By Josh Cook
Todd Frazier’s two-run home run propelled the Louisville Bats within one game of the Governors’ Cup Championship series.
Frazier’s one-out blast in the top of the seventh inning gave the Bats a 2-1 win over the host Durham Bulls on Friday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park to give Louisville a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five International League semifinals.
The Bats can clinch a spot best-of-five championship series if they can beat the Bulls at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night or at 5:05 p.m. Sunday. In the other semifinal series the Columbus Clippers, who finished second to Louisville in the IL West during the regular season, leads Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 2-1 in the other Governors’ Cup semifinal.
The Bats, who are 0-4 all-time in playoff serieses against Durham, tallied on three hits against the Bulls on Friday night, and two of those were in the seventh.
Durham starter Alex Cobb held Louisville hitless until catcher Devin Mesoraco led off the sixth with a single. Then in the seventh Wladimir Balentien singled with one out before Frazier blasted a Cobb offering to center field. Those were the only mistakes for Cobb, who struck out 10 over 6 2/3 innings.
That turned out to be enough offense for five Bats’ pitchers. Louisville starter Matt Klinker was solid in his best outing with the team since his second promotion from Double-A in late August. The right-hander gave up only one earned run on six hits while walking three and striking out two over 5 1/3 innings.
The lone run Klinker allowed came during Durham’s first three batters. J.J. Furmaniak led off the bottom of the first with a single to left field. He moved to third on Elliot Johnson’s single, then scored when Mesoraco threw errantly down to second base as Johnson stole it.
Four relievers - Philippe Valiquette, Micah Owings, Daniel Ray Herrera and Jared Burton - followed Klinker and allowed only two hits while walking two and striking out six. Valiquette picked up the victory with two-thirds of an inning or relief. The left-hander faced two batters, threw two wild pitches and
Burton pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his first save of the postseason. He struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, but did walk Furmaniak with two outs. The Durham second baseman, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, stole second with Johnson batting to put the potential tying run in scoring position. However Burton struck Johnson out swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
That was a trend for the Bulls, who outhit Louisville 8-3 but were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 baserunners.
The only bad news for the Bats came in the eighth inning when Zack Cozart was ejected after being called out on strikes.
Louisville left-hander Ben Jukich (7-4, 3.90 earned-run average during the regular season), who has gone 4-0 with a 3.57 ERA since the IL All-Star break, will take on Durham right-hander Paul Phillips (1-0, 1.69) Saturday night. Fans can listen to the game locally on 1080-AM.
Photo courtesy Louisville Bats