Franklin, 'pen have Bulls eyeing repeat

Solo shot proves to be difference in Governors' Cup Finals Game 3

Nick Franklin is batting .417 with two homers in the playoffs for the Durham Bulls. (Ken Janceff/MiLB.com)

By Bob Sutton / Special to MiLB.com | September 12, 2014 12:11 AM

DURHAM, N.C. -- The Durham Bulls' bullpen hasn't self-destructed in the Governors' Cup Finals.

Relievers turned in more stellar work and Nick Franklin crushed a sixth-inning solo homer that proved to be the difference as the Triple-A Bulls pulled within one game of repeating as champions in the International League.

"I don't have easy moments," said reliever Josh Lueke, who stranded a runner at third base to end Thursday night's 4-3 Game 3 victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. "You have to keep fans in it until the end of games."

The PawSox hadn't scored in 17 innings against Durham's bullpen in the series until putting up an unearned run in the ninth.

"It's not that easy to keep getting zeros in pressure time," Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo said.

C.J. Riefenhauser threw two shutout innings in relief before Lueke worked the ninth.

"Everybody is contributing and really doing well," Riefenhauser said. "We really want to win and that has the team motivated."

Rays' No. 18 prospect Tim Beckham smacked a go-ahead, two-run double in the third. In addition to giving the Bulls a 4-2 lead with his second homer of the postseason, Franklin also collected his second double.

"Every run we score is going to be huge," Montoyo said. "That home run, I felt it was going to be huge."

That was the case because a third-strike passed ball and No. 4 Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini's one-out double in the ninth allowed the Red Sox to pull within a run.

"Give credit to Lueke. They got that run and now they have life," Montoyo said. "Lueke had to make pitches."

The Bulls' bullpen has been right on target.

"I have a lot of faith in our bullpen, especially this series," Franklin said. "When a relief pitcher comes in, I have a pretty good feeling."

Durham starter Matt Andriese spotted Pawtucket a 2-0 lead, but he retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. Only No. 19 Red Sox prospect Travis Shaw's two-out single in the sixth broke up that stretch. The right-hander left after six innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out eight and didn't walk any batters.

Since Bulls starters had only combined for 4 1/3 innings in the first two games, it was a much-desired outing from Andriese.

"It starts with Andriese," Montoyo said. "He battles to get to six, which was huge. It couldn't be any better than that."

The Bulls have won consecutive one-run games after losing the series opener -- also by one run.

"We have to find a way to score some runs against this pitching," Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said. "Those guys execute pitches and work ahead in the count."

Boston's No. 2 prospect Henry Owens was tagged with the loss after giving up three runs on three hits over four innings for Pawtucket.

With Nathan Karns, who threw a gem in Durham's semifinal clincher vs. the Columbus Clippers, scheduled to pitch for the parent Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night, the Bulls were forced to alter their rotation. Left-hander Mike Montgomery will pitch Game 4. Merrill Kelly, who worked in relief in Game 2, would go in the fifth game if necessary.

Fellow southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez, who was just called up from Double-A Portland, is scheduled to make the start for Pawtucket in Game 4.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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