RBC CENTER/ RALEIGH—Tonight, there was really only pride on the line. The last time a team came back from a 3-0 series deficit was in 1975, and that squad had it easy – no Malkin or Crosby. The ‘Canes played like a team that didn’t want to be swept, but as Maurice said, “it was that kind of night.”
Eric Staal’s scoring slump has been one of the major reasons the Hurricanes found themselves in trouble, but it didn’t make a difference tonight. Staal put the ‘Canes on the board a minute and a half into the game when he wrapped the puck around and poked it past Fleury’s skate. Before then, the ‘Canes were 6-0 when Staal scored a goal.
Fernando Perez wrote an entertaining post on The New York Times blog about batters choosing their music to accompany their walk to the plate. Who knew Perez loved the theme from The Price Is Right? Or that Evan Longoria favored "Down and Out" by Tantric?
Here are some Indy suggestions:
Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" for the Rays' Carlos Peña, who ranks No. 2 in the AL with 35 walks this season.
Metallica's "Enter Sandman" for San Diego's Brian Giles, who is batting .175.
Outkast's "The Way You Move" for the Rays' Carl Crawford, Major League Baseball's leader in stolen bases with 29.
Buffalo Springfield's "Expecting to Fly" for right fielder Jeff Francoeur of Atlanta, who has 85 put-outs and no errors.
Neko Case's "The Needle Has Landed," to the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez. No explanation necessary.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="330" caption="Five recent Bulls helped the Rays implode 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.
Thanks, Dave. It's been real. Good luck in Cleveland tonight. Press release here.
The Bulls beat Lehigh Valley, 6-2, at Coca-Cola Field yesterday to take three of four from the IronPigs this weekend. That was also the score of the Bulls' win in the first game of the series, so the Bulls must be sleeping well in their motel rooms in Rochester, NY, content with their symmetrical victory. The Bulls play the Red Wings less than twelve hours from now in a Memorial Day afternoon tilt. Carlos Hernandez, coming off his best start of the year, takes the mound for Durham. If the Red Wings' rotation hasn't changed, the Bulls' hitters will enjoy seeing Jason Jones again today. They teed off on him last Tuesday afternoon at the DBAP.
It's remarkable that the Bulls put up six runs against Lehigh Valley yesterday. With Reid Brignac up in Tampa (more on that below) and Chris Richard getting a much-needed day off---one assumes it was scheduled and not injury-related---Durham fielded perhaps its lightest-hitting lineup. The 6-9 hitters are now hitting a combined .216 with a collective OBP under .300 and a combined SLG of .324.
So Charlie Montoyo needed a couple of his boppers to show up, and they did. Justin Ruggiano---OK, we'll call him the Roodge today, despite two more strikeouts---hit a solo home run, and Jon Weber added a three-run job in the top of the ninth to put it away and secure Wade Davis's fifth win. Davis pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed only a single unearned run, although it came via his own error on a pickoff throw. He struck out two and walked two while lowering his ERA to 2.66. Relievers Randy Choate and Joe Bateman decided to make things interesting in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with no outs, but despite walking two batters Bateman wriggled out of the jam with just one run scoring.
Newly-acquired infielder Henry Mateo played shortstop and batted second, just as Brignac had been doing before his promotion. Mateo went 0-5 with three strikeouts. Ray Sadler whiffed three times, too. The Bulls fanned 12 times.
Perhaps the biggest Bulls news today came from Florida. Tampa second baseman Akinori Iwamura suffered an apparently severe knee injury when he was taken out by a hard slide while trying to turn a double play against the Marlins. If Iwamura is gone for a while, which seems almost certain, then Brignac will probably stay in Tampa as a reserve infielder unless the Rays decide to go out and get a veteran (do you think they wish they hadn't traded Adam Kennedy?). Brignac had been keeping Pat Burrell's place warm, but with Iwamura out, another Bull may get promoted---probably Matt Joyce or Ruggiano. That promotion, unlike Brignac's, should be a very short one unless yet another Ray is injured. In any case, look for more changes soon in Durham.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="244" caption="From Bluefish to Bull: Henry Mateo was signed for today's game"][/caption]Somewhere around the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Allentown, PA, Chris Richard must have heard that Shelley Duncan had hit two more homers for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, raising his league-leading total to 14. Richard may also have been informed that the Bulls, playing by then in a patchwork state of astounding lineup weirdness, were trailing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs by a run. He may even have asked what an IronPig is, and received in return from his teammates blank and helpless stares.
