It wasn’t always pretty down the stretch, but the Durham Bulls managed to claim their fifth straight playoff berth as winners of the International League South Division. The Bulls were just 6-9 in their last 15 games finishing with a record of 80-62, two and a half games clear of the Gwinnett Braves. In the first round of the playoffs Wednesday, they will face the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, the Columbus Clippers.
The matchup is a rematch of the Governors’ Cup championship from last year. The Clippers won that series in dominating fashion, three games to one. The Bulls’ only win in the series came in game three on a dramatic late inning comeback. In the Clippers’ wins they outscored Durham 33-4.
The Bulls will be sending out their new found ace Matt Moore in game one, who since his July callup from Double-A has been spectacular. He is 4-0 in nine starts, with an ERA of 1.37. Moore has not faced Columbus this year which should be to his benefit. The only game where Moore gave up more than two runs was when he faced the Charlotte Knights for a second time at the end of August.
Moore will be squaring off with Zach McAllister. McAllister is 12-3 this year, with an ERA of 3.32 in 25 starts. A big difference between the two is that McAllister has been with the Clippers for the entire year save a lone appearance with the Indians. Moore has shown no vulnerability to the moment, though, pitching in some very big games as the Bulls battled down the stretch.
Everyone is still waiting to see what roster changes could be made that could alter the course of this series. The idea is still out there that Matt Moore could be called up at any moment, though the deeper the run for the Bulls, the less likely it seems. This week the Clippers lost one of their best hitters, second baseman Luis Valbuena, to the Tribe and last week the Rays called up outfielder Brandon Guyer.
On paper, this looks like a very even series. The two teams finished with a nearly identical staff ERA, both under four runs a game. In terms of offense, both were in the upper third of the league in hits, runs and batting average. Columbus will have home field advantage but the Bulls have the opportunity to turn up the pressure with the first two games being played at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. With the chances of seeing postseason baseball in Tampa dwindling, the Bulls are giving Rays’ fans the championship run they’ve become used to in recent seasons.