VERSUS/TV—Cam Ward, who has become almost expected to backstop the ‘Canes to victory after each loss, was lit up for six goals and the ‘Canes went down in flames, 7-4, in Game 2. Each of the upcoming games in Raleigh on Saturday and Tuesday are now must-wins, as a loss would put the ‘Canes on the brink.
Carolina picked up the pace in both previous Game 2’s, which were both preceded by blowouts. Perhaps fans should have wished for a 8-1 rout in Game 1, because in the latter two periods, it seemed the ‘Canes’ hearts weren’t in it. After climbing back twice and even pulling ahead in the first period, the Hurricanes were outscored 5-1 over the latter two periods.
He’s hardly the reason the ‘Canes lost, but I’m going to call out Eric Staal anyway. He is not being covered as hard or as well as he was during the Boston series, yet the perennial playoff workhorse has one point in two games and no goals in five. After rocking the first round and a half and climbing the scoring charts with nine goals, Staal looks to have shifted into autopilot. The ‘Canes need him to score badly in order to have a chance of climbing out of this 2-0 hole. No pressure or anything.
Finally, some news regarding Carolina’s two hard-hitting wingers. Both players were injured during Game 1, with Ruutu hitting the ice hard after his legs were tangled up just over two minutes into the first period and Cole suffering a knee-on-knee collision in front of his own net in the third. Both were pegged with "lower body injuries" and didn't return.
Paul Maurice told the press that Cole and Ruutu would be game time decisions for Game 2 in Pittsburgh, but GM Jim Rutherford was a bit more forthcoming.
"It's not likely (Ruutu and Cole) will play (on Thursday)," Rutherford told NHL.com Wednesday. "Definitely not Ruutu; Cole's probably a little better than Ruutu, but whatever the case may be, we do have some time left before Game 2, so we'll have to see."
Cole has been known to tough it out, ill-advised as it may be, so we may yet see him on the ice tomorrow night. Neither player has contributed offensively with regularity this postseason – Ruutu has four points and Cole has three with one goal between them. However, Carolina just potentially lost both of its top hitters.
The lines will be scrambled tomorrow night, for certain – here's NHL.com's breakdown. There may be a few new faces in the line-up with Michael Ryan, Dwight Helminen or (gasp!) Brandon Sutter potentially making their playoff debuts.
When the Bulls arrived home on May 12th after a 3-3 road trip to Charlotte and Gwinnett, their record stood at 18-14. That left them just behind Norfolk for the International League South Division lead, but manager Charlie Montoyo's (pictured, left) team had gone just 12-14 since starting the season 6-0. They looked like a team that could go either way. The southpaw phenom David Price had been erratic, and his righty counterpart Wade Davis was having some control issues. The bullpen was superb but so overworked that fatigue threatened to catch up to them later. The hitting was decent but not exciting, much like the team's record: The Bulls kept splitting series---one up, one down, one up, one down.
In their first game back at home, the normally reliable closer Dale Thayer gagged on a four-run, ninth-inning lead (with help from a fielding error) and handed the Louisville Bats a 7-6 win. The next night, Carlos Hernandez put the Bulls in a 5-0 hole early, and although the Bulls surged back to win the game, 11-6, you couldn't help but continue to wonder what sort of ball club this really was.
Mudcats' right-hander Justin Mallett shined on the mound Monday night, despite his team's loss to Jacksonville in the second game of a doubleheader. He looked confident over five innings, striking out six and walking just two. He also proved he has excellent reflexes—or survival instincts—snagging a sharp line drive drilled back to the mound.
Apparently the Reds' brass noticed, and now Mallett is headed upstairs to the Triple-A Louisville Bats, where he was assigned to begin this season. (Question for the Reds: How about giving a break to center fielder and leadoff batter Chris Heisey, the Southern League's No. 2 hitter?)
However right-hander Misael DeJesus has struggled this season, posting a 9.85 ERA over seven starts, walking an average of almost one batter per inning (26 walks in 28 1/3 innings). He's been reassigned to Sarasota, the High-A team in the Florida State League, for some woodshedding.
While you're filling out your scorecards, note there will be a new Mudcat on the mound Friday night against Chattanooga: Right-hander Zack Stewart, who's being promoted from Sarasota. A Texas Tech grad, he was the Reds' third-round pick in last year's draft and ranked as Cincinnati's 15th best prospect by Baseball America. Stewart is 1-1 with an ERA of 2.13.
I blame physics. Or meteorology. Or both. The Carolina Mudcats pounded the hell out of the ball Monday night, pummeling it down the first and third base lines, nailing line drives into fielders’ gloves that seemed to smoke from the friction, powering it deep into the warning track. But only one of the five hits sailed out of the park—Sean Henry’s homer in the bottom of the second—as the ball met some unseen force that felled it as if someone had shot it at skeet practice.
The result of the invisible hand of physics: A 4-1 loss to the Jacksonville Suns in the second game of a doubleheader that lasted past 11 p.m. (Here's the box score.)
[Pictured: Pitcher Federico Baez, who was promoted to Triple-A Louisville.]
The folks in the press box debated whether it was the wind blowing into the park. Nope, the breeze was too gentle. I’ve sneezed with greater force. The dry, 52-degree air: Is it heavier or lighter than humid air? And if it’s heavier, then the weather’s the culprit and everyone knows there’s not a thing anyone can do about the weather except talk about it. A Google search ensued. One of the media folks who had experience as a chemical engineer noted that nitrogen in dry air is heavier than water vapor in humid air. Voila! Dry air is denser; it robbed the ball of some of its lift. It was the weather.
