Durham Bulls claim Triple-A crown once again

OF Madris scores MVP honors after four-hit, four-RBI night

LAS VEGAS — Not even three weeks ago, Bligh Madris was DFA’d by the Pirates. On Sunday, he became an MVP in the Rays system.

The outfielder capped his four-hit, four-RBI night by doubling in the tying run in the Triple-A National Championship, powering Durham to a 10-6 victory over Reno. That earned Madris Most Valuable Player honors for the game.

“I was just fired up,” he said. “I just know I’m a quality player. I’m happy I was able to help the team win [on Sunday]and contribute to helping get to this point in the last couple of weeks.”

In front of at least 50 of his closest friends and family, the Las Vegas native singled to right field in the first inning, then ripped a double off the glove of Reno first baseman Seth Beer the following frame. The Bulls took a 4-0 lead in the second.

The Aces responded in the home half of the frame with an RBI single by Jose Herrera and a two-run homer off the bat of Alek Thomas. Beer tied the game with an RBI single and Herrera gave the club the lead on a run-scoring groundout in the third.

Solid bullpens on both sides kept the bats quiet for the next couple frames until Madris laced an RBI single to left to tie the game once again. But D-backs No. 19 prospect Dominic Canzone retook the lead for the Aces with a solo shot to right.

In the ninth, though, it was nothing but Bulls.

After Xavier Edwards and Josh Lowe started the frame with a pair of four-pitch walks, Madris stepped up to the plate, looking for a way to help his team. The left-handed hitter drilled an 0-1 offering off the right-field fence. Edwards stumbled after rounding third, but still managed to cross the plate.

“I didn’t get it too well, but I knew I had a chance,” Madris said. “I was just trying to play hard and just happy we scored.”

That opened the proverbial floodgates. René Pinto singled in a run and Tristan Gray mashed a three-run homer to cap a five-run frame. When Reno went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, Madris ended up catching the final out of the game — the perfect way to cap a special day for the 26-year-old.

On Sept. 16, the Rays claimed Madris off waivers and sent him to Triple-A. In 10 regular-season games with the Bulls, the 2017 Draft pick hit .317/.370/.683 with four homers and 15 RBIs to help the club shore up the East Division. On Saturday, Madris tallied two hits and four RBIs as Durham clinched its fourth International League title in five seasons.

“I’m glad that they DFA’d him,” Bulls manager Brady Williams said with a laugh. “He’s a really good player. And he’s gotten to showcase his talents with us. We welcomed him with open arms and he’s been a treat since he got in here.”

After delivering four hits and four RBIs for champion Durham, Bligh Madris is the Triple-A Championship Game MVP!@ANG_Recruiting | #ServeYourWay pic.twitter.com/eBSbiGijk9

Durham starter Taj Bradley did not factor into the game the way most expected. MLB’s No. 20 overall prospect gave up five runs in 2 1/3 frames. Saturday’s originally scheduled starter Yonny Chirinos relieved Bradley, retired the first 12 batters he faced, then worked around a pair of singles for 4 2/3 scoreless frames.

“Taj had really good stuff early,” Williams said. “It’s a really good team over there, they put together some good at-bats off him. But Chirinos came came in and kind of shut the door. He went almost five innings of shutout baseball, he allowed the offense to kind of gather themselves.

This is the Bulls’ third national championship in the past 12 iterations. They also posted the best winning percentage during the Triple-A Final Stretch in 2021 in lieu of a title game.

“It’s just a whole new journey ahead, a new chapter in my life, and I’m excited for it. And I mean, you can’t beat winning,” Madris said of joining the Rays organization. “They know how to win here, and I’m going to try and bring that winning attitude and help every team I’m on here win.”