Toledo, OH --- Jason Coats homered and matched a career high with four hits to lead the Durham Bulls past the Toledo Mud Hens 9-8 on Friday night at Fifth Third Field.
After the Tampa Bay Rays added Brendan McKay to their taxi squad Friday afternoon, Durham (49-31) turned to Aaron Slegers to start against the Mud Hens (35-44) to open the series instead of McKay, who had not absorbed a loss in over a calendar year. Slegers, making his first start since June 29th, worked 4 1/3 innings, permitting two runs in the first inning, then a two-run home run in the fifth, but gave the Bulls more length than expected.
Jake Cronenworth made his sixth professional pitching appearance, but his first when he started the game at shortstop. Cronenworth made a career-high 34 pitches over 1 1/3 innings. Cole Sulser, Luis Santos (W, 2-1) and Hoby Milner (S, 3) combined for the final 10 outs as the Bulls cobbled together enough pitching to earn the win.
Nathan Lukes, who entered the game as part of a double-switch in the sixth inning, made a spectacular leaping catch in right field to rob former Bulls outfielder Mikie Mahtook of a game-tying double, keeping Durham ahead 8-6.
In the ninth, Hoby Milner entered with the tying run aboard, allowed an infield single, but struck out Jacob Robson and induced a flyout to left to end the game.
Durham scored five times in the second for a 5-2 lead. Coats, who last collected four hits in 2016 with Charlotte, drilled an opposite-field home run to start the rally. With two outs, Durham strung together four successive hits after a walk to Kean Wong. Nick Solak singled, Nate Lowe golfed an RBI-single to right, Jake Smolinski doubled home a run, then Michael Perez stroked a two-run single.
In the fifth inning, Perez delivered a sacrifice fly, with Coats singling in a run, while Dalton Kelly capped the inning with a run-scoring hit to center. Kelly later homered in the seventh, his first career at the Triple-A level.
Durham continues its three-game series on Saturday night at 7:05 PM ET with Ryan Merritt (3-4, 6.70) opposing Ryan Carpenter (2-5, 5.63).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.