Friday, September 21, 2018

Durham Bulls Wrap Up Their Season

Well, the Durham Bulls did not end the season on a high note, but that's OK. They remain one of the best teams we've seen around town. The pitchers, with only a couple of exceptions (Poche and Harrison) simply had very bad outings. Box Score, Durham Wrap, Memphis Wrap.


Not long after the game, Austin Meadows, Chih-Wei Hu, Austin Pruitt, and Hoby Milner were called up to the Rays. As noted down in St. Petersburg, Kean Wong was not called up. I'm guessing that Kean is going to find himself another home before next spring.

Celebration and Donation Drive

The Bulls are hosting a Championship celebration and disaster relief event this Saturday. It's a chance to get your T-shirt and do some good.

Next game: In Charlotte, April 4th, 2019. 
Next home game: Against Columbus, April 11, 2019.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Bulls Win the Governors' Cup ... Again!

Durham Bulls 6; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 2
Wrap 1, Wrap 2, Box

For those who watched the game you know that you saw some exciting, very well-played baseball on the part of the Durham Bulls. The Bulls attacked pitchers who'd given them trouble in the past (the Bulls had never gotten a base hit off of the RailRiders' Domingo German before). Home town lad Joe McCarthy (who'd watched from the stands when the Bulls won the Governors' Cup at the same field last year) had a terrific game accounting for 4 of the Bulls 6 runs. Rob Refsnyder continued his great series. Refsnyder had actually played for the RailRiders last year before going on one of those crazy baseball treks through the Blue Jays and Indians systems enroute to the Rays and then the Bulls.

As a team the Bulls continued clean defensive work. They only allowed one unearned run over the nine post-season games. The glove work of young shortstop Jake Cronenworth, who'd only came up from Montgomery on September 2nd, was particularly impressive.

Lefty Kyle Bird was the opener and for the most part Manager Jared Sandberg's apparent plan to limit his pitchers to no more than one time through the batting order was followed. Bird went for 10, but he managed to deal with runners on base quite well. Surprisingly, the only pitcher to allow a run was the spectacularly successful Colin Poche (he needs to visit the Rays before the end of the season). Austin Pruitt got into the game to finish up the last two innings.

Repeating a Governors' Cup championship is a big deal. That the Bulls did it a the same baseball field against the same team (the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders) is one of those quirky little details that will likely be remembered for a long time.

While the lineup during the playoffs was fairly stable, the pitching crew was not. The Bulls used 14 different pitchers ranging from a high of 6 appearances by Jordan Harrison (7 innings) to Riley O'Brian's AAA debut at 2 innings. Austin Pruitt's two starts and one relief appearances totaled 13⅓ innings for the most innings pitched by a Bulls pitcher. Ian Gibaut was an odd man out. He faced four batters without getting an out in game 2 against Toledo and was on the mound in game 1 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when the rains came and the game was delayed. Those were his only appearances. In the regular season he made 48 mostly very successful appearances.

After the game the Bulls headed off to Columbus, Ohio where they will play the Memphis Redbirds (not to be confused with the Red Wings a Toronto affiliate), the St Louis Cardinals AAA team. Again.

This is yet another oddity of the season. The Redbirds are also back-to-back champions (although they are cleverly calling it a "beak-to-beak" championship). I do have to note that the Bulls are already selling the t-shirt. The Redbirds are wearing theirs, but the image isn't yet up in their store.


So, Tuesday night, NBC Sports Network. First pitch 7:05. Patrick Kinas will probably be broadcasting on WRAL radio (but he was not for the championship game, grumble, grumble, grumble, had to go with streaming which can be annoying). Could be fun. Would be nice to have another AAA trophy.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

This is the Game!

The Governors' Cup (note: photo taken before Bulls' 2017 win engraved)
Here we are about to start the Durham Bulls'  148th game of this year. The Durham Bulls and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are tied 2-2 in the best-of-five series. This afternoon's game (starts at 4:05) decides who holds the Governors' Cup for 2018.

It's been quite a trip.

