Bulls fall to Homer Bailey and the Bats

On the night that Lebron James reached his first career NBA Finals, the Durham Bulls dropped a heart breaker to the Louisville Bats 7-5. The big story surrounding tonight's game had nothing to do with the score. Rather, the biggest story focused on the player who was supposed to be the savior for the Devil Rays franchise, Josh Hamilton.

On the night that Lebron James reached his first career NBA Finals, the Durham Bulls dropped a heart breaker to the Louisville Bats 7-5. The big story surrounding tonight's game had nothing to do with the score though. Rather, the biggest story focused on the player who was supposed to be the savior for the Devil Rays franchise, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, the he Devil Rays first round pick, number one overall, in the 1999 draft, finally made an appearance in AAA Durham. For Devil Rays fans though, he was wearing the wrong uniform.

Bats starting pitcher Homer Bailey, who is considered by many as the top pitching prospect in all of baseball along with Phillip Hughes of the New York Yankees, continued to dominate the International League. Bailey (6-1) was roughed up a little bit in the outing, but still worked six innings to earn the win. He scattered seven hits and allowed four earned runs with ten strikeouts in the win. Bailey's 2.31 ERA is currently among the International League leaders.

Hamilton, who is the leading candidate to win the National League Rookie of the Year for the Cincinnati Reds, is with the Bats while he is on the major league disabled list with gastreonitis. The Raleigh, NC native finished the night 2-5 with a home run and two runs scored to pace the Bats offense playing in front of fans from his home state. Hamilton's home run off of Bulls starter Jason Hammel was his fourth in twenty at bats and five games for the Bats this season. He is currently hitting .350 and is slugging .1000 in AAA games. He is expected to return to the big leagues next week and the Reds are anxious to have his bat back in their lineup.

Aaron Herr and former World Series hero Mark Bellhorn also both had multiple hits for Louisville. Herr went 2-5 with two runs scored to raise his batting average to .296. Shortstop Pedro Lopez also homered in the victory.

Hammel, who was expected by many to earn a promotion to the big league club, gave the Bulls a chance to win, but did not factor in the decision. He lasted five innings and allowed four earned runs, half coming from Hamilton's two-run home run, which raised his ERA from 2.85 to 3.15. He flashed dominant stuff at times throughout the game and finished with a season best nine strikeouts. Hammel is 3-5, but has pitched much better than his record indicates. Again on Saturday, he pitched well enough to earn a win and did not receive enough run support.

Steve Andrade, who allowed three earned runs in 2.2 innings, suffered the loss for Durham. Andrade (2-1) could not keep the Bulls in the game after allowing the home run to Lopez with a runner on in the sixth inning. His ERA rose to 4.66 in the loss, his first of the season. Jeff Ridgway continued to be a force out of the Bulls bullpen with another strong outing. He did not allow a hit in 1.1 innings to keep Durham with in striking distance at the end of the game.

Wes Bankston, Jorge Velandia, and Justin Ruggiano led the Bulls' offense. Ruggiano continued to get on base for the Bulls on Saturday night. Ruggiano, who is among the team leaders with a .863 OPS, went 2-5 with a run scored. The Bulls left fielder has taken over the third spot in the batting order because Shawn Riggans was called up to Tampa Bay. All of the first four hitters in the lineup, including Ruggiano, scored runs for Durham. Bankston was the only other hitter with more than one hit for the Bulls. He finished the game 2-4 with a RBI. Velandia hit his second home run of the season off of Bailey in the second inning.

The Bulls fell to 27-29 with the loss and are now six games back of the Richmond Braves for first place in the International League South division. The series with Louisville continues tomorrow night at 5:00.

Game notes- Former Devil Rays, Jonny Gomes and Ben Zobrist, each had hits in the loss. Gomes finished the game 1-3 with a run scored as Durham's clean up hitter and left fielder. He is batting .375 (3-8) since being sent down to Durham to make room for Akinori Iwamura on the Devil Rays 25 man roster. Zobrist, Durham's leadoff hitter, was 1-4 and also scored a run in the loss. He is now batting .247 (18-73) with three home runs for the Bulls this season. After a slow start, Bankston has 52 hits in 202 at bats for a .257 batting average. He is leading the Bulls with 8 HR and 31 RBIS and has also scored 25 runs in 51 games so far this season as Durham's first baseman. Remember the name because he could be with the Devil Rays in the near future. His stock in the organization dropped last season after a failed attempt to switch to third base.


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