By: Liam Hoffmann
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– The series opener between the Durham Bulls and Rochester Red Wings swung Rochester’s way in a 12-8 victory. Three errors by the Wings kept the game close but center fielder Derek Hill starred in the offensive outburst that ultimately led to the win. Rochester just dropped a pair to the Syracuse Mets, but in the first game at Innovative Field since the All-Star Break, the hitters got back on track.
“We had a tough week [versus Syracuse] but at the same time, there were a lot of good things we could pull from it...[today] guys started off hot, so it was good,” Red Wings Catcher Drew Millas said.
The Durham offense didn’t hesitate to get the scoring started in this one. In the top of the first, a solo shot to right field by first baseman Jonathan Aranda put the Bulls on the board first. However, Drew Millas answered back with his sixth home run of the year to even the score at one.
Starting pitcher Wily Peralta only went for two innings before exiting and being replaced by Daniel Mengden.
“He [Peralta] felt fine to begin the game and all of a sudden he became tight, lower half came a little bit tight, and we just thought his stuff was not as sharp. We made a decision, me and the pitching coach, to just take him out and do nothing to further [the injury],” Red Wings Manager Matthew LeCroy said.
LeCroy said that he expects Peralta to be ready for his next appearance on Sunday.
Mengden let three runners reach in the top of the third, but he managed to only allow one run to cross to keep the game tight. Second baseman Jeter Downs’ solo home run to open the bottom of the third evened the score once more. The Derek Hill show then got underway. He singled and was brought home on an RBI double by first basemen Travis Blankenhorn.
“He plays the game the right way, he’s a great teammate, and I love him in our lineup,” LeCroy said in reference to Blakenhorn.
Bulls' centerfielder Greg Jones was responsible for the next deep shot as he brought in two more runs to regain the lead for Durham, 4-3. The bottom of the fourth was swift for Bulls starter Nathan Wiles as he retired three of the four batters he faced, striking out Jeter Downs to end the inning.
Durham extended the lead on Aranda’s sac fly to right in the fifth to increase the lead to 5-3. Rochester had a busy bottom half as Derek Hill hit a triple to score left fielder Jake Alu. Rochester right fielder Blake Rutherford’s sacrifice fly got Hill in to tie the game at five. Drew Millas followed his earlier solo shot with an RBI single to give Rochester the lead.
Despite a leadoff walk in the sixth for Durham, Rochester escaped with no more damage done. The lead kept growing from there for the Red Wings.
In the bottom of the sixth Bulls reliever Hector Perez walked a pair of batters and hit another. This loaded the bases for Hill, and he delivered once again. His two-run double scored Downs and Richie Martin, increasing the lead to 8-5.
Durham responded in the seventh. Third baseman Curtis Mead picked up an RBI double, scoring Aranda. The inning was extended when Greg Jones reached with two outs on an infield single that saw Downs slipping on the outfield grass as he tried to make the play. This allowed the Bulls to push across two more runs in the frame and tie the game at eight.
The Red Wings had some magic left in the eighth. Erick Meija led off the inning with a triple. After two quick outs and a Jake Alu walk, it was Derek Hill once more at the plate. He came through once more, with his second triple of the night to give Rochester a two-run edge. One batter later, Travis Blankenhorn hit his team-leading 14th home run of the season to give some needed insurance to the Wings.
Gerson Moreno closed out the game in the top of the ninth and put the Wings back in the win column after a tough weekend in Syracuse.
The Wings moved back to .500 in the second half, at 8-8. Rochester and Durham will face off again tomorrow for game two of the series. Jackson Rutledge (1-0, 4.50) will get the start for the Red Wings while Erasmo Ramirez (2-1, 5.19) will get the call for Durham. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 pm at Innovative Field.