Bulls end road trip with a whimper (Now Updated: Brignac is back!) | Sports
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Bulls end road trip with a whimper (Now Updated: Brignac is back!)

Posted by on Mon, Jun 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Or whatever sound beaten Bulls make. They were trounced 8-1 by the Bisons on Sunday, essentially in one ugly inning.

After making four errors at shortstop in just one game the other day, Ray Olmedo must have been relieved to get back to ol' third base, where Charlie Montoyo frequently plays him even though Olmedo is a natural middle infielder. In the bottom of the second inning, Bulls starter Wade Davis gave up four groundball singles, allowing two runs to score. Not great, but Bisons' catcher Robinson Cancel was going to be thrown out at third base on the fourth of those singles, the inning was going to be over, and the Bulls would only be down 2-0.

Except that Olmedo mishandled the relay throw from first baseman Rhyne Hughes, Cancel scored, Davis then gave up a double and a single, two more unearned runs scored, and before anyone could get a grip it was 5-0 Buffalo. They never looked back.

Ray?

Rainer?

But speaking of infielders, Reid Brignac is back. He was returned to Durham after Jason Bartlett was activated following a minor injury. No word yet on a corresponding roster move---Brandon Chaves is the natural choice to be moved out, but he's performed well in Durham---but we'll let you know. Turns out the Bulls roster is now at 25, so no move is necessary. Dewon Day was activated from the 7-day disabled list, too. Something will have to give, though, when Chris Richard rejoins the team, presumably this weekend.

Meanwhile, Brignac's return, along with Matt Joyce's, restabilizes the lineup. His OPS in Durham is more than 100 points higher than Chaves's (although Chaves had a better OBP by nearly 40 points). If Chris Richard ever really recovers from hamstring troubles and produces to his fullest, he'll provide the power that the Bulls have lately been missing. (Rhyne Hughes is hitting just .105 since his callup from Montgomery.)

Anyway, back to Sunday's game:

Davis was solid for the rest of his outing, but reliever Jason Childers made it academic by surrendering three runs in two mop-up innings. Childers's ERA is 5.77. He's durable, and Charlie Montoyo likes to call on him often; he leads the team in appearances---and, deceptively, wins (which, to repeat, are not a good measure of a pitcher's performance!). But so far this year he hasn't really rewarded Montoyo's trust. Sometimes the appearance of reliability masks a deeper ineffectiveness. Think of someone like Livan Hernandez, the journeyman major-league pitcher who is prized for being an "innings-eater" (and probably an eater of plenty besides) but who is in fact not really very good. (Last year, Hernandez allowed 257 hits in 180 innings. 257!! With only 67 strikeouts! Naturally he's starting this year for the Bisons' parent club, the New York Mets.) Or think of Volvos. Sure, they'll start up on frigid days and last 174 years, but they'll spend 109 of them in the shop, get bad gas mileage, top out at 73 mph, the check engine light will always be on and and the wagons will fishtail above third gear. Anyway, the 34-year-old Childers started the year stronger than he's been lately, and Montoyo needs him to regain his form.

Matt Joyce returned to the Bulls' lineup on Sunday as the designated hitter. Turns out he just rejoined the team. Justin Ruggiano and John Jaso got a day off. The Bulls concluded a road trip of dreadful clutch hitting by going 1-9 with runners in scoring position. They did that against one-and-only-one pitcher: Brandon Knight threw a complete game against Durham, the second time that has happened this season (Kirk Saarloos did it on May 3rd in a Bulls victory). Knight allowed six hits and no walks against a team that got to him for four runs in 4 2/3 innings a couple of weeks ago at the DBAP, in an outing in which he walked four batters. I repeat, no walks: Durham's pitching staff has issued more bases on balls (bases on Bulls?) than any other staff in the league---although, oddly, neither Davis nor Childers walked anyone on Sunday.

Henry Mateo, by the way, went 2-4 and is quietly hitting .325 as a Bull since his signing just over three weeks ago. He has a stellar .424 on-base average, and he has drawn 14 walks against 15 strikeouts. For good measure he has stolen four bases without being caught once, and he's been very steady with the glove at second base. Yes, this is a small sample size, and he has little power, but if Mateo keeps up his current levels, the 32-year-old will turn out to be a great in-season free-agent signing for a team badly in need of a stabilizing presence in the middle of the infield.

The Bulls went 3-5 on the road trip. Given their limp-RISPedness and their erratic pitching, not to mention the absurd upheaval that has beset the roster, that's really not bad. They're tied for first place and back at the DBAP on Monday, where we locals get our first---and only---look at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of Allentown. Carlos Hernandez, who has been the Bulls' best starter so far this season, is on the mound for a 7:05 start. Be there or supply a note from your doctor.

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