Jerad Head homered and drove in six runs to lead a 20-hit attack as the Columbus Clippers cruised to an 18-5 romp over the Bulls in the opener of the best-of-5 International League Championship Series.
The 18 runs were a franchise postseason record, besting the 15 Columbus scored against Rochester in 1987.
"It was good for us to come out there and from the first inning on, from the top to the bottom of the lineup, everyone was hitting tonight," Head said. "Everyone came up with a big hit."
Head smashed one the Clippers' four homers, a three-run shot in the sixth that extended the lead to 15-1. Columbus scored five times in the first and tacked on seven in the fifth, abusing every arm the Bulls threw.
Major League veteran David Huff (1-0) did his part, holding Durham to an unearned run on four hits over seven frames. He struck out five and did not walk a batter, lowering his postseason ERA to 1.93.
"Guys in the field love that when a pitcher's pounding the strike zone," said Clippers third baseman Jared Goedert, who collected three hits, three RBIs and three runs scored. "It keeps us fresh, keeps us on our toes."
"Huff was great on the mound," Head added. "To get that win is a big momentum-booster. Hopefully, it carries through to the rest of series."
Bulls starter Richard De Los Santos (0-1) didn't fare as well, lasting two-plus innings and surrendering five runs on seven hits. Second baseman Omar Luna finished up on the mound for the Rays' top affiliate, striking out two after Luke Carlin led off the eighth with a homer.
Durham is without some of its pitchers, including former ace Jeremy Hellickson and Jake McGee, both of whom pitched for Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. McGee made his Major League debut in relief.
Head capped the five-run first with an RBI single and added a two-run single in the big fifth. He slugged a three-run shot off big league veteran Brian Shouse an inning later.
"Everybody's been swinging the bat well lately," said Head, who signed with Cleveland in 2005. "After the last game, everyone got comfortable in there. And the pitching's been great this postseason. We're starting to click."
Goedert doubled in a run in the first and added a two-run homer in the seventh, finishing a triple shy of the cycle.
"I'm feeling better than I did the first few [playoff] games," he said. "I think that goes for the team as a whole. It was a great team effort, great all the way around."
Wes Hodges went deep in the first as every Clippers starter had at least two hits.
"It's a great time," Goedert said. "We just go out and let it all hang out. We probably won't score this many runs every night, but it shows what we're capable of."
The Clippers nailed down the Wild Card playoff berth and, after beating Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in four games to reach the Finals, aren't taking any chances. They're also not taking out their razors.
"We got some nice-looking beards," Goedert said of a ritual normally associated with hockey players.
"We've had them since the postseason started," Head explained. "It's just kind of an idea we came up with. We did it last year, mostly the same group of guys on the Eastern League championship team. But as long as I've been in the organization, it's something they do."
Zach McAllister (9-12, 5.29 ERA) will look to ride the wave of hot bats and long beards for Columbus in Game 2 on Wednesday night when he opposes Aneury Rodriguez (6-5, 3.80 ERA).
"Just the same as tonight, come up with a good approach at the plate, not do too much and just go out and play like we did tonight," Head said of Wednesday's game plan. "Put some good at-bats together and do the little things that help you win."
Forcing a team to bring in an infielder to pitch also helps.
"I didn't get to face him as a hitter, but I know it's kind of uncomfortable to face a position player," Head laughed. "No one wants to strike out against a position player."