Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bulls Win; Pitchers at Bat

Game 108, July 30, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Louisville Bats (Reds): 5
Durham Bulls (Rays): 6
11 innings
Season: 50-58; Home Stand: 5-0
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun

Game Score: Gamboa 58; Season Avg 53 (9 starts, 37.1 innings)
Tm wOBA: Game .295; Season .301; Diff -.006

The end-of-game, bottom of the 11th, heroics began with Johnny Field's one out double and Eury Perez's ground-out that moved Fields to 3B. Then, when asked to intentionally walk Jake Hager, Louisville's Kevin Shackelford simply came unraveled. He nearly threw away the ball a couple of times. After that, he walked pinch-hitter Hank Conger (Conger pinch-hitting? More later), bringing Taylor Motter to bat with the bases loaded. I thought Motter was going to wait Shackelford out and he did watch the first pitch for a ball. But the next one he connected for a sharp hit to left field that brought in the winning run.

However, for baseball fans, the fascination with this game was the extreme oddity of 8 different players in the #2 spot in the batting order! That is very likely a first in Durham Bulls history. It all hinged on how the designated hitter rule works.

The game began with Jaff Decker, Jake Goebbert, and Hank Conger on the bench. In the 3rd inning, in his second at-bat, Daniel Robertson, the starting third baseman, drew a walk. He got spiked by the first baseman during a fouled-up pick-off throw. He went to 2B, but had to leave the game. Jaff Decker came in as a pinch runner (#2 player in that spot). Manager Jared Sandberg decided to "burn the DH". That is, to use Richie Shaffer, who'd started as the DH, at third base. In turn, that meant that the pitcher was required to bat in the #2 spot or be replaced with a pinch hitter. So, pitcher Eddie Gamboa moved into #2 spot in the batting order. In the 5th inning Gamboa, for the first time in his professional career, came to bat. You have to wonder if he even had a batting helmet or a bat. To great wonder and excitement, he got an infield single, moved to second base on a wild pitch, and scored on a J.P. Arencibia double, executing a nice slide across home plate. In the 7th inning, relief pitcher Dana Eveland moved into the slot. Eveland has time with two National League clubs. In 13 years in baseball, he'd had quite a few plate appearances, but none since 2014. He drew a walk, but never got past first base. The fifth player in the #2 slot was pitcher Ryan Stanek.
When he came to bat in the 9th,  Jake Goebbert came in to pinch hit (player #6 in the slot). Goebbert flew out the left field and reliever Danny Farquhar (#7) moved into the slot. When he came to bat, the last position player on the bench was weak-hitting catcher Hank Conger (#8). He was sent in to pinch-hit. As mentioned above, he drew a walk and set up Motter for the win.

Still with me? If not, that's OK. As regular readers know, we here at WDBB thrive on quirkiness. Keeps our interest up.

The Bulls remain in first place in the South (yahoo!) and have moved a game and a half ahead of the Gwinnett Braves. The Bulls go for six-in-a -row tonight.

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