Jones's ERA jumped from an already bad 6.21 to an unthinkable 9.31; what's more, he had allowed five runs in the first and only inning of his previous start at Norfolk, so Jones has now given up 15 runs in his last 1 2/3 innings of work. That works out to an ERA of 79.41. Dizzying stuff. To quote someone who knows a bit about hits, Something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? By way of figuring it out, Jones (or his representative in the Chiefs' clubhouse) called the Press Box to request a copy of the game film. Really, Jason, any old horror flick will do.
In Jones's defense, only four of the hits he allowed were hit hard. Most were just dribblers and bleeders that found holes in the infield. More remarkably, he threw first-pitch strikes to every single batter he faced. (Leatherman did the same for the rest of the inning, a remarkable 15 first-pitch strikes in a row.) But when, later on in the home team's clubhouse, Jones's outrageous misfortune prompted me to admit that I felt kind of bad for him, three different Bulls shot me raised-eyebrow looks. "They don't feel bad for us when we strike out," one of them said. Dan Johnson, for his part, had no pity on Jones's weak, hanging 2-1 curveball that he hit into the right-field seats to make it 4-0 before a single out had been recorded. It wasn't a good pitch. "I didn't think so," Johnson said, a glint in his eye, smirking. It's sports, kids. You don't feel bad for losers. You beat them. (And for what it's worth, I was reminded after the game that the Bulls faced Jones twice last year, and beat him once. All I can say is that last night probably would have been even worse for Jones had the Bulls still had Ray Sadler (scroll down a bit if you follow that link.)
With the win, the Bulls swept Syracuse, which looked resigned and aloof by the last game of the series. (Durham took seven of eight from the Chiefs in the regular season, outscoring them 56-19.) Durham went 6-2 for the homestand, improved to a season-high 22 games over .500, and left their mini-slump somewhere in a forgotten, ungrazed pasture. Charlotte lost again, and the Bulls now have an 11-game lead in the South Division with 40 to play.
Overshadowed by the Bulls' outburst was a fine pitching performance by Virgil Vasquez, who rebounded from a pair of poor starts with a new wrinkle. More on that, and some notes, after the jump. Before we make it, though, congratulations to Tampa Bay Ray Matt Garza, who evened out all the hitting last night by throwing the franchise's first ever no-hitter. What made it sweeter still, especially for Bulls' fans, was that his mound opponent, the Detroit Tigers' Max Scherzer, was tossing his own no-hitter for 5 2/3 innings. But he loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a catcher's interference call, and Matt Joyce made the Rays' first hit of the game a grand slam home run. Joyce, you may recall was traded to the Rays last year from... the Detroit Tigers. So all seems to be right, right now, in the Durham-Tampa corridor, where all involved are pleasantly tangled up in blue. And you can add the Rays' Double-A affiliate to the skein: The Montgomery Biscuits had an eight-run second inning to fry the Carolina Mudcats last night.
The Carolina Mudcats are taking a long bus ride home.
The Mudcats will get Tuesday off before beginning a five-game home series against the Jacksonville Suns on Wednesday night.
Drew Anderson finished with three hits including a double and two RBI.
Justin Garcia (3-2) was the winning pitcher.
Only two of the eight runs allowed by Cochran (7-5) were earned.
Devin Mesoraco had two hits to lead Carolina, while Dave Sappelt and Jake Kahaulelio each doubled with an RBI and a run scored.
Downs evened the count at 2-2 and then got Bynum to ground out to third. But then he fell behind Leonard Davis, 2-0 again, and this time paid for it in karma (or luck): Davis hit a chopper past the mound, but it bounced so slowly that the charging Omar Luna's throw was too late to first base and Davis had an infield hit.
Luis Ordaz flied to right field on a 2-2 pitch, so Downs was one out away from finishing off the inning. But Pete Orr came to the plate looking for a fastball, and he lined the first pitch he saw from Downs into left for a single. That brought the tying run to the plate.
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo was taking no chances. Joe Bateman had started warming up in the bullpen as soon as the inning began, a sign that Downs was on a short leash, and Montoyo used it: He cut Downs's inning short and sent in Bateman, who struck out the Chiefs' ninth-place hitter, Carlos Maldonado. End of inning.