Or just as likely, it was the Mudcats’ bullpen.
Right-hander Justin Mallett entered the game at an unimpressive 0-2, but stymied the Suns in five impressive innings. He threw just 72 pitches, striking out the side in the top of the second for a total of six strikeouts and two walks and three hits.
Reliever Ruben Medina held his own in the sixth, but allowed the tying run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh—ostensibly the last inning of the game. (Doubleheaders are shortened.) The beer taps had been turned off, a sure way to end a party. The stands, already sparsely populated because of the cold and the fact the game was held on a weeknight when the Hurricanes were on TV, had begun to empty out. I walked the concourses to see who was left. Behind the plate, men with radar guns aimed at the pitcher. (Like a thirsty woman in the desert who sees a mirage, I envisioned the guns were hair dryers that would thaw out my bones.) I counted the fans. Section 206, three; Section 207, 14; Section 213, Row F, the sound of one fan clapping.
Knotted at one run a piece, what was supposed to be a shortened game went into extra, extra innings. Camillo Vazquez took the mound in the top of the 10th, which should have given the lingering Mudcats’ fans pause. His control issues were foreshadowed April 22 against Huntsivlle, when he pitched 10 consecutive balls and faced just three batters—including one he nearly beaned—before being yanked. I know, I know, it’s been a long day. The bullpen is running low. But when the game’s on the line, who do you turn to? Vazquez?
He walked four, threw a wild pitch and allowed three earned runs in one inning.
The Mudcats had no answers in the bottom of the 10th. Game over.
Tonight’s meterological forecast: another dry, chilly night with the wind blowing into the park. Jordan Smith (2-0, 2.96 ERA) is on the mound for the Mudcats, facing Jacksonville’s Kyle Winters (0-0, 4.09 ERA).
Transaction note: Mudcats’ right-hander Federico Baez has been promoted to Triple-A Louisville, with the statuesque Logan Ondrusek joining the Mudcats from High-A Sarasota. Baez, a reliever, has been the winningest pitcher on the Mudcats' staff, compiling a record of 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA over 13 games.
Ondrusek, 24, becomes the tallest Mudcats player at 6’8.” Ondrusek dominated the Florida League this season, posting a 2-0 record with a 0.96 ERA over 13 bullpen appearances.
It's finally over.
Several news organizations are reporting the 2009 top point guard recruit John Wall will commit to Kentucky after a crazy recruitment period, ending a tale worthy of J. R. R. Tolkien.
Just when it seemed likely that John Wall could end up at Miami or Duke, the reigning champion Tar Heels avoided competing against the likely 2010 No. 1 NBA Draft pick ... for an ACC crown at least.
Just across the wire services: multiple sources report that John Wall has informed Coach John Calipari that he will sign with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Click this link for the full story on espn.com
In a surely much-appreciated gesture, the Durham Bulls released a farewell letter of thanks to Mike Potter, the longtime Bulls beat writer who was laid off last week by the Durham Herald-Sun.
Matt DeMargel, publicity head for the Durham Bulls, solicited testimonials from the men and women who work in the press box—and the front office—during games.
DBAP/ DURHAM---The Bulls beat Rochester 1-0 last night in just 1:56; the difference was Chris Nowak's solo home run leading off the fifth inning. The days of the regular <2-hour game are long gone, so this was a rare short evening at the ballpark. We were done just past 9:00, early enough for fans to catch all of the third period of the Hurricanes' Game One loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. (And speaking of penguins: Man, was it cold at the DBAP!)
We owe the brevity of the affair to the starters, Durham's Wade Davis (pictured, left) and Rochester's Brian Duensing. The two allowed a total of only eight hits and one walk over their combined 13 2/3 innings tonight. By comparison, Mitch Talbot and Anthony Swarzak surrendered 11 hits in just four innings on Saturday. Both pitchers performed really well, reminding me that sometimes the extraordinarily complex art (science, craft, vocation, hippopotamus, whatever) of pitching can actually be made to look quite simple: Keep the ball down, change speeds, throw strikes. Davis (who improved to 4-1) and Duensing did that. Flight time: one hour, 56 minutes. The flight attendants would have been clearing your dinner from your seat tray virtually before you finished it.
FS-CR/TV - Well. Um. At least it wasn’t 4-1 for a change?
The Hurricanes managed to hold league poster boy Sidney Crosby without a shot on goal through two periods for the first time in the postseason and allowed him only two in the third. Aside from Marc-Andre Fleury, who outplayed Cam Ward tonight (didn’t expect that one, as Fleury has been shaky in the playoffs thus far,) Carolina caught the Penguins on an off night but couldn’t complete a comeback after falling into another early hole and dropped Game 1, 3-2.
Mellon Arena continues to be an injury whirlpool for the ‘Canes, who couldn’t seem to escape the arena without a long-term injury for several years. Erik Cole broke his neck there in 2006 and was injured in a knee-on-knee with Matt Cooke collision tonight. Cole was not pleased with the play and after writhing on the ice for a few minutes, called out the Penguins bench after he took a seat. Tuomo Ruutu went down in the first period after Mark Eaton stuck out his leg and swept Ruutu’s out from under him. Ruutu went down hard and left with the dreaded, nonspecific “lower body injury” and didn’t return. The ‘Canes’ two most physical forwards may now be out for Game 2.