DURHAM, N.C. -- Kirby Yates shared the closer role during the regular season for the Durham Bulls. Now it's all his.
He proved up to the task with three ninth-inning strikeouts in Game 2 of the International League Semifinals on Thursday night to close out a 6-5 victory against the Indianapolis Indians at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
It concluded a harrowing finish for the Bulls, who scored five runs before Indianapolis recorded an out, but still needed Yates by the end.
"I felt like I did a good job of calming down," said Yates, who posted 20 regular-season saves. "This one was spur of the moment, get up and go."
Yates entered in the ninth after Jerry Sands' second home run of the game, the latter a three-run blast off Steve Geltz. Yates issued a walk to Ivan DeJesus Jr. before striking out the next three for his second save in as many nights.
"That was his best outing in a while," Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo said. "The last thing Yates is thinking is he has to come in. He had to get ready in a hurry."
Yates and Josh Lueke racked up saves for large chunks of the season, but Lueke is with the parent Tampa Bay Rays now.
After the walk, Yates, a 26-year-old right-hander, found answers again.
"I was able to dial in and focus on the pitch at hand," he said.
All this happened after Durham starter J.D. Martin, the IL Pitcher of the Year, matched his season-high with eight innings of work. Sands' two-run blast with one out in the seventh snapped a 26-inning scoreless stretch for Durham pitchers.
Sands, who had seven regular-season homers, hadn't hit a long ball since July 27.
The Bulls scored five first-inning runs with Leslie Anderson's two-run homer capping the outburst. Indianapolis starter Graham Godfrey was pulled after failing to record an out against the first four batters, exiting after Vince Belnome's two-RBI double. Anderson, who hadn't homered since Aug. 8, hit Brooks Brown's second pitch into the right-field seats.
Durham didn't have another hit until Cole Figueroa's two-out RBI single in the seventh.
The teams head to Indianapolis for the rest of the series.
In other action:
Red Sox 7, Red Wings 2
Brock Holt drove in two runs and scored two runs as Pawtucket evened the semifinal series at a game apiece.
Clay Buchholz, who has targeted next week for a return to Boston's rotation, threw 3 2/3 innings in a rehab outing for Pawtucket the day after his wife gave birth to the couple's second child. He didn't encounter trouble until giving up two runs in the fourth inning. He struck out five.
The rest of the series will take place in Pawtucket, R.I. Gameday box score »