Monday, July 4, 2011

Some Fireworks; Back in First

Happy 4th of July!
(Our Heaven Born Banner, 1861, based on Frederic Church’s Banner in the Sky, more info)

Game 83, July 3, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls 7, Gwinnett Braves 4
Season: 45-38; Last 10: 4-6
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun, Indy Week

The Bulls and Braves are back in a tie for first place and will be continuing the series tonight down in Lawrenceville, Georgia. That trek down I-85 has got to be getting old.

Brian Baker seemed to benefit from the extra days off. He hadn't pitched since June 24 and, but for a walk, escaped what was becoming a signature rough 1st inning. I'm guessing that Charlie Montoyo and pitching coach Neil Allen may have decided to keep Baker on a low pitch count since they pulled him after five innings even though he appeared to be doing OK.

The Bulls "batted" around in the 2nd inning although in addition to Canzler's homer, Johnson's double, and singles by Chirinos and Olmedo, you have to give the Braves' pitcher, Erik Cordier some credit. He walked in two of the four runs all on his own.

The risks of carrying only eleven position players almost jumped up and bit the Bulls last night. The Bulls have only two players on the bench most nights. So when a player does something really stupid, as Felipe Lopez did last night, they do not have much depth. When one of them is a catcher, as is often the case, they have even less. When Lopez came to bat in the top of the 3rd inning, he decided to get in umpire Art Thigpen's face about something. He was ejected, of course, and Charlie Montoyo had to find a batter and a second baseman. Inexcusable. After watching him dog running out a dropped third strike on Saturday night, I've got to wonder about Mr. Lopez. In the normal course of affairs, Montoyo sits a player the game after he gets ejected. We'll see.

Fortunately, J.J. Furmaniak was one of the players getting a day off and he was able to step in for Lopez.

At the risk of tempting the gods of baseball, we have to point out that in his last 16 appearances, R.J. Swindle has not allowed a single hit run, only three hits, and has struck out 16 batters. Now it's also true that he has only pitched 12 1/3 innings, and mostly against left-handed batters, but he is making a huge contribution to the Bulls this year. Unlike his difficulties early in the season, he seems to have his slow curve back under control. How beautiful it is to watch that pitch tie up opposing batters. Last night it was turncoat Chris Carter who was the victim. Swindle unleashed the slow curve on a 1-2 count. It drifted across the plate at 53 mph and Carter just barely chipped it over the third base dugout to keep it at 1-2. Carter then stood there and watched Swindle's "fastball" blaze across the plate at 82 mph for a called third strike. That's a 30 mph difference from one pitch to the next! Is it major league stuff? Not sure. Carter thinks he's a major league batter, so maybe so.

New pitcher Matt Torra was in the dugout last night, so have to think he's ready to go. His last start was June 24, so he probably needs to get into the rotation pretty quickly.

[Update: A careful reader has pointed out an error in the Swindle stats. Fixed.]


  1. Lopez is a Jerk......He dogged it in Tampa and now Durham.......Why would an organization even want to keep a player like that

  2. I'm not a Lopez fan per se, but this was a Thigpen attitude issue. On TV, you could see the two talking. Lopez was asking about something, Thigpen answers, and Lopez says something on the order of "Ok, just wanted to clarify that." and poof, he's ejected. I'm sure there was sarcasm in the tone, but this seemed like a really short trigger.

    In much the same way players shouldn't show up the umps, umps shouldn't show up the players. The game is not about them.

  3. From the stands I couldn't tell what brought the ejection on.

    Umpiring crew was a bit hostile. Notice, for example, the Braves player who got ejected after the game was over!

    My point was that with only 11 position players, let the managers/coaches get thrown out. And I was still a bit put off by Lopez not running out the dropped last strike from the day before.