End of game, too, for a couple of reasons: 1) Although the Bulls failed to score yet another runner from third with less than two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, they broke through for two runs in the eighth on Dioner Navarro's rope of a double, making it 5-0 and essentially icing the game. 2) Two batters later, the storm heralded by the winds erupted—and how—resulting in the eventual cutting short of the ballgame. The storm was brief but intensely powerful (watching the grounds crew trying to get the billowing tarp down was probably the highlight of the evening); even though the tempest came and went in a matter of perhaps 20 minutes, the field was drenched and water had pooled in many different places (the bullpens were uninhabitable). It would probably have taken 45 minutes or more to restore the field to playable condition. At about 10:15, the chief of the umpiring crew, Damien Beal, called it off. The 5-0 score became final.
It was just as well. The game was in hand. Why bother waiting until after 11:00 to notch four more outs, for the viewing pleasure of perhaps 100 remaining fans? And for that matter, one couldn't help thinking, why should the Bulls bother playing out the rest of the regular season? Yes, of course that's a ludicrous suggestion—there are players to develop here—but the team seems to have recovered from its post-All-Star-break mini-slump, and with help from the once-surging Charlotte Knights, who fell into their own trough after taking three of four from Durham last weekend, the Bulls have pushed their South Division lead back up to 10 games with 41 to play. Granted that it ain't over till its over, but the Knights would probably have to go 31-10 at worst to catch up. The only real suspense, at this point, revolves around which players will get called up or traded, and whether the Bulls can repeat as International League champions.
Some details of the Bulls' league-leading 11th shutout of the season after the jump.
Felix Perez had three hits including a double and scored twice, leading the Carolina Mudcats to a 5-1 road win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Sunday.
Scott Carroll (3-5) was the winning pitcher, going six innings and allowing the run on four hits with four strikeouts against a pair of walks.
Alex Cobb (4-4) took the loss.
Dave Sappelt added a pair of hits for three RBI for the Mudcats.
Following Monday’s game, the Mudcats will have Tuesday off before returning to Five County Stadium on Wednesday night for the opener of a five-game series with the Jacksonville Suns.
Emeel Salem’s infield hit with one out in the ninth brought home the winning run for the Montgomery Biscuits in their 6-5 decision over the visiting Carolina Mudcats on Saturday night.
Jerry Gil (3-5) took the loss.
Leslie Anderson led Montgomery with a homer and two singles for two RBI.
Sean Henry’s double and two singles with an RBI led the Mudcats.
DBAP/DURHAM It’s Game 2 of the Durham Bulls’ four-game home set with the Syracuse Chiefs, and once again conditions are going to be hot, hot, hot.
Durham ace Jeremy Hellickson (11-3) is on the hill against Jeff Mandel (4-5). Former Bull Luis Ordaz is playing third for Syracuse tonight.
The Bulls come up with timely hitting all night, coasting to a 5-1 victory.
There are nights, though, when baseball seems almost unbelievably complicated and intricate. To underscore that, last night's between-inning entertainment was provided by a character named Breakin' BBoy McCoy, who updated 1980s pop-locking, electric boogie and other staples of the decade, all deployed in crowd-pleasing routines. And by crowd-pleasing, I mean that Bulls' utility infielder Omar Luna watched BBoy McCoy do a routine atop the home dugout with a rapt, beaming, beatified look on his face, the kind you might see on a child's at Disneyworld.
It was also impossibly hard to fathom doing it yourself. The choreography is extremely complex, and executing it requires extreme body control. BBoy McCoy shook as though electrocuted, jiggled as though seismic waves were running through his nervous system, moonwalked and pelvis-popped like Michael Jackson to a medley of the King of Pop's greatest hits. His limbs seemed, each of them, to be on a separate neural processor, like the Who's Keith Moon's. McCoy wore glasses, as though his moves were so scientifically precise that you had to spend hours in a lab or study to perfect them.
McCoy was the right model for last night's game, which was played at a high degree of difficulty with little room for error—and in fact, no statistical errors were made. But it was not by any means a crisply played game. The little sinkholes and mistakes where the game was decided, though, were smaller than errors, tinier than hits, off the map of stats, and some of them wouldn't show up in a box score. And passions ran visibly higher than usual in the tight-lipped, close-to-the-vest game of baseball: for the third time in the last four games at the DBAP between Durham and Syracuse, dating back to last summer, there was an ejection. These two teams go after it and each other, even with Syracuse now under new management (Tim Foli, who helmed the club in 2009, has been replaced by Trent Jewett).
