MOOSIC — It wasn’t so much the pair of two-run homers that upset Bobby Mitchell.
It was more the fact that on each occasion the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders pitcher who gave up the home run walked the batter in the plate appearance leading up to each blast.
Nestor Cortes walked Durham Bulls second baseman Kean Wong to start the game. Rob Refsnyder took him deep in the next at-bat. Then in the ninth inning, Brandon Snyder drew a lead-off walk the batter before Nate Lowe put the RailRiders away for good with his two-run blast off Cale Coshow.
Those two-run homers and an RBI infield single from Jake Cronenworth proved to be the difference as the Bulls tied up the Governors’ Cup Finals, 1-1, with a 5-2 win over the RailRiders on Wednesday.
“I don’t care if a guy gets a hit that much, to lead off the inning or whatever, if you’re throwing strikes. It’s the walks that kill you,” Mitchell said. “I’m pretty sure that (Durham starting pitcher Austin Pruitt) didn’t walk too many. He walked one, and that’s exactly why he wasn’t giving up runs.”
Cortes sentiments echoed Mitchell’s after the game.
The talented southpaw worked Wong into an 0-2 count before the second baseman battled back to earn a base on balls. Cortes walked two more batters the rest of the game, but neither of them did damage as he threw six innings of two-run baseball, striking out six batters.
“I think I got him 0-2 and he battled back,” Cortes said of the Wong at-bat. “I mean, it was a great at-bat. It’s not something I like to do to start off the game, but it’s part of baseball.”
Refsnyder is back in familiar territory this week.
Even though he wore Durham’s road blue uniforms both Tuesday and Wednesday, the former RailRider was back in a place he spent parts of each of the last four seasons. Refsnyder was traded from the New York Yankees — just a few days after being designated for assignment while a member of the RailRiders — to the Toronto Blue Jays in July 2017.
The Durham outfielder homered for the second straight game, and his first-inning, two-run shot would be all the Bulls would need.
“Yeah, it’s cool. Scranton, a lot of memories here,” Refsnyder said. “The Yankees organization gave me the opportunity to fill one of my dreams. I’m super grateful for the time. It’s been fun.”
Refsnyder and Cortes had quite the dual to end the third inning.
The former RailRiders battled for 17 pitches before striking out against Cortes. Refsnyder even fouled off 11 straight pitches.
“I made good pitches and he was just fouling off everything,” Cortes said. “I threw him everything I had. I didn’t want to walk him. Was throwing everything over the plate and he was battling with me. Just a good battle.”
Now that the best-of-five series is all tied up, the RailRiders will lean on their ace, Mike King, on Thursday.
The 23-year-old right-hander has been the best pitcher in the International League since he was called up from Double-A Trenton on Aug. 4. In that time, King has yet to give up more than two runs in an outing and every start has gone at least six innings.
“Yeah, I like that. I like our chances,” Mitchell said of King starting. “If we get some runs, I think we have a real good chance. I think whoever wins tomorrow is in the driver’s seat a little bit.”
Chance Adams is back in the bigs.
After an impressive stretch out of the bullpen for the RailRiders, the Yankees recalled the 23-year-old right-hander on Wednesday. In 7.1 innings out of the bullpen for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Adams sported a 1.27 ERA with seven strikeouts and a save.
“He went up there and started, obviously. I think, just by watching him, that he looks comfortable in what he’s doing here,” Mitchell said. “If he can just go and get after it like a reliever and instead of a starter, he can hopefully be productive for them.”
Left-handed reliever Phillip Diehl was promoted from Trenton as the corresponding move. Diehl had an 0-1 record and 1.35 ERA in 14 appearances with the Thunder.
McCarthy goes 0-for-4
Scranton alum Joe McCarthy struck out twice in four at-bats.
The Durham left fielder failed to collect a hit on Wednesday after singling and working a walk the day prior.
“I don’t want to call today a must-win, but it definitely was,” McCarthy said. “You don’t want to go down 2-0 against a team like the (RailRiders) with the arms and the bats, but we played our style of baseball today and were able to tie it up.”
GOVERNORS’ CUP FINALS
Game 2 (Tied 1-1)
Bulls 5, RailRiders 2
LOB: Bulls 4, RailRiders 4; 2B: Urshela 2 (2), Castillo (1); 3B: Coats (1); HR: Lowe (1), Refsnyder (2), Ford (1); SB: Cronenworth (1), Wong (1); CS: Wong (1).
Durham`200`000`102 — 5
RailRiders`000`000`002 — 2
Pruitt (W, 1-0)`6`3`0`0`1`5
Poche (S, 1)`3`2`2`2`0`4
Cortes (L, 0-1)`6`2`2`2`3`6
Umpires: Dan Merzel, HP; Jeremy Riggs, 1B; Alex Tosi, 2B; John Bacon, 3B.
Time: 2:10 (0:17 delay); Attendance: 1,743.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle