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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh, to be a Bull again!

Posted by on Tue, May 26, 2009 at 11:36 AM

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="330" caption="Five recent Bulls helped the Rays implode last night."]Five recent Bulls helped the Rays collapse last night.[/caption]Somehow the injury- and promotion-depleted Bulls managed to win again yesterday at Rochester, 3-2. John Jaso, Ray Olmedo and Chris Richard all sat with minor injuries (at least, I assume they're minor) so the lineup was once again rather lite---although .634-OPSing Chris Nowak made the difference with an eighth-inning single. Still, the Bulls are going to need more production from the lower third of its order. Without it (i.e. if the injured Jaso and Richard don't return soon), they'll struggle to score enough runs to keep winning at the pace they've set so far this year.

It ought to be pointed out that Durham starter Carlos Hernandez wouldn't have needed Nowak's hit (and would have gotten credit for the victory) had he not made two throwing errors, each of which led to a Rochester run. He and Sunday's starter, Wade Davis, allowed no earned runs in their two starts, but all three they permitted came as a result of their own fielding mishaps. I'm all for consistency in the rulebook, and I know that's why a pitcher's own error holds him harmless against an earned run, but sometimes I wonder if the rule shouldn't be changed. Why isn't the skill to field his position considered part of a pitcher's basic responsibilities? If someone commits a crime and represents himself in court, we don't let him off the hook because he flubs his own defense (yes, there's probably something wrong with that analogy, but give it to me anyway).

Anyway, out of the courtroom and back to the field.

Hernandez went six innings. Dewon Day got the win for the Bulls, even though he walked two batters in an inning-plus. He also fanned two. Winston Abreu struck out four more Red Wings in his two innings to earn his sixth save.

The game was as notable for who didn't play in it as for who did. As you probably know, David Price was called up to start for Tampa last night in Cleveland. What you may not have heard is that sidearming, left-handed Bulls' reliever Randy Choate tagged along---sidearming, left-handed (and 39-year-old) Rays' reliever Brian Shouse was placed on the 15-day DL---and got into the game.

In fact, all five recently-promoted Bulls---Choate, Price, Reid Brignac, Jason Isringhausen and Dale Thayer---saw action last night, and all five of them may be wishing today that they hadn't, that instead they'd had unscrutinized fun as Bulls on the pasture of Rochester's Frontier Field, far from the madding crowd. Instead, they all wound up finding their way into the abattoir of Tampa's epic implosion at Jacob's Field, a disaster that called up thoughts of another unbelievable Indians comeback there. Yesterday's horrible loss may have been one of those automatic-win games (in the Buck Showalter Theorem) that the Rays somehow managed to squander.

David Price wasn't exactly bad, but he had the same relationship to pitches that Hummers have to gasoline, burning through his allocated 100 tosses in an astoundingly unecological 3 1/3 innings. According to manager Joe Maddon, Price's "stuff was good"; he struck out six, and the endearing, excitable, extremely intelligent folks over at DRaysBay have cool, esoteric charts and numbers that back Maddon up---they also note that the patient Indians helped shrink the umpire's head strike zone---but Price walked five and allowed a homer and a double in his stint on the mound, the brevity of which forced Maddon to start burning through pitchers the way a Hummer bur---never mind.

There's a reason that relievers are relievers: The vast majority of them aren't as good as starters. If you ask seven of them to keep getting hitters out for 5 2/3 innings, at least one of them is probably going to fail. Very, very occasionally, four of them will fail, and two of them will be just-promoted Durham Bulls. Dale Thayer allowed five hits and a walk while getting only four outs in the eighth and ninth innings, and Randy Choate came on in relief.

In Choate's defense, he did precisely what Joe Maddon wanted him to do, which was get a ground ball hit to an infielder. Unfortunately, that infielder was recent Bull Reid Brignac (that's rb RB if you're scoring at home), and he turned the potential double-play ball into a run-scoring throwing error, his ninth of the season. Choate, the poor schlmazel, came out of the game, but he did manage to prolong his streak of not retiring a major-league hitter since 2006. 2008 Bull Grant Balfour replaced Choate, gave up a homer, and then was lifted after a walk; Jason Isringhausen got confused by the preceding demonstration and thought "Balfour" was also the name of a game he was supposed to play, and he walked three more hitters in a row (!) before coming to his senses and letting Victor Martinez win the game for Cleveland with an old-fashioned two-run single.

Ugh. Ugly.

Also, in re Isringhausen: I kind of told you so, not because I am psychic (although I am) but because I used to own a 31-year-old pickup truck and I know what they do on the road. And Isringhausen is 36.

A week from now, the ingredients in the Bulls/Rays solution will probably have changed again, and if the injuries to Jaso, Olmedo or Richard are serious, those changes will be even less predictable than they have been so far. In any case, don't look for Brignac to come back soon unless Tampa makes a trade for an established major-leaguer: Akinori Iwamura's injury did indeed turn out to be awful---a torn ACL---and he's done for the season. (Remember Adam Kennedy? He's batting .441 for Oakland. I'm just saying.)

Meanwhile, the ImprobaBul---no, no, I promised myself I wouldn't succumb to that---the Bulls look to find a way to win again tonight at Rochester, and they're betting the Houser. Matt Hall, who played one game for Durham earlier this season before heading down to Montgomery, has been added back onto the roster. Perhaps he'll see action. Speaking of Halls, if you happen to be at Frontier Field tonight, don't miss Harmon Killebrew. The Hall-of-Fame slugger will be signing autographs there before the game.

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