So Richard stepped to the plate after Joe Dillon was hit by a pitch and hit a two-run homer to give Durham a 5-4 win. Richard's homer was his 11th of the season. It was the Bulls' eighth win in their last 11 games.
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH—Home ice didn’t turn out quite the advantage the Hurricanes were hoping for, as they slid into a nearly insurmountable 3-0 series deficit. The Penguins exposed some wide and worrisome holes in the ‘Canes’ defense, easily outplaying the home team en route to a 6-2 win.
Bates Battaglia manned the storm siren at the beginning of the game, which was a nice touch, and Hockey Night in Canada host Don Cherry, an icon north of the border, could be seen down on the ice in the pregame flanked by Storm Squaders. There was an unnerving amount of black and gold in the audience and a few Terrible Towels could be seen twirling around amongst the white ones given out at the door, and those Pittsburgh fans – whether they are season ticket holders biding their time during the regular season or casual patrons that snapped up the tickets as soon as the match-up was decided – had plenty to cheer about tonight.
“We don’t need to be perfect [to beat this team] – we just need to be better,” Eric Staal said in the postgame. “We’re a very good team. We didn’t get this far for no reason, and we didn’t get this far because we’re not good. We haven’t played as well as we can.”
Other than Chris Richard's three-run home run, his 10th---he now has the second most in the International League---the Bulls hitters couldn't do much tonight, and Mitch Talbot got roughed up in a 5-3 loss at Lehigh Valley. Talbot permitted thirteen baserunners in five innings, and was probably fortunate that only a third of them scored. Ten IronPigs were left stranded, and not even Eumaeus could bring them home (there, I'm a book critic).
With Reid Brignac gone to Tampa, Ray Olmedo played shortstop, and Joe Dillon took over at second base, a position he had previously played in 62 games over 12 seasons in professional ball. Close enough, I guess. It's probable that a Biscuit will rise from Montgomery to Durham soon.
Meanwhile, in Tampa tonight, Dale Thayer got his first major-league save in his inaugural appearance. Thayer pitched three innings in relief of Andy Sonnanstine, and allowed a meaningless ninth-inning run in the Rays' 15-2 rout of their Citrus Series rivals, the Florida Marlins. The official scorer gave Thayer a judgment-call save, which is permitted by league rules if the reliever pitches at least three innings, finishes the game, and is effective in the scorer's eyes. Thayer even got an at-bat, grounding out to the pitcher to end the top of the ninth. He didn't strike anyone out and gave up too many fly balls, but still, three good innings are three good innings.
Brignac came into the game at shortstop when manager Joe Maddon cleared the benches late, and went 1-2 with a single and a run scored.
Although both newly-minted Rays did well tonight, there's every reason to think they'll be back in Durham soon enough once everything gets sorted out in Tampa (and particularly, in Brignac's case, when interleague play ends). Nonetheless, it was nice to see them do well immediately after their call-ups.
When will they be sent down again? The answer to that question got muddied today.
This just in: Bulls' shortstop Reid Brignac and reliever Dale Thayer have been promoted to Tampa. These aren't the two players I might have guessed. The Rays' starting pitching has lately been, other than Matt Garza, awful, and Wade Davis seemed to be the likely candidate to move up with Andy Sonnanstine coming down to Durham (David Price's workload is still too heavily restricted for major-league action). Instead, Tampa chose bullpen help--a bit of a surprise, since Jason Isringhausen was just brought up from Durham--providing at least a circumstantial answer to the question I asked not long ago, "What does Dale Thayer have to do to get called up?" Answer: keep pitching well, and wait.
With interleague play approaching, Tampa may have decided to stock an extra position player to accommodate the increase in in-game substitutions. I might have guessed that the Rays' would call up Matt Joyce, who has been raking for Durham, but apparently an infielder was what Tampa wanted. The 23-year-old Brignac will probably be back in Durham soon, unless there's an injury--or, less probably, a trade--we don't know about yet.
More on compensatory roster moves as we catch wind of them. And by the way, none is necessary to replace Isringhausen: League rules allow a team to carry a rehabbing player without adding him to the roster.
Near the end of my last post I suggested that James Houser (pictured, left) was under a bit of pressure to rebound from his last start, in which he was thrashed by Louisville. He was also taking the hill after a string of four straight sterling starts (that was alliteration: there, I'm a book critic) by his cohort in the Durham Bulls rotation.
Result? Houser threw four no-hit innings to start off the Bulls' 6-2 win at Lehigh Valley. The IronPigs play in Allentown, PA, that Billy Joel-famous Rust Belt town that is apparently still so diffident that it prefers to call its baseball team by another name.