Extra inning playoff games are exciting for the fans and players alike. The next run, or in the case last night – the first run, could mean the difference not only in the game, but in the series. A win in an extra inning playoff game can be the catalyst to a series win, just as a loss could be utterly deflating. Last night, the Durham Bulls and the Pawtucket Red Sox found themselves in such a ballgame.
Durham Bulls 2, Pawtucket Red Sox 0 – Game Three, Governor’s Cup Finals
It seemed as though it would be a matter of time before the Red Sox put up a run on Durham starter Matt Buschmann. Buschmann struggled with his control all night, and the Red Sox had multiple baserunners through the first three innings. However, Buschmann managed to escape unscathed through each inning.
In the fifth, it seemed inevitable that Pawtucket would finally break through, as they had runners on second and third with one out. Yet, the Bulls were not about to let that happen. Buschmann struck out Alex Hassan, then reliever Adam Liberatore got a groundout to end the inning. Buschmann lasted only 4.2 innings, giving up two hits and walking five, but held the Red Sox off the board.
Meanwhile, Pawtucket starter Matt Barnes was matching Buschmann zero for zero, and having an easier time of it. He departed in the sixth, having given up four hits and two walks, striking out seven over 5.1 scoreless innings. The game then turned into a matchup of the bullpens, and both sides were equal to the challenge.
Pawtucket had another prime scoring opportunity in the eighth. With one out and Alex Hassan at first, Jeff Beliveau came on in relief. Hassan stole second and moved to third on a balk with just that one out. Beliveau was up to the test however, striking out the next two batters to strand the runner at third and preserve the scoreless tie.
The game continued into extra innings, and it seemed as though the Bulls may break through in the tenth, loading the bases with one out. However, Brandon Guyer and Mike Fontenot both struck out, and the game remained scoreless until the top of the fourteenth. With one out, Kevin Kiermaier hit a fly ball to right, which Bryce Brentz misplayed for a three base error. After an intentional walk to set up the double play, Tim Beckham hit into a fielder’s choice to put the first run on the board, reaching on a throwing error by Brock Holt. Another walk loaded the bases, and Jason Bourgeois grounded into a force out to give the Bulls a two run advantage.
Pawtucket had one last rally against closer Kirby Yates, loading the bases with two outs and bringing Brentz to the plate as he looked to atone for his earlier miscue. Yet Yates continued his excellent season, striking out Brentz to bring the Bulls one game away from taking the Governor’s Cup back to Durham. Enny Romero picked up the win, walking three while striking out one in two scoreless innings of relief. As a team, the Bulls held the PawSox to only four hits in the fourteen inning marathon.
Bourgeois and Guyer each had two hits in the victory.