By Josh Cook
Five Durham pitchers limited Louisville to four hits as the Bulls evened their playoff series with the Bats on Thursday night.
Sparked by that pitching, and some early offense, Durham denied Louisville a 2-0 lead in the Governors’ Cup playoffs by beating the Bats 6-2 at Louisville Slugger Field to knot the series at 1-all.
The best-of-five series will conclude in Durham over the weekend. Game Three of the series will begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday night.
Thursday night the Bulls showed why they ranked second in the International League in hits allowed during the regular season. Durham starter Aneury Rodriguez and game winner Darin Downs (1-0) combined to give up four hits and two earned runs over five innings, while three relievers held the Bats hitless over the final four.
Rodriguez and Downs got plenty of help from the bats of the Bulls, who tallied 11 hits and scored two runs in the first, one in the second, two in the fifth and one in the eighth.
In the first Elliot Johnson singled with one out off Louisville starter Tom Cochran. Justin Ruggiano followed with a bunt single before Cochran struck out Chris Richard. But back-to-back RBI-singles by Joe Dillon and Leslie Anderson gave the Bulls a quick 2-0 lead.
Then in the second Cochran walked J.J. Furmaniak and Johnson back-to-back with two outs before Ruggiano singled home Furmaniak to make it 3-0.
Rodriguez got a case of the walks in the bottom of the third. He gave back-to-back two-out free passes to Danny Dorn and Wladimir Balentien before Todd Frazier singled Dorn home to make it 3-1.
Louisville closed to within 3-2 in the fourth when Devin Mesoraco led off with a double off Downs. Mesoraco advanced to third on Kris Negron’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Dave Sappelt’s ground out. But that’s as close as the Bats would get.
In the sixth Ruggiano led off with a double then moved to third on Richard’s single before Cochran was replaced by Enerio Del Rosario. The left-handed Cochran, who made only one regular-season start for the Bats after going 8-5 at Double-A Carolina, was charged with five earned runs on eight hits while he walked three and struck out four over four innings.
Del Rosario was promptly greeted with an RBI-single by Dillon to make it 4-2. Del Rosario got Anderson to ground into a double play before his wild pitch scored Richard, who had moved to third during the double play.
The Bats reached base only one time (when Negron walked with two out in the sixth) over the final five innings.
In the eighth Anderson led off with a double off Louisville reliever Joseph Krebs. Rashad Eldridge came in to pinch-run for Anderson and he wasn’t on base long because Angel Chavez doubled him home.
Friday night Bats right-hander Matt Klinker (4-4, 5.85 earned-run average) will face Durham right-hander Alex Cobb, who will be making his Triple-A debut after posting. Louisville left-hander Ben Jukich (7-4, 3.90 ERA) is schedule to pitch Game Four, which will take place at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Game Five, if necessary, will be at 5:05 p.m. Sunday at Durham Athletic Park.