The Durham Bulls lost for the second game in a row, dropping an exciting 8-5 slugfest to the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday night.
With top prospect Wade Davis and a former major league star on the mound, many fans in attendance expected to see a low-scoring pitchers’ duel. The two teams painted a different picture, however, combining for 13 runs and 27 hits.
Davis, making his third start at Triple-A Durham, squared off against Jeff Weaver, who recently signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians.
Davis, one of the top pitching prospects in the minors, was solid but unspectacular, scattering three runs on five hits in five innings of work. He struck out six, giving up two home runs and walking three in a no decision.
The 22-year-old right-hander began the season back in Montgomery, where he went 9-6 with a 3.85 ERA and 81-to-42 K/W ratio in 19 starts and was elected a Southern League All-Star. The organization, which generally takes its time grooming young arms, promoted him to Triple-A on July 20. The former third-rounder, who is unlikely to be shipped at the trade deadline even though his name has surfaced in rumors, is now 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 18-to-9 K/W ratio in three outings with the Bulls.
Durham ended up losing to Weaver—perhaps the wealthiest pitcher in the minors—as Juan Salas, Dale Thayer and Chris Mason combined to give up five earned runs on eight hits in the final four frames.
Salas (3-4) was hit with the loss after allowing two earned runs in 1.1 innings of relief. The hard-throwing right-hander, who was delayed from arriving to spring training with visa issues, had not allowed a run in his previous nine appearances. He has posted a 2.35 ERA and 45-to-10 K/W ratio in 38.1 innings pitched, and is a likely candidate for a promotion back to the majors when rosters expand in September.
Thayer, who has been effective out of the Bulls’ bullpen in his own right, had a rough outing as well. He gave up two earned runs and three hits in 0.2 innings of duty, raising his ERA to 2.35.
Mason came on in relief of the 27-year-old right-hander. He allowed an earned run, striking out one. The UNC-Greensboro product has had a rough season, though. He began the year in the Durham rotation, but went 3-9 as a starter with a 6.38 ERA and 77-to-29 K/W ratio in 17 starts before getting demoted to a relief role. He has simply not been able to build off his breakout campaign in the Southern League in 2007.
Mason emerged as a sleeper prospect with his performance for the Montgomery Biscuits in '07, going 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 136-to-44 K/W ratio in 28 starts to earn MiLB.com Double-A Starting Pitcher of the Year. He also received an invitation to big-league spring training in February, as the organization had high hopes for the 24-year-old righty. Since he switch roles, he has given up six earned runs and 15 hits in nine innings pitched.
On the offensive end, shortstop Reid Brignac, Jon Weber and Ben Zobrist led the way.
Brignac, whose name was also mentioned in rumors involving the Tampa Bay Rays’ pursuit of Jason Bay, went 2-for-4 with his ninth home run and a double. The 22-year-old infielder has now homered in two consecutive games, raising his season line to .257/.304/.429.
Weber had a nice night from the leadoff spot, going 2-for-5 with a solo homer, his 12th of the year. The former Texas Tech star is currently batting .277/.342/.478 through 90 games.
Zobrist ended the night 3-for-5, hit a key two-run home run and made a few nice plays at second base. He is batting .255/.391/.451 in 15 games at Durham. The Rays’ utility infielder earlier this season, he hit five homers in the majors before being optioned down when shortstop Jason Bartlett returned from the disabled list.
Dan Johnson also has a big night. Johnson, who is among International League leaders with a .963 OPS, collected three hits, including his 15th double, and scored a run. He is now batting .301/.417/.546 since Tampa Bay designated him for assignment.
Weaver, who signed with the Indians on July 5, battled through six innings to earn the win. The former World Series hero allowed four earned runs on seven hits while striking out five. He is now 2-2 with a 7.20 ERA in four starts with the Bisons. He began the year in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, going 2-4 with a 6.22 ERA, 37-to-20 K/W ratio and .299 opponents’ batting average in nine starts in the Pacific Coast League.
Even with the loss, the Bulls remains eight games up on the Charlotte Knights in the INT South Division.
Game Notes: Outfielder Justin Ruggiano went 1-for-4 with a single. Ruggiano is batting .342 (13-for-38) with two homers and eight RBIs in his past 10 games. Joel Guzman did not collect a hit in four at-bats, dropping his line to .247/.272/.444.