Charlotte Knights: 4
Durham Bulls: 3
Season: 54-68; Home Stand: 1-2; Home Games Remaining: 11
Wrap, Box, Herald-Sun
Game Score: Pruitt 57; Season Avg 55 (24 starts, 140.1 innings)
Tm OPS: Game .606; Season .671, Diff -.065
The night started by honoring a large contingent of fellows from the Negro leagues. Great to see them at the game. All of the Bulls wore 42, remembering Jackie Robinson. Nice start of the game. And the whole game was mostly fun, until the end.
I'll confess that I left the game at the 8th inning when the Bulls and Knights were tied at 3-3, listened to the radio on the way home, and saw the last several innings on TV (enduring an unfortunate bit of nattering about the Village People).
Overall, the Bulls pitching crew was superb, with one notable exception. However, so was the Knights' crew. Beginning with the 8th inning, the Bulls went through their batting order three times against three pitchers and only got three hits, a single by Gillaspie in the 8th, a single by Motter in the 10th, and a single by Goebbert in the 12th.
It came down to the 13th inning and a pitcher who does not seem to be ready for AAA, Ryne Stanek. He throws really, really hard. He often hits 98 and has reported to have been over 100. Durham's catcher, Curt Casali had never caught him before last night's appearance. That unfamiliarity might account for some of the inning's problems. Nevertheless, after a hit, passed ball and a couple of walks, Stanek wild-pitched the winning run across. The Herald-Sun had this from the manager:
"He's a young kid with a power arm," Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said. "Just a little off. We were talking today about his approach. He's missed a lot of balls up with the fastball sailing on him. He's trying to get his fastball command a little better."When Stanek arrived from Montgomery he was in the midst of a conversion from starter to reliever. He's had 10 games in relief with the Bulls, but has not been much help to the team. Too soon?
At bat the Bulls were certainly impatient last night, drawing just 1 walk in 48 opportunities. Thanks to Jake Goebbert for keeping the Bulls in the game with a big home run in the 7th.
About the South Division and the Playoffs
Here's the deal. The competition within the South Division is a bit bizarre. The "best" team in the division, Gwinnett, is 12 games below .500 with a 28-36 record. The worst team in the division, Norfolk is 17 games below .500 with a 29-34 record. They also happen to hold the worst record in the International League. However, Norfolk is only 2 games behind Gwinnett. Any one of these teams could win the South Division. [standings]
This makes the next three games for the Bulls all the more interesting. You see, the first International League playoff games are the South playing the West and the North playing the Wild Card. No South team has even the remotest chance at the wild card, so it's safe to say that the only playoff team from the South will be the South champion playing the West champion. The current West leader is the Cleveland farm team, the Clippers, who have an 8-game lead. The Bulls play them tonight and five more times before the season's over, three games starting today and three home games at the end of August. The Bulls have been to Columbus once before this year, losing two out of three in May.
Thus, these games with Columbus could be playoff previews, assuming the Bulls can win a few more games against Norfolk, Gwinnett, and Charlotte.
This chart shows the IL South since the All-Star Break.