The Durham Bulls could not muster up anything off of Kris Benson on Monday night, falling to the Lehigh IronPigs, 4-2, in the opener of a four-game series in Pennsylvania.
Benson, attempting to comeback from March 2007 surgery, had struggled in his first five rehab appearances coming into the game. The 34-year-old right-hander, 0-4 with a 10.53 ERA in five starts before picking up his first win, allowed one run on six hits in six solid innings.
The former Clemson star, perhaps best known for his controversial wife, is looking to resurrect his once-promising major league career, but the odds of him making a major impact in the Philadelphia Phillies’ push for the postseason is unlikely. He looked sharp tonight, though.
Durham received a solid but not spectacular outing from Jeremy Cummings, who suffered his third loss after allowing nine hits and three earned runs in six innings. Cummings has been a nice addition to the Bulls’ rotation after starting the season overseas, earning an invitation to the Triple-A All-Star game earlier this month. He struck out five while walking only one batter, but was hit with his third loss.
Cummings is now 7-3 with a 2.95 ERA and 63-to-20 K/W ratio in 76.1 innings pitched.
Chris Richard provided one of the lone bright spots offensively for the Bulls, hitting his team-leading 18th homer off of Lehigh Valley closer Matt Childers in the ninth inning to bring the score to its eventual final. Richard, also an International League All-Star, has been one of the key run producers for Durham all season. The left-handed hitting veteran is batting .301/.389/.537, for a .926 OPS. He increased his team-leading RBI total to 59 with his solo blast off Childers, who recovered to shut the door and earn his 16th save.
Center fielder Fernando Perez collected two hits as well, scoring the Bulls’ only other run on the night. Perez, an Ivy League product, has enjoyed success from the leadoff spot in his first full campaign in the International League, hitting .289/.363/.399. While he does not hit for a lot of power, the 25-year-old is a plus defender in the outfield and has a chance to latch on as a productive fourth outfielder in the majors some day.
John Jaso had one of his best games since getting called up to Triple-A last week, going 3-for-4. The organization is taking it slow with Jaso, who hit .271/.408/.405 with seven home runs at Double-A Montgomery before his promotion. While his bat can play at the highest level, it remains to be seen if he can stay behind the plate in the majors Jaso, who has drawn mixed reviews from scouts on his defensive ability, caught nine innings on Monday night. He is now 7-for-16 with a .938 OPS in his first four games with Durham.
Calvin Medlock tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Cummings, lowering his ERA to 3.52. Medlock has posted an opponents’ batting average of .241 in 46.0 innings, but he has not missed bats consistently enough to garner serious attention from the big league club; he has a 29-to-25 K/W ratio.
With the loss, the Bulls fall to 55-47 on the season. The club still has a six-game lead in the International League South Division over the Charlotte Knights. Unlike its parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, Durham—6-4 in its last 10 games—is considerably better on the road, as they are 31-20 away from North Carolina. At home, however, they are 24-28.