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International League Finals preview

Defending-champion PawSox battle Bulls for Governors' Cup
September 10, 2013

DURHAM, N.C. -- Bulls shortstop Tim Beckham made steady gains in his production over the final two months of the season but doesn't feel he needs to punctuate that in the International League Governors' Cup Finals.

"I'm not looking for an exclamation point," said Beckham, the top overall pick in the 2008 Draft.

Just more solid at-bats and a steady influence in the field would suit Beckham fine when the best-of-5 Championship Series begins Tuesday night against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Pawtucket Red Sox (80-63, North Division champion) vs.
Durham Bulls (87-57, South Division champion)

How they got here: Durham swept Indianapolis in three games and Pawtucket defeated Rochester in five in the International League semifinals.

Pawtucket won the season series, 5-3

Game 1 at Durham, Sept. 10 at 7:05 p.m. ET Watch on MiLB.TV
Game 2 at Durham, Sept. 11 at 7:05 p.m. ET Watch on MiLB.TV
Game 3 at Pawtucket, Sept. 13 at 7:05 p.m. ET Watch on MiLB.TV
Game 4 at Pawtucket (if necessary), Sept. 14 at 6:05 p.m. ET Watch on MiLB.TV
Game 5 at Pawtucket (if necessary), Sept. 15 at 1:05 p.m. ET Watch on MiLB.TV

Beckham had one of the few strong offensive performances for the Bulls in the semifinals, going 5-for-13 (.385) in a three-game sweep of the Indianapolis Indians.

"He's looking more and more like a big leaguer," said Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo. "He has progressed so much. He's becoming a complete player. He's just taking a little bit longer than other guys, but that's OK.

"Even the ball sounds different off his bat."

Beckham saw the sweep as just the beginning of what could be an exciting playoffs for the Rays affiliate.

"We're going to build off this," the 23-year-old said. "We're in it to win it."

Pawtucket, the reigning Governors' Cup champion, begins its quest for back-to-back titles on the road at the same site where its season ended a year ago in the Triple-A National Championship Game against Reno of the Pacific Coast League.

The Sox won 19 of their final 23 regular-season games but needed all five games to repel Rochester in the first round. 

"We're not going to be intimidated, obviously," Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina told after the semifinal clincher. "For us to be successful, we have to play our game, play aggressively and let it all hang out like we did here against Rochester."

Durham is keeping its first two starters in place from the semifinal round with right-handers Jake Odorizzi, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 against Indianapolis, and J.D. Martin, the IL Pitcher of the Year, throwing in the two home games. Matt Buschmann, Merrill Kelly and Mike Montgomery are slated to fill out the rest of the Bulls' rotation.

Pawtucket counters with righty Anthony Ranaudo (3-1, 2.97 ERA) in Game 1. The No. 6 Red Sox prospect took the loss in Game 1 against Rochester after giving up four runs on seven hits in just two innings. Steven Wright, Matt Barnes and Charlie Haeger are expected to take the hill in the next three contests with a Game 5 starter to be determined, if necessary.

Pawtucket won five of eight meetings with Durham during the regular season. But in a May 5 game, four Bulls pitchers -- led by Odorizzi -- combined on a no-hitter at Pawtucket. It was different in Durham as the Red Sox took three of four and scored a total of 31 runs across the final three games of the series.

"Nothing from before really matters," Montoyo said, noting roster adjustments for both teams. "It's about these teams right now."

The Bulls clinched a spot in the Finals on Friday night and held optional workouts Sunday and Monday. Outfielder Brandon Guyer, who had been on a Major League rehab assignment with the Bulls for a broken finger and then missed the semifinals because of back spasms, took batting practice for the first time in nearly a week Monday and could be added to the playoff roster.

"We're here, might as well get it done," Bulls first baseman Vince Belnome said. "Four more games, that's all we've got to win."

The IL winner faces the Pacific Coast League champion for the Triple-A title Sept. 17 in Allentown, Pa.

In brief

Right at home: Durham, which hosts the first two games of the Finals starting tonight, were the IL's most dominant home team during the regular season, finishing 48-24 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park before reaching the 50-win plateau in the semifinals.

Join the clubs: Pawtucket is trying to become the fourth IL franchise since 2002 to repeat as champions, following Durham (2002-03), Toledo (2005-06) and Columbus (2010-11).

Bob Sutton is a contributor to