Jae Seo, who was a large disappointment during his brief – though too long for some baseball fans in St. Petersburg – stint in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays starting rotation this spring, continued to pitch effectively at the Triple-A level. Seo – 3-4 with an 8.13 ERA in 10 starts for the Devil Rays earlier in the year – helped lead the Durham Bulls to a 4-3 victory over the Charlotte Knights on Sunday afternoon. The veteran right-hander from Korea scattered seven hits and only allowed three earned runs in seven strong innings to lower his earned run average to 3.57. He threw 66 of 96 pitches for strikes, had seven strikeouts, and didn't walk a batter on his way to earning his sixth victory since being optioned to Durham in the middle of June.
After allowing two runs in the first inning – on back-to-back RBI doubles from Charlotte infielders Ryan Sweeney and Tomas Perez – Seo settled down nicely to shutdown the Knights offense. Jeff Ridgway, Dale Thayer, and Chad Orvella combined to throw two shutout innings of relief to preserve Seo's lead.
Dale Thayer retired the final two outs of the eighth inning to earn his first hold, in just his second appearance, with the Bulls. Thayer, a recent call-up from Dobule-A, was dominant for the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League before being promoted last week. In 47 appearances with the Biscuits, the 26-year-old right-hander compiled a perfect 9-0 record, a 2.26 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched, and a team-leading 21 saves. Orvella, arguably Durham's best relief pitcher all year, pitched a scoreless ninth inning to lower his ERA to 2.62 and earn his team-best 17th save.
After being held in check for the first three innings, the Durham offense answered back with its first run in the top of the fourth. Third baseman Evan Longoria, one of the top infield prospects in all of Major League Baseball, worked a one-out walk to start a rally for the Bulls. The next batter, shortstop Joel Guzman, singled through the left side, advancing Longoria to third base on the play. Wes Bankston followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center field to bring in Longoria – cutting the Knights lead in half – to make the score 2-1.
The Bulls would tack on two more runs an inning later. After working a one-out walk, center fielder Jason Pridie stole second base to set the stage for slugging-outfielder Justin Rugianno. Rugianno – tied for the team lead with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs – doubled, his 22nd of the season, into the right field gap to plate Pridie. Jon Weber then delivered a line-drive RBI single to tie the game up at 3-3.
Durham scored its final, and the eventual game-winning, run with in the eighth inning. Weber led off the frame with a single through the left-side of the infield. Following the lead-off single, Longoria, who finished the game 1-for-3 with a run scored, blasted a clutch double past Charlotte outfielder Alex Sanchez in center field to give Durhan its first lead of the game, bringing the score to its eventual final, 4-3.
Weber, recently acquired from the Texas Rangers for cash considerations, finished the day 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. He is now batting .329 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 20 games with the Bulls. Jeremy Owens – batting .267 with 6 home runs and 30 RBIs as the Bulls leadoff hitter – was the only other player for Durham with more than one hit. He ended the game 2-for-5 but struck out twice and left a runner on base in a key spot. Pridie, who went 1-for-3, is now hitting .310 in 41 games at Triple-A.
With the win, Durham improves to 62-55 to remain 2 1/5 games back of the Richmond Braves for first place in the International League South Division. The five-game series – the battle of North Carolina – between these two teams continues on Monday night at 7:15. With a win, the Bulls clinch a series victory.
Game notes: Longoria finished Sunday with one hit in three at bats. He is now batting .303 since being promoted from Double-A Montgomery a little over a week ago. His double in the eighth inning was his third as member of the Bulls. Second baseman Elliot Johnson's long season continued – as he didn't record a hit in three official at bats and was charged with his 19th error of the season, which leads all infielders on the roster.
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