Saturday, September 5, 2015

Boog Booms One

Season: 72-69; Trip: 2-1
Wrap, Box, Charlotte Observer

Has Boog Powell turned into a home run hitter? He’s the guy who bunts his way on base a lot of the time and yet in the last two games he has put one over the wall. We expect it of Corey Brown, who hit a just barely fair one in the 9th for his 19th, or Taylor Motter, who’s 12th dinger in the 7th was the shot that doomed the Knights, but Powell?

Things got a bit testy in the 9th when the Knight’s Wendelkin tossed a pitch behind Taylor Motter. But Wedelken got ejected and if things didn’t calm down, at least the field got cleared of excess players after some intense discussions. In the last couple of games there was a good bit of plunkin’ and near-plunkin’ goin’ on. So maybe the umps had had enough. Too many home runs? Over the three game series 15 home runs were hit, 9 by Knights, 6 by Bulls, but that seems to be the result of the Knight’s very, very pretty Little League park. By the way, after Wendelkin got ejected, his replacement walked Motter and Corey Brown followed with his home run that put the game out of reach. Have to wonder what the chatter between dugouts was after that.

Meanwhile Blake Snell pitched his last minor league game of the year. With the Bulls he was 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA. He is an amazing young ballplayer. We can hope to see him for at least some of next season. The Rays have been appropriately cautious of him, limiting his pitch count and innings with the Bulls. Have to think that he will get in at least a couple of innings with the Rays before the end of this season.

We also saw Ernesto Frieri for the first time since July 7th. Frieri has been on the Durham Bulls’ books since passing through waivers on June 20, appearing in only 7 games. José Dominguez, another on and off pitcher, had a rough inning.

Now what? Standings. Norfolk leads Gwinnett by 2 games, they both have three games left to play.

Gwinnett plays Charlotte for their last three games down in Georgia. Norfolk comes to town for three games at the DBAP. As noted, Norfolk is just 2 games ahead of Gwinnett for the South Division title. That’s a big comedown for the Tides. They had led the division by six games as recently as August 18th, but they’ve had their troubles since then. Nevertheless, Gwinnett has to win all three against the Knights, and the Tides have to lose all three against the Bulls to take them completely out. We won’t go into tie-breaker rules. Makes my head hurt. Seems to me that both Norfolk and Gwinnett are going to have to work for it. By the way, the IL West is still a dead heat between Indianapolis and Columbus.

The Bulls are one game back of Charlotte. There’s a way for them to get out the cellar before the end of the year.

These last three games have odd timings: 6:35, 5:00, and 1:00. Don’t be late!

Roster moves —
  • A pitcher, Kyle Bird, has been brought up all the way from Single A Bowling Green. Seems to be somewhat specialized for his age (22). 69Ks in 69 innings. Stats.
  • Jim Miller was place on the Temporarily Inactive List.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cruisin' Into the Seventh ...

Season: 71-69; This Trip: 1-1
Games left in season: 4
Wrap, Box, Charlotte Observer

The game started at noon because two Carolina football teams were playing on a Thursday (!) night in downtown Charlotte (one of the teams lost).

Pretty much the Bulls were cruisin’. Boog Powell was back in leadoff and had a great, great game with 4 hits (two doubles and a home run). New guys Cameron Seitzer, Alec Sole, and Wilmer Dominguez were in the lineup and did just fine, although Sole didn’t get a hit. The whole team had five doubles and a home run. They were ahead 7-3 going into the 7th. You’d think it would be enough.

With the noonday sun, came a little rain, in the shape of absolutely the worst performance of the relief crew this year. Too bad, because Andrew Bellatti had seemed to be sorting himself out and new guy Parker Markel was doing just fine. But Bellatti gave up 3 homers and five runs in his time on the mound and Markel gave up another one in the hitter-friendly park.

