Charlie Montoyo knew the Durham Bulls would need at least one more run if they wanted to play again Friday night.
"I knew two wasn't enough against this club," he said. "And it turned out that way."
Leslie Anderson's based-loaded sacrifice fly scored Elliot Johnson in the bottom of the ninth inning as Triple-A Durham avoided elimination with a 3-2 walk-off win over Columbus in Game 3 of the Governors' Cup Finals on Thursday.
Anderson's line drive to center field was just deep enough to let the speedy Johnson race home, avoiding catcher Luke Carlin in a play at the plate for the winning run on a night where the Bulls managed just four hits.
"It's a good thing we had such a fast runner. That wasn't a sure thing at third, so that was huge," Montoyo said of Johnson, a Rays infield prospect who stole 30 bases during the regular season.
Anderson worked a leadoff walk in the ninth against Josh Judy, who came on to pitch the frame in relief of starter Yohan Pino. Justin Ruggiano, who hit a grand slam in Game 1, reached for a pitch and blooped a single into right to advance Johnson to third. The Clippers intentionally walked Chris Richard to face Anderson, who then delivered the 16th walk-off win for Durham this season.
"It was a line drive, he had to jump a little bit to catch it, so I think that helped," Montoyo said. "Not many guys would have scored on that ball, we were lucky."
"I would just like to thank god for giving me the extraordinary ability to do this," Anderson said after the game through translator and teammate, Fernando Perez. "I really like [the playoffs]."
The Clippers were eying a sweep of the best-of-5 Championship Series after two convincing wins in Columbus. After falling behind by two runs early, the Clippers tied the contest in the eighth when Wes Hodges hit an RBI single to plate Cord Phelps with one out. Hodges' one-out homer to left in the sixth off R.J. Swindle was the Clippers' only other run.
The Bulls, held in check themselves, finally managed to quiet the Columbus bats for much of the evening. Starter Alex Cobb grinded through four innings, allowing three hits and throwing about 80 pitches before being pulled due to a blister on his pitching hand.
"He made a big pitch every time he had to," Montoyo said.
Swindle and Joe Bateman each allowed a run in two innings of work before Winston Abreu struck out the side in a scoreless ninth.
"The bullpen is one of the reasons we're here. They pitched well, they've been key for this club to battle all year," said Montoyo. "They've done it all year."
Durham took a 2-0 lead in the fifth when Rashad Eldridge hit an RBI single and scored on Perez's sacrifice fly. Pino escaped the inning and then retired the next nine batters before stepping aside in the ninth.
After Johnson walked -- the Bulls' first base-runner since the fifth -- Montoyo said he never considered having him steal or bunted over.
"I haven't bunted all year with Ruggiano, so I wasn't going to change that," he said. "I was hoping Ruggiano would hit a double. It worked out petty good."
Montoyo said his team returned home relaxed and optimistic despite facing elimination in Game 3.
"We've got a good group of guys. They're relaxed, they're having fun. They know we had a good year, they know it's great whatever happens," he said. "They're having fun on the bench."
Montoyo, who managed in the Triple-A All-Star Game in July, did acknowledge the team has slumped a bit at the plate, despite the good clubhouse vibes.
"They're all struggling at the same time," he said. "The pitching was outstanding today. That's a tough club over there, they battle hard."
Pino held Durham to two runs -- one earned -- on three hits over eight frames. The Indians right-hander struck out two and walked one.
"He pitched a great game," Montoyo said. "He's hot. He threw strikes, got our hitters off balance."
The Bulls weren't as familiar with Judy.
"I don't really know him, but I knew we had to score," Montoyo said. "They had the top of the lineup coming up. So that was huge for us to score, and it saved Abreu for another day."
The next day will be Friday, when Durham's Paul Phillips (1-0, 1.69 ERA) opposes Paolo Espino (3-3, 5.62 ERA) in another must-win situation. Montoyo said his team will approach it the same way, regardless of perceived momentum swings.
"They're going to go out the same way, relaxed," he said. "They'll have fun. I know they're relaxed, they had a good year."
The Bulls mobbed Anderson and Johnson after the game in a pile that made its way around the infield. Could Durham have a little more magic left?
"You hope so, but you never know in this game. That's why we like it," Montoyo said.