.00).