The Durham Bulls will play to be “three-peat” Governors’ Cup winners after sweeping the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Saturday to advance to the Triple-A International League championship series.
For a third straight year, the Bulls have ended the RailRiders’ season; the team Durham beat to win the Governers’ Cup Series in 2017 and 2018 fell in a 3-0 semifinal sweep at home in PNC Field in Mossnic, Pennsylvania.
The Bulls’ sweep was punctuated with an exclamation point on Saturday’s scorecard; Durham scored 17 runs to beat the Yankees affiliate, which could only put up 2 against a Bulls pitching staff that included last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, on a rehab stint for the Bulls’ parent-club Tampa Bay Rays.
With a regular season record of 75-64, the Bulls finished tied for second place in the International League South and beat the North Division-winning RailRiders as a wildcard berth. They will play the winner of a series between their South Division betters, the Gwinnett Stripers, and the Columbus Clippers, who won 81 games this season to top the International League West Division.
The Bulls have earned the opportunity to win the Governors’ Cup a third consecutive year, a feat that has been accomplished before in the history of the Cup and the International League title, which predated the Governers’ Cup (first awarded in 1933) as a pennant race without a series reaching back into the 1880s, according to Wikipedia. The first team to win the International League title three years in a row was the Rochester Bronchos in 1909-1911. One of the minor league Baltimore Orioles teams won a handful of consecutive International League titles back in the 1920s.
The Columbus Clippers won the Governors’ Cup three years in a row from 1979-81. The Bulls joined the International League in 1983.
The Bulls last won consecutive Governors’ Cup Championships in 2002 and 2003, defeating the Buffalo Bisons and Pawtucket Red Sox in those respective years, and finished the 2004 season at 77-67 for second place in the I.L. South.
The Bulls have won the 2002, 2003, 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2018 Governors’ Cup.