Bulls Offense Disappears in Playoff Opener

The Durham Bulls made 12 straight outs to end the game Wednesday, as they lost 3-0 to the Columbus Clippers in the opening round of the International League playoffs. It was a tough night for the Durham hitters as they managed only five hits for the game. In their last five playoff games against the Clippers, they have scored just seven runs.

It was a disappointing night for Bulls starter Matt Moore, who lasted  6 2/3, giving up three runs on nine hits. The trouble started early with back to back singles to start the game. After Jared Goedert grounded into a fielder’s choice, Beau Mills doubled in the gap to bring home the first Columbus run. Moore limited the damage, though, getting Chad Huffman and Nick Johnson to pop out in the infield.

It looked as though the Bulls might come back and answer in the bottom of the inning. Stephen Vogt hit a one out double to right but was stranded there when Matt Carson flew out to center and Dan Johnson popped out to third. That would be the only real threat of the night for the Bulls. The Clippers would add runs in the fourth and the sixth to push the leads to three.

Clippers’ starter Zach McAllister wasn’t dominant but was plenty effective. He allowed five hits and one walk in six shutout innings. Whatever dominance he lacked, the relievers made up for in a big way. Chen Chang Lee threw two perfect innings, including three straight groundouts in the eighth. Zach Putnam closed out the game with three strikeouts and recorded the save.

The Bulls have some questions to answer after this loss. Matt Moore was supposed to be the pitcher they could go to for a statement making win. While Moore wasn’t as good as he has been for most of his time in Durham, the Rays (I mean Bulls, Can you have a Freudian slip typing?) offense did not give him any help. The Bulls averaged five runs a game against Columbus this season but have just two runs in the last two contests.

Durham has to regroup quickly, as game two is Thursday night. The Bulls will send out local favorite and recent Double-A callup Chris Archer. Archer has started only twice for the Bulls, but has looked sharp in those outings. He has 12 strikeouts against just six walks and has allowed one earned run in 13 innings. The Bulls will be facing a familiar foe in Clippers’ starter Mitch Talbot. Talbot spent parts of 2007-2009 with the Durham Bulls reaching 13 wins in both 2007 and 2008. Talbot started 11 games for Cleveland before being sent down to Columbus and has made seven starts there going 4-2.

All the focus the Bulls put on getting up early in this series now gets turned on them. They have to win three times in four games with three of those games on the road. Their hope to even things up is a 22 year old right-hander, who a little over two weeks ago was giving up five runs and five walks in a Double-A start. Their offense, despite the loss of Brandon Guyer, still is potent enough to put up some runs on the Clippers’ pitching and Durham is by no means out of it, just by losing the opening game. They have certainly made it harder, though, as they look to avoid an opening round loss for the first time in their five straight playoff appearances.

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