To break it down for those who don't make the jump (which means, I must point out, that you're playing it about as safe as people who refuse to leap from a sinking ship), Joe Dillon's bases-loaded single in the eighth inning broke a 4-4 tie and made a winner of Dale Thayer. But if you're content to think that that's all you need to know about this tense, challenging, game-within-a-game battle between two good ballclubs, you're missing out on a ton of fun: hard, dangerous, edgy fun. See you on the other side.
Matt Fairel fired his first career complete game while Luis Terrero went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, leading the Carolina Mudcats to a 5-0 road win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Friday night.
Fairel (5-3) won his fourth straight start, striking out five and walking just one in the four-hitter.
Sean Henry and Jake Kahaulelio each homered in the Mudcats’ 12-hit attack.
Jeremy Hall (4-6) took the loss.
So where does that leave the up-and-down Durham Bulls? After falling behind, 2-0, and then coming back late to grab a 4-2 win over Columbus last night, which made for a split of the four-game series against the International League's best team (by mere percentage points over the Bulls), the superficial and official answer is perhaps TBD. But the keener view—let's call it the Diamond View in honor of the bleacher seats at the DBAP—the Diamond View from within and without reveals that a semblance of order has been restored to the Durham Bulls, at least for now. Up or down? Would you settle for even-keeled?
For that, thank starter Heath Phillips, who tossed 7 2/3 innings of five-hit, two-run baseball, the night after Durham's bullpen was nearly exhausted in a 12-inning, 8-6 loss. The Bulls badly needed Phillips to go deep into the game, and he did. As per usual, his bugbear was the home run ball, a pair of solo shots allowed (including the third of the series to upwardly-mobile Indians prospect Nick Weglarz). But as Phillips told me in Charlotte on Saturday, and then reiterated last night after earning his eighth win of the season, the homers don't bother him if there's no one on base when they happen. He allowed only three other hits (and picked one of them off of first base), worked around three walks, and might have gone eight full innings to match his team-leading season high if not for two fielding misplays, one his own, in the eighth inning.
That brought on R. J. Swindle, the only legitimately rested reliever in the bullpen, who faced five batters and struck out four of them—a single to center field was mixed in there—to earn his second save of the season on a night when there was really no one else to do it. Swindle generated five swinging strikes against those five batters, or as many as Phillips manufactured against 31. He threw only one of his increasingly notorious 50-mph tumbling curveballs last night, and it was taken low and outside. He was terrific last night because he expertly mixed his slider, fastball and changeup (the latter used to devastating effect against Wes Hodges). No pitch exceeded 81 mph. Just for everyone's pre-disembarkation reading (i.e, so you'll know it even if you don't make the jump with me), Swindle now has 39 strikeouts and four walks in 37 1/3 innings pitched.
Thank also the Bulls' hitters, who did something they've not done much of since the All-Star break ended: drive in runners in scoring position. Early in the game, Bulls' broadcaster Neil Solondz related to me this bizarre fact: since the resumption of play, Durham entered last night's game having gotten seven hits with RISP against the unfortunate Jeremy Sowers on Tuesday night, and seven more hits with RISP against everyone else. The difference is that they got those seven hits off of Sowers in 12 at-bats (.583 batting average), the seven others in 57 (.123!).
But last night, Jose Lobaton and Dan Johnson had big hits with men on second and third. Lobaton's sixth-inning single tied the game, 2-2, and Johnson's seventh-inning double won it. It was an unusually crisp, precisely-played game in a season that has seen the Bulls plod through a lot of punishing blowouts and a clutch of slovenly losses. It's perhaps obvious to say this, given that Durham has been cruising toward the post-season all year, but last night's game made them look like a playoff team.
A closer look, but not a long one—call it an in-and-out—after the jump.
Luis Terrero and Dave Sappelt each had three hits including a double with three RBI, pacing an 18-hit attack as the Carolina Mudcats topped the host Montgomery Biscuits 11-6 on Thursday night.
Devin Mesoraco had four hits for Carolina.
Leslie Anderson homered and singled for the Biscuits.
Jake McGee (2-6) was the losing pitcher.