Saturday, September 14, 2013

Durham Bulls 2 at Pawtucket Red Sox 0 (14) - September 13, 2013


Although I'm currently on a 4-month journey to see every NFL stadium, I am not averse to watching other sports when the opportunity presents itself. On Friday, the day after the Patriots beat the Jets 13-10 in a very unattractive manner, I had a free evening in the Boston area. The Red Sox were hosting the Yankees but I felt that game would be too long and boring as it featured a couple of teams I don't particularly like. Instead, I decided to drive 35 miles south to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where Boston's AAA affiliate would be home in the third game of the International League's Governors' Cup Final. The visitors would be the Durham Bulls, who feed players to the Tampa Bay Rays. The teams split the first two games in Durham so this would be a pivotal match in the best-of-five series.



Arriving at the ballpark, I was surprised to see local lots asking $5 or $10 to park when there is plenty of free street parking around. It was a beautiful evening as you can see in the picture above, and we got first row seats just above the Durham dugout for only $12. Minor league ball, particularly at the AAA level, remains the best sports deal out there. Matt Barnes, Boston's 1st round pick in 2011 (below) started for Pawtucket while Matt Buschmann took the hill for Durham.



Both pitchers were strong but lacked stamina, not surprising this late in the season. Buschmann was removed after just 4.2 innings while Barnes lasted into the 6th before getting the hook. Neither team had scored, so it was a battle of the bullpens. And what a battle it was. The innings slowly ticked off as each club trotted out reliever after reliever, each as effective as the last. This also slowed the game down considerably, and as we reached the 9th inning still without a run on the board, we were nearly 4 hours into the affair. Naturally, the Boston-Yankee game had already ended, but I was much happier here, watching a classic playoff duel.



In the top of the 10th, Durham's Tim Beckham (above), the top pick in the 2008 draft, led off with a double but he too was stranded, one of 33 runners left on during the game. In the 12th, Enny Romero came on and was wild, walking two (one intentionally) and hitting one to load the bases, but he struck out Mark Hamilton and we headed to the 13th. By now the game was 5 hours old and most fans had headed for the warmth of home, but I could not leave this compelling battle.

Romero walked another in the 13th but escaped without further damage. In the 14th, we finally saw a run. With one out, Kevin Kiermaier lined a shot to right that Bryce Brentz misplayed, allowing Kiermaier to third. Cole Figueroa was intentionally walked and then Beckham chopped one to second. The throw came home but there was no catcher there! He was backing up first expecting a double play to be attempted. As the ball sailed to the backstop, Kiermaier scored and Figueroa reached third. He would later score on a ground out to provide some insurance.

Kirby Yates came on to get the save, but of course, it wouldn't be easy. A hit batsman and two walks loaded the bases for Brentz, who had a chance to atone for his error. Thankfully he struck out on a full count and Durham won 2-0 in a game that took an astounding 5:42, about an hour longer than it should have. Still, it was a memorable night at the ballpark and a great change from the large crowds at every NFL game.



Notes

My camera has a panorama feature, which I like to use in sports stadiums.



The Bulls won Game 4 handily on Saturday and will play Omaha in the AAA World Series on Tuesday in Allentown, PA. I'm going to that game as well, so check back for a report next week.

Best,

Sean



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