Outside the game —
  • With the loss the the Bulls were officially eliminated from the South Division race. To be realistic, they'd not been in the running for along time. That was not what I’d been hoping for. What I’d like to see by the end to this season is a stable .500 record and maybe, just maybe, getting up into third place. That’s a maybe for the Bulls, but they’ve got to win, and Charlotte has to lose in a race that’s getting very tight. 
  • Standings
  • The South Division race is down to just a one game difference with Gwinnett having a very good shot at pushing Norfolk off the bus. To get there the Bulls will have to be the spoilers for them. Gwinnett is one game back. Gwinnett and Norfolk play tonight in Norfolk, but the key games will be the last three Bulls/Tides games in Durham and the Braves/Knights games down in Georgia.
  • The South isn’t the only race undecided. The West Division is a dead heat. The difference there is that the second place team, whichever one it is, has a lock on a playoff spot.
  • About playoffs from the players’ perspective: David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot has a terrific set of interviews with Tides players from a couple of days ago. Worth a read. Players, until they get on the field, aren’t big fans of minor league playoffs.
Goodmon Awards Announced

I like these Durham Bulls awards and I almost always agree with them. Here’s this year’s:
  • MVP: Taylor Motter. You bet. He was fun to watch and did everything very, very well.
  • Pitcher of the Year: Scott Diamond. Again, agree that he was the best of the bunch
  • Team Spirit: Jhan Mariñez. I like the choice. Terrific reliever. Expect him to be on next year's 40-man. Maybe this year's.
  • Community Service: J.P. Arencibia. Makes sense to me.

Here’s how the IL South looks today

click on chart for larger image
And here’s the “path” to what WDBB considers a reasonable goal for this year’s team, but they can still make it into 3rd place with some luck (and a win today). Four games left! Hang on!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The New Durham Bulls Win Another

Season: 70-68; Home Stand: 4-2
Wrap, Box

The new Durham Bulls kept up their late season pace last night. Only two of the new players were on the field, José Constanza in left field and Cameron Seitzer at first base. Constanza had two hits and a RBI. Seitzer had his first AAA hit. Old hands Corey Brown, Ryan Brett (who had a 4 for 5 night), Nick Franklin, Jake Elmore, plus new guy Joey Rikard contributed RBI.

This was the best outing that Scott Diamond has had since back on July 6. And it was, by far, his most efficient. He went 7⅓ innings on only 87 pitches. That is a stellar 3.95 pitches per out. He was already the most efficient starter on the team at 4.90, but this was an exceptional outing. Parker Markel gave up his first run.

Outside the game —
  • Here’s a bit more discussion of Hak-Ju Lee. At a guess, another team is going to claim him, but my guesses aren’t usually accurate.
  • Congratulations to Taylor Motter for making the International League All-Star team! Yet another argument for a call-up for him. He was 1 for 4 with a walk while playing shortstop last night.
  • J.P. Arencibia made the Orioles pay for dumping him at the beginning of the season. He started at catcher last night up in Baltimore and picked up 6 RBI on two singles and a home run in an 11-2 win, while catching Drew Smyly in Smyly’s best performance since finishing his rehab with the Bulls a couple of weeks ago.
  • And a small rant about the Herald-Sun. First, they messed up their website so I had to make several calls to get to it. Then they didn’t bother to send a reporter to last night’s game and did a cut and paste job from the Bulls wrap. I’ve come to expect that of my hometown paper, the N&O, but Durham’s?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rosterification: Round 1

  • Hak-Ju Lee was designated for assignment, probably to make room on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster for Luke Maile. If he passes through waivers then he could get in a game or two as a Bull before the end of the season
  • Ernesto Frieri came off the disabled list.
  • Jared Mortensen is a 27 year old Canadian right-hander who has started 17 games this season for the Montgomery Biscuits. Has been in the Rays system since 2013. Stats.
  • Cameron Seitzer  is a 25 year old mostly first baseman and designated hitter for the Biscuits the last two years. .308/.383/.475, pretty good. Stats.
  • Alec Sole is the youngster of the crew, only 22. The infielder (ss, 3B, mostly) is jumping up from the Charlotte Stone Crabs. He started the season in Bowling Green. Stats.
  • Wilmer Dominguez a 24 year old catcher who has been with the Rays system since 2009. He has only played in one game this year (at Montgomery), so there’s a story there. Stats.

Back Above .500

 Wrap, Box

Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Season: 69-68; Home Stand: 3-2
Games Remaining: 7; Home Games: 4
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

The last two of these games kept the Bulls within reach of a respectable .500 season. They did get eliminated from the wild card, but that was a bridge far, far, too far. And the Bulls’ win last night certainly put that out of reach for Gwinnett.

