Thursday, August 27, 2015


Wrap, Box, Virginian-Pilot

Season: 66-66; Trip: 2-0
Wrap, Box

The Bulls reached .500 for the first time in almost exactly a month (July 26) with their seventh win in a row, the longest streak of the year. On game six of the run, Tuesday night, Joey Butler broke it open in the 11th inning, and he had a lot to do with Wednesday afternoon's win. Names we’ve grown to love this last week looked terrific, Taylor Motter, Richie Shaffer, and Butler all had hits in the 11th and Hak-Ju Lee brought in the third run with a sacrifice fly, a run it turned out the Bulls would need as Kirby Yates made the bottom of the 11th a bit more thrilling than necessary.

Then yesterday Joey Butler was at it again, this time with two home runs in support of Bradin Hagens. Along with Mikie Mahtook’s 4 for 5 day at the plate, a timely sacrifice fly by Taylor Motter, and a disruptive stolen base by Lee.

Both games were also bit unusual for Jared Sandberg’s tactics or, rather, his use of some traditional tactics he seems to have avoided this season.

For example, he has only called for 8 intentional bases on balls all season. He did so in the bottom of the 9th on Tuesday and it worked.

Similarly, he has not been a big fan of pinch-hitting, but yesterday in the critical 7th inning, when the Bulls were behind 3-4, he put Nick Franklin in to bat for catcher Mayo Acosta. Hak-Ju Lee had singled with one out and Acosta has a dismal batting average. A few pitches into the at bat Lee stole second base and Franklin then drew a walk (note that the Tides’ catcher set up well off the plate for a 3-1 pitch so it was an unintentional, intentional in hopes of getting a double play). When Mikie Mahtook hit a double to bring in Lee and Franklin and the winning runs, Sandberg looked like master tactician.

Pitching? Blake Snell was terrific on Tuesday and Bradin Hagens got his second win in a row, getting past two important errors by Bulls fielders.

Outside the game —
  • J.P. Arencibia went up to the Rays! Congratulations. It turns out that his recent time behind the plate with the Bulls will serve him well. See this link for more than you probably want to know about how they pulled off the roster moves.
  • Desmond Jennings is hurt, again. That opens the door for any number of Bulls on the 40-man, to include Joey Butler, Mickie Mahtook, or Richie Shaffer
About these seven wins and the next 12 games —

This has been a remarkable run. The team ERA dropped from 3.99 to 3.90 (with 132 games played, it takes a lot to move the averages that much). The starters went from 3.92 to 3.88, while the relief crew outdid themselves with a drop from 4.09 to 3.93. The hitters moved the team seasonal wOBA from .317 to .321 over the seven games. That may not seem like much, but, again, at this point in the season that’s a big move. The team wOBA hasn’t been that high since July 22. The last time the team pitching has been in this range was back on July 16th.

The rest of the Bulls dozen games are against South Division opponents and 9 of their final 12 games are at home. The Bulls start with Charlotte, have a couple of games against Gwinnett, a few more with Charlotte, and end up with Norfolk. Recently Norfolk has fallen off its terrific run to the top and Gwinnett, which had been making quite an attempt, has also fallen off. With roster turmoil coming for all four teams, who knows what the future holds. For the time being, let’s celebrate a return to .500 baseball.

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