The Durham Bulls are walking that fine line of winning for the local fans and player development for the big-league Tampa Bay Rays as they hope to hoist the Governors’ Cup.
They were one out from the winning part of the balancing act before Pawtucket pushed across a run in the top of the ninth and tied the game 2-2. That forced extra innings in Game 4 of the Cup series representative of the International League championship before 4,621 fans Friday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The PawSox won 4-2 in 13th innings after catcher Devon Marrero led off with a single and Ivan DeJuses stroked a two-out, two-run homer deep to left-center field.
The decisive Game 5 is 7 p.m. Saturday night at DBAP.
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As for the player development, switch-hitting second baseman Nick Franklin is taking advantage of a trade that brought him to the Tampa Bay organization and is having an MVP-like postseason that has him positioned to contend at spring training for a promotion to the Major Leagues.
Tampa assigned Franklin, 23, to Durham after a trade on July 31 with the Seattle organization as part of a three-team deal that sent David Price to Detroit. Franklin, a first-round draft pick in 2009 out of Lake Brantley High in Almonte Springs, Fla., has been hitting .400 in the post-season.
He welcomed the trade since his position became blocked at Seattle by the Mariners’ free-agent acquisition of Robinson Cano, 31, a six-time All-Star.
“There was no place for me to go,” Franklin said. “For me, it was the best thing that could happen to me. I’m happy with the move and very pleased with the organization.”
He entered Friday night's contest with a .417 batting post-season average and was 2-of-6 with a run scored.
Franklin was batting .294 in 70 games at Tacoma, but he slumped to .210 in in Durham. He was 7 of 45 (.156) before he found his swing and finished the regular season 14 of 55 (.272).
“There has been an adjustment period, and I think I’ve taken it pretty well,” Franklin said. “I’ve adapted to the new teammates and the new staff. I’m happy with this organization and looking forward to moving ahead.”
Pawtucket opened the game with a run in the top of the first, but Durham gained a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
Shortstop Tim Beckham walked, advanced to second on Franklin’s single and scored on designated-hitter Mike Fontenot’s single. Franklin scored the go-ahead run on a double by catcher Luke Maile.
The lead stood until Pawtucket squeezed across a run in the ninth on a leadoff walk and two singles.
The Bulls had a chance to win in the 10th, but Cole Figuera was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on a single to left by Mikie Mahtook.
As International League champions, the Bulls will face the Omaha-Reno series winner for the Pacific Coast League title. The teams meet in a one-game Triple A championship Tuesday in Charlotte.