From now on expect chaos in the lineups. From our point of view we are likely to find the candidates for this year’s Moonlight Graham awards. The awards were not granted in 2014 for reasons that escape me at the moment, surely a good reason, though. Leading candidates at the moment are: Infielder Juniel Querecuto (4 games back in late May, 12 plate appearances) and pitcher Kyle Winkler (3 appearances in mid-June, 3 innings).

As mentioned earlier today, 6 Bulls have been called up and, so far, only one replacement has been announced, veteran José Constanza. We’ll see what happens next.

Meanwhile, let’s make note of the work of Bradin Hagens last night. His post All-Star performance had been something of a disaster. In his first six starts after the break he had 5 losses and a no-decision. However, on August 20 he had a nice 5 inning start and a win; on Aug 26 he had another good start and went 6⅔ in a win; and then last night he went another 6⅔ for another win. So something is on track and he has made a big difference as the Bulls crawled out of that 7 games below .500 hole they’d been in.

So now (and this weekend) is the time just to go out to the park and take a look at next year’s players.

Six to the Rays

The first round of September call-ups were announced last night. This is going to get complicated today and over the next couple of days as we find out who's going to be filling in.

  • Matt Moore
  • C.J. Riefenhauser
  • Kirby Yates
  • Mikie Mahtook
  • Richie Shaffer
  • Luke Maile
All except for Luke Maile are are the Rays 40-man so nothing needs to be done there except to make room for Maile. That will probably be announced today. Worst case, for the Bulls, is for a current member of the Bulls team to be designated for assignment, which would mean that he could not play for a few days, if at all.

Note that the Biscuits clinched the second half win are in the Southern League playoffs. They likely will be making the case that they not get stripped of their best players.

Today is José Constanza's 32nd birthday. He will be celebrating in a Bulls uniform. If the name is familiar, he spent much of last year in a Gwinnett Braves uniform and the early part of this year in a Louisville Bats uniform. Last played in mid-July. Stats.

Long-time Durham Bull Justin Ruggiano is back with the team that drafted him, the LA Dodgers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fun While It Lasted

6th Inning: Hak-Ju Lee slides safely under/past the tag of Knights’ 1B Dayan Viciedo as pitcher Brad Penny and 2B Michah Johnson cluster in frustration. Thanks, Sue

Season: 67-67; Home Stand: 1-1
Games Remaining: 10; Home Games: 7
Wrap, Box

Each of the three Durham Bulls pitchers allowed at least one earned run last night and that was enough to break the streak. Those fans inclined to seek good news at the far reaches of probability, possibility, and plausibility are slowly coming back to earth. But wasn’t that a pretty run?

About that photo up at the top by our good friend Sue Roth (who sits not far from first base, obviously) — I am not a fan of even the idea of sliding into first base and have been pleased to see it seemingly disappear from most player’s trick bag. But this time it made sense. As the first batter in Durham’s piece of the 6th inning, Hak-Ju Lee made a hard bunt between pitcher and first base. Thereafter there was a gathering of Knights: Pitcher Brad Perrry, First Baseman Dayan Viciedo, and Second Baseman Micah Johnson. Viciedo has the ball and Lee is sliding under and past the tag to reach the base. A fraction of a second later Johnson kicks Lee in the head and they had what I hope was a friendly discussion about that.

Back to the rest of the game.

Matt Moore had brilliant innings followed by not very good innings all night. And easy 1st inning, then two walks and two K’s in the 2nd. In the 3rd a single, a run-scoring double, and two wild pitches let two runs score. Three up, three down in the 4th. Same in the 5th. In the 6th a single, then an error by Richie Shaffer, and another single loaded the bases. Moore hit the next batter for another run. Kirby Yates gave up a run on 2 hits in his 1⅔ innings. Andrew Bellatti gave up a home run in his inning.

But the hitters did have their chances. After being absolutely shut down for 14 outs, a double by Cory Brown broke up the perfect game Brad Penney had going. Then in the 7th the Bulls scored two runs before Mikie Mahtook struck out with the bases loaded. That got the Bulls within a run, but the Knights got two more runs before the Bulls even threatened in the 9th and that fizzled out.

Nevertheless, an 8-game run is a big deal. Thanks, Bulls, for the thrills as the season winds down.