Sunday, September 14, 2014

Game 5; The Last Hurrah

Wool E. Bull waves good-bye
Chris Baird, WRAL

International League Governors’ Cup (Best of 5); 2-3
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, International League, News & Observer

It seems to strange to not have a game to look forward to, but that is how the end of the season feels.

Last night the Bulls were out-hit and out-pitched and now they’ve scattered, mostly, to their homes.

We are going to be a long time trying to forget how they were one strike away from another championship. But surely the Pawtucket Red Sox feel the same way. I wrote much earlier that sometimes the playoffs come down to who has the better AA team, and that was a piece of it. Two pitchers and a hitter were new to the Sox and they did just fine the last two games. They helped.

The Pawtucket Red Sox took the trophy away. Maybe next year. In the meantime, plenty to like about this year.

I’ll dig back into my numbers and put up some thoughts about this year’s team and this year’s season. All things considered. It worked out just fine.

Outside the game —

  • Nick Franklin, Alex Colome, and C. J. Riefenhauser were called up to the Tampa Bay Rays. Colome will be getting a start with the Rays tomorrow. All the best to all of them. Sure wish that Adam Liberatore had gotten a shot as well.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Game 4 to the PawSox; Tonight's the Night

DBAP, 7 am, 13 Sep

International League Governors’ Cup (Best of Five); 2-2
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, International League

It must have been tough to be on the grounds crew last night. A game was lost, but fireworks show went on as advertised. So they had to fix the field and spread the tarp because it looked like rain (and it did). Must have been 1 o’clock in the morning after a long, long losing game. But it looks like they got the job done early this morning. Thank you!

Merrill Kelly is up tonight. One more trek back to the DBAP. Here’s hoping the weather holds and the Bulls come back. Last chance.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Game 3 to the Durham Bulls; One More for the Cup!

Wool E. Bull and friends dance for the crowd last night.
Chris Baird, WRAL

International League Governors’ Cup (Best of Five): 2-1
Wrap, Box, Providence Journal, Herald-Sun, International League

The moment that I circled on my scorecard last night was Cole Figueroa’s at bat in the 3rd inning. Justin Christian had led off with a double and the Bulls were down 0-2 after the Pawsox scored single runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings. The Sox’s Henry Owens wasn’t quite cruising, but he had not seen any real trouble either. Figueroa stretched him out to at least 8 pitches (my count may be off) and on the 9th pitch he hit a very sharp grounder to short. Christian took off for 3rd base. Shortstop Deven Marrero chose to throw to 3rd, threw it high, and the Bulls ended up with runners on 1st and 3rd, nobody out. Jeremy Moore’s single brought Christian home. Tim Beckham’s double brought Figueroa and Moore home. As it turned out, Nick Franklin’s solo home run in the 6th was the key run, but the Bulls had to get those first three runs across first.

What a change to have a starting pitcher set the stage. For the second time in the playoffs Matt Adriese did his job and did it well, going a full six innings. In the 5th he was going so well that he struck out the side. In the 6th he was still looking good, but his pitch count was into the high 90’s and it was time to change.

Both relievers had pitched on Thursday night’s marathon, but they were back and did just fine. I thought that the game was in the bag after C.J. Riefenhauser got out of trouble in the 7th and had a clean 8th. However, as he often does, Josh Lueke provided some last-minute, not particularly welcome, thrills.

The unearned run that scored in the 9th was the first run of any kind against Bulls relievers in this entire series, something like 16+ innings. That’s a testimony to the relief corps even as it says something sad about the starting crew.

I also want to call out Wilson Betemit’s glovework at first base. For some reason everyone, right and left handers alike, were slapping stuff towards right field last night and a couple of them went right down the line. Betemit grabbed at least two that I recall that if not stopped would have created real problems.

Now What?
  • Weather is threatening tonight and it looks even worse for tomorrow. 
  • Mike Montgomery, who had a pretty decent outing back on August 28th, is scheduled to be the starter. 
  • New guy Bryce Stowell is in the bullpen since Nathan Karns starts tonight for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Rays finally took him off the Bulls roster. 
  • You have to expect both managers to go all in tonight. All of Durham’s relievers except Riefenhauser and Lueke are available. Even, as Scott Pose suggested last night, Enny Romero could be available for a batter or two for a couple of 98+ fastballs. 
  • The Pawtucket starter is making his first appearance at Triple A level. 
  • The Bulls could take it all tonight, and wouldn’t that be grand?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nice Look for Tonight

Scott & Co are doing us proud.

click for larger view

Game 2 to the Durham Bulls; Greatest Game of the Year?

Wrap, Box, Providence Journal, International League (video)

This should go down as one of the great games in Bulls history, certainly one of the greatest this season.

It started off, however, even worse than Tuesday’s loss when Alex Colome began the 1st inning by giving up a single and two walks to load the bases. Only one run scored, though. But then the leadoff batter in the 2nd inning hit a triple and that was followed by a home run. Colome did get a K, but then walked the next batter. That would be 3 hits (single, triple, and homer), 3 walks, 3 runs, on 54 pitches in 1⅓ innings. Jake Thompson came on and got the Bulls out of the inning stranding two runners.

That was the Bulls pitching story for the rest of the night. Durham relievers Thompson, Merrill Kelly, C.J. Riefenhauser, Josh Lueke, and Adam Liberatore dominated the Red Sox. They did let a few on base, but some heads up baseball kept any more runs from scoring.

Nevertheless, into the 9th inning the game was creepily similar to Tuesday. The Pawsox were still up by a run and Bulls were rarely even getting on base after Justin Christian singled in the 3rd and was brought home by Mikie Mahtook’s home run. In fact, until the 9th, Mahtook had the only RBIs of the Governors’ Cup series.

The fun (for Bulls fans) began in the 9th with Vince Belnome’s home run to tie the game. What a thrill to see him come through after all his struggles this year.

Both managers went into playoff mode. Wilson Betemit came in as a pinch-hitter, Pawtucket switched out pitchers, etc. But in the bottom of the 9th Josh Lueke, who’d come on in the 8th, managed to keep things under control. Lueke stayed on until after the first out of the 10th when Adam Liberatore came on.

So there we were in the 11th. Essentially out of pitchers (more about that later) and only six hits in the entire previous 10 innings. Vince Belnome drew a walk. Ali Solis gets on base on a catcher interference call (good call, you could see the dust come off the catcher’s mitt on TV). And Mike Fontenot singled Belnome home.

Adam Liberatore, who’s most difficult game this year only went 33 pitches, dug in and threw 44 in this outing to close things out and earn, really earn, the win.

But that’s the 2014 Bulls. Solid relief pitching, solid defense, and occasional clutch hits.

Outside the game —

  • About that 11th inning. The last man standing in the bullpen was Cory Burns, who’d pitched 2 innings on Tuesday. What about some of the other pitchers (e.g., Bryce Stowell or Andrew Bellatti) whom we saw around last week? Well, in their wisdom the Rays are bringing up Nathan Karns, but have not put him on their roster yet, so the Bulls could only use 24 of the 25 players allowed on their roster. Why would the Rays do that when they’ve got 40 spots available? No excuse, it seems to me. It’s cold comfort that the Boston Red Sox are treating their AAA team even worse. Take a look at the comments buried in the Providence Journal link above. 
  • Numbers: Believe it or not, the attendance numbers up in Providence at 3,600 for Tuesday and 4,100 for Wednesday (the last home game of the season for the Pawsox) are pretty good. Unlike the majors, minor league playoff baseball just doesn’t give the marketers enough time to sell the games. 
  • I’m worried about the weather. Tonight looks marginal. Tomorrow and the rest of the week looks very tricky. I have no idea what the rules are regarding this. If anyone does know, please chime in.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Governors' Cup Game 1 to the PawSox

International League Governors’ Cup (Best of Five): 0-1
Wrap, Box, Providence Journal

Life got in the way of baseball today. Probably no news here for Bulls fans. But just for the record.

Enny Romero started because Alex Colome was sick, perhaps a small bout of food poisoning. Romero was not sharp at all, but it could have been much worse in his three innings. By the time he was pulled the Pawsox had left five runners on base. The relief crew did just fine, only giving up one hit and not letting anyone past first base. Doug Mathis, if fact, had a 3 K stretch, and 4 on the night. Very likely that was his best outing of the year. Cory Burns did fine as well.

But the hitters did not. It’s hard to win games when you leave 9 runners on base. The 9th inning was particularly tough with the bases loaded and one out and no one scoring.

Alex Colome is scheduled to start tonight.

Outside the game —
  • Persistent chatter/reporting that Nathan Karns has been called up to the Rays and will start a game this Friday. That punches a hole in the Bulls’ rotation if the series goes to five games (Mike Montgomery available to pitch game four). 
  • TV coverage OK (channel 1250 on TW cable). Somewhat delayed from the radio broadcast. So you could listen to Patrick Kinas, then pay attention to the play. Actual view of the game very limited by lack of cameras, and I've gotten spoiled by the HD we get locally.
  • Great quote from Charlie Montoyo reported by Kinas last night: "You know it's been a good year when you start the year in long johns and finish it in long johns."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tonight's Game on Local TV?

According to this article at WRAL’s site, tonight’s game will be televised locally. I hope so. Bound to be better than squinting at my computer screen.

Every game of the series will be televised on MeTV 50.2 or Time Warner Cable channel 1250; livestreamed on and heard on 620 The Buzz.

Plus there's a terrific unedited interview with Charlie Montoyo that discusses the last game with Columbus.

Note that latest word from the Bulls is that Enny Romero will be starting tonight, not Alex Colome. Guess they've switched.

Nice preview from the International League here.