Matt Moore’s first start for the Durham Bulls was solid, but he left after five innings with a no-decision.
And then he got some help from his friends.
The Bulls rallied for three runs in the seventh inning, with the big hits coming on catcher Nevin Ashley’s single and John Matulia’s double, for a 4-3 victory over the Toledo Mud Hens in the opener of their four-game series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The win left the Bulls atop the International League’s South Division with a half-game lead on the Gwinnett Braves.
“I saw Moore one time in spring training when he pitched against us,” Montoyo said. “And then I saw him in the Futures Game. The other coaches asked me ‘Why is that guy not playing with you (in Durham)? And I said, ‘I don’t know, man.’ I just work here. He was good tonight. We’ve had so much turnover, our road trip was outstanding. But we’ve found a way to win games. Ashley’s a good catcher, and we’ve got a lot of good catchers (in the organization) so it’s good to see.”
Brandon Guyer homered while Ashley added two hits with an RBI in the Bulls’ eight-hit attack.
Ryan Strieby and Timo Perez each had a solo homer for Toledo.
Lance Cormier (3-3) was the winning pitcher in relief, while Rob Delaney got his first save.
Moore went five innings and allowed a run on three hits with seven strikeouts against a pair of walks.
“I felt pretty normal, but wasn’t expecting it to be this warm,” Moore said. “I need to give myself a little extra time next time.”
Before the game, Desmond Jennings was scratched from the Bulls lineup and replaced by John Matulia. Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo said after the game that he had been instructed not to play Jennings but was not told why. Minutes later Jennings learned he had been promoted to Tampa Bay.
The Bulls took a 1-0 lead with one out in the first, as Guyer launched a 2-1 offering over the Blue Monster wall in left.
Toledo tied the score in the fourth, as Strieby led off by blasting a 1-0 pitch high over the brick wall atop the berm behind center field.
The Mud Hens were apparently waiting anxiously for Moore’s exit, as Perez launched Jay Buente’s first pitch into the Diamond View seats in right.
Toledo added another run in the seventh. Clete Thomas hit a one-out single to right, stole second and continued on Ashley’s throwing error, and scored when Max St. Pierre followed with a single to center.
But the Bulls responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame to win it.
Leslie Anderson led off with a single to left and took third on Daniel Mayora’s double. Oliver then uncorked a wild pitch for the first run, and then Ashley’s single to left scored Mayora. Daniel Schlereth came on for Oliver, and after Ray Olmedo’s sacrifice bunt John Matulia doubled to left to score Ashley with the winning run.
“We’ve got so many new guys we’re starting to call ourselves the ‘Durham Biscuits’ right now,” said Ashley, called up from the Montgomery Biscuits on Monday. “I’ve been fortunate enough to catch Moore all season. He was a little amped up at the beginning, but he settled down and threw a real nice game. It was definitely an advantage that we knew each other so well coming into the game.”
Game 2 of the four-game set is Saturday night at 7:05, with lefty Alex Torres (6-6, 3.23) going for the Bulls against Thad Weber (5-6, 5.61). The time of Sunday’s Game 3 has been adjusted, from 5:05 p.m. to 7:05, because of heat concerns.