MOOSIC — There was one word that frequently popped up as Bobby Mitchell described the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ 3-0 loss to the Durham Bulls Thursday night: Frustrated. A second? Frustration.
The RailRiders struck out looking five times, with three in the top of the third inning. They only got a baserunner past second twice, both times failing to score. And thye saw their ace, Mike King, struggle in the first two innings as the Bulls jumped out to an early, and decisive, three-run deficit.
All of this culminated with the RailRiders reaching the brink of elimination.
When they take the field on Friday, Durham will sport a 2-1 Governors’ Cup Finals lead and will only need one more victory to punch their ticket back to a second straight Triple-A National Championship Game.
“We look a little frustrated at the plate,” Mitchell said. “When you get frustrated, it kind of effects your at-bats. But they’ve been able to frustrate us. They’ve pitched well and we’ve gotten out of our game during the at-bats. Hard to tell exactly — a lot of called third strikes tonight. I don’t know. That’s kind of different than we’re used to.
“You’re thinking about so many other things besides seeing the ball and hitting it, you know, you run into problems. It looks like that’s where the frustration’s setting in.”
The RailRiders looked close to pouncing twice on Durham pitching — once in the sixth inning and once in the seventh.
Mark Payton and Bruce Caldwell hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners for the red-hot Gio Urshela. But Urshela, who is batting .289 in his last 10 games, grounded into a double play to end both the threat and the inning.
Then in the seventh, with Mike Ford standing on first base after a one-out single two batters earlier, Shane Robinson laced a double to deep left field. Looking for a spark, Mitchell sent Ford home from first base. But Durham Bulls left fielder and Scranton High School alum Joe McCarthy made a nice relay throw to the shortstop, Jake Cronenworth, who threw Ford out at the plate to end the inning.
That was the last time the RailRiders got a runner past second base.
“I think that’s part of the frustration — we fall behind and start to press a little at the at-bats,” Mitchell said. “I think the sixth-inning double play was huge. When we didn’t score at all, that was huge. Trying to create some momentum going either in that inning or the rest of the game.
“Kind of took the air right out of us, the balloon, because we had a good chance at scoring, especially with Gio up and we weren’t able to do it.”
Durham starter Chih-Wei Hu was particularly deceptive against the RailRiders.
In his six scoreless innings, the right-hander picked up six strikeouts while giving up six hits. He didn’t walk a batter.
Hu’s outing left Ryan McBroom and the rest of the RailRiders looking for answers. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre first baseman was 0-for-3 against Hu with a pair of strikeouts, including one looking in the fourth inning that capped off a run of four of five RailRiders that struck out looking against the right-hander.
“You go through ups and downs during the season and that’s just the way goes,” McBroom said. “They’re making great pitches and we’re not finding holes. That’s just the bottom line.”
This was the first time King had a hiccup as a starter since reaching Triple-A.
The 23-year-old right-hander gave up three runs — all in the first two innings — for the first time with the RailRiders. But even though he faced some adversity, he was still able out give them seven innings.
King hasn’t had a start shorter than six innings since May.
“Yeah, you have to give the team a chance to win, but three runs isn’t, in my opinion, a quality start to give my team a win,” King said. “We were talking about it in this whole playoffs for us, the losing team has not scored more than two runs. So me giving up three in the first two (innings) is not a good recipe for success. It was a little frustrating, but it definitely felt good to settle in.”
McCarthy had a big night at the plate and made some noise in left field for the Bulls.
McCarthy laced a one-out double to the wall in dead center in the sixth inning to highlight a 1-for-4 night at the plate. He also picked up an outfield assist from left field.
GOVERNORS’ CUP FINALS
Game 3 (Durham leads 2-1)
Bulls 3, RailRiders 0
E: McBroom (1); PB: Diaz (1); Outfield assists: McCarthy (Ford at HP); DP: RailRiders 1, Bulls 1; LOB: RailRIders 5, Bulls 7; 2B: Robinson (1), Zehner (1), Cronenworth (1), McCarthy (1); HR: Snyder (1).
RailRiders`000`000`000 — 0
Durham`120`000`000 — 3
Hu (W, 1-0)`7`6`0`0`0`0`6
Bird (S, 1)`2`1`0`0`0`2
Umpires: Jeremy Riggs, HP; Alex Tosi, 1B; John Bacon, 2B; Dan Merzel, 3B.
Time: 2:14; Attendance: 1,775.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle