Game 99, July 23, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC
Durham Bulls (Rays) 4, Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) 3
Season: 56-43; Last 10: 7-3
Matt Moore had a terrific first day in AAA baseball, Desmond Jennings (finally) went to the Rays, Reid Brignac is coming back to the Bulls, a ballplayer we've never seen before gets the winning hit, and the Bulls go 13 games over .500 staying in first place in the South Division of the International League.
But you know what struck me most about the game? The remarkable physical fitness of the players on both teams. The temperature down on the field was easily over 100°. And yet there they were playing their hearts out.
Young Matt Moore did just fine. His fastball was routinely in the 95-96 range. He struck out 7 over 5 innings. His only shaky moments came after two outs in the 2nd inning when he walked two batters in 9 pitches, but he settled down for the next three innings — with the notable exception of a home run.
The Mud Hens picked up two more runs when Jay Buente's very first pitch went over the fence in the 6th and in the 7th when a grounder bounced over a drawn-in infield.
Which brings me to the managerial choices that seemed to make all the difference in this game. Montoyo took his starter out after 5 innings and 89 pitches on a blazingly hot day. Toledo manager Phil Nevin left his starting pitcher in to start the 7th inning with a 3-1 lead, but at 96+ pitches. A single, double, run scored on a wild pitch, and a Nevin Ashley single bounced over a drawn-in infield scored another and the game was tied. A reliever was finally called in, but a wild pitch sent Ashley to second, he was sacrificed to third by Ray Olmedo, and came home on John Matulia double.
I'm no fan of Lance Cormier, but he did come in the game in the 7th with two runners on base and only one out. He first gave up a single and loaded the bases, but then got a K and a flyout to get out of the bases loaded situation. In the next inning a leadoff error put a runner on second, but a nifty pickoff got him out. He got through that inning and Rob Delaney got his first save.
How'd the new guys do? John Matulia was a last minute addition to the lineup playing center field and leading off. Two K's, ground out, game-winning double. He's fast. Nevin Ashley started at catcher, batting eighth in the order. He went 2-3 with a run scored and a RBI.
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As has been widely reported, Desmond Jennings was pulled from the lineup and then sent to Kansas City to join the Rays. Shortstop Reid Brignac is being sent down. From the Bulls point of view what may matter most are Rays' manager John Maddon's comments. |MLB.com| The way I read that, Brignac arrives with some very specific instructions on how he's to be treated by Montoyo and hitting coach Dave Myers.
The Bulls now have an abundance of infielders: Brignac, Daniel Mayora, Ray Olmedo, J.J. Furmaniak, Felipe Lopez, and (sort of) Russ Canzler. Assuming that Brignac takes over at shortstop (unless he's to be transitioned to second base) and is to get a bunch of at bats, it sure looks like someone is going to get kicked off the bus.
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Speaking of getting kicked off the bus, Indy Week's Adam Sobsey is reporting that reliever Marquis Fleming, whom we've never seen, is on his way back to Montgomery.
For Joe Bateman fans, here's an interview he did after his return to the Bulls. |Bulls Podcast|