If we pull up the box score from the first game of the season we see only three position players from last night's lineup: Joe McCarthy (who was soon to go on the DL and not return until August), Kean Wong, and Jason Coats. Christian Arroyo is on the DL. Jake Bauers and Willy Adames are playing for the Rays. Justin Williams, Johnny Field, and Curt Casali have moved on to other ball teams. One of the pitchers (Chih-Wei Hu) is still with the Bulls, two others (Adam Kolarek and Ryne Stanek) are with the Rays, and Cody Hall was released from the Biscuits back in June.

So this is a mostly new team and yet this is the team we have to win that cup. And they are clearly able of doing so. Tampa Bay has mostly left the team alone in September. The Bulls have the bats and the pitching and the fielding to do the job.

Last night wasn't the night, though. I don't know if Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' pitcher Ryan Bollinger got inside the Bulls' head or not, but he sure got into mine. I think it was the 4th inning when he turned into a human rain delay and could not have been more annoying. Tossing over toward a no-threat runner at first, stepping off the rubber, etc. Just infuriating. Ending up shouting at the computer which, of course, did absolutely no good.

Bulls hitting never got on track. They struck out 10 times and left a bunch on base.

Sure wish the game was being played here.

Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, #BULLieve!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Durham Bulls 2-1 in Governors' Cup Contest

PNC Field, Moosic, PA

Kind of weird to be playing a home game up at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' home. And it was a pretty sparse crowd of just 1,775 (likely because the RailRiders were not expecting to play a game there either).

But I'm proud to say that some of those were very noisy Bulls fans! Patrick Kinas said that some of the Bulls office folks traveled up to see the game and it turns out that outfielder Joe McCarthy was born in Scranton. So certainly some of the noise in support of the Bulls was from his friends and family.

Wrap 1, Wrap 2, Citizens Voice, MiLBcom

I have been thoroughly unimpressed with Chih-Wei Hu this year, often wondering just what the Rays saw in the young right-hander. Yet, here we are in the post-season and he's is showing up, big time. Last night was his best start of the year. He pitched a scoreless 7 innings while throwing just 77 pitches. His Game Score of 76 was 10 points above his next best back on August 15. Simply a superb game. Note that his start in Game 3 against Toledo was pretty good as well (5 innings, Game Score 55 and a win). He may turn out to be the starting pitcher hero of the Cup. See the MiLB link above for some good quotes and analysis.

Another feature of the playoffs is how good the Bulls' defense has been. They were the second-worst in the IL in errors (107!). Their uERA (unearned runs per 9 innings) during the season was a bottom of the league .521. That's a half a run per game given away. In the post-season they have only given up one unearned run and that in the very first game, a 10-3 loss to Toledo.

Whether it was Bulls pitching or something else, I do have to comment that the RailRiders certainly looked flat. Even the RailRiders broadcast crew sounded flat.

Meanwhile, I'm listening to the wind blow and sending best wishes down east. The Bulls and the International League certainly made the right decision. And a BIG thank you to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for hosting the second half of the playoffs.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Durham Bulls Even Up Cup Contest

Austin Pruitt really looked good last night. 6 scoreless innings.

Last night's game was a big deal. Wrap. and MiLBBox. Kean Wong and Rob Refsnyder set the table and Austin Pruitt held off the RailRiders. The Bulls are now 1-1 in the best-of-five series.

That's so very important because how hard it would be to come back from 0-2. As it is, things are looking up.

While we wait for Florence to get here, we can watch a ball game. Remember, for this and any following game, the Bulls are the home team.

Wish I could say that the viewing experience is pleasant, but it isn't. To my surprise, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' TV operation is not nearly as professional as Toledo's. Stats banner very limited (no outs/balls/strikes). Screen size is square. Camera views are limited.

Out in California, Fresno and Memphis are also 1-1, but their games have been much more lopsided. Wrap.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Durham Bulls Move to Moosic — to Stay

In a very smart move, the Durham Bulls will be playing all of their Governors' Cup games at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders field. See press release here.

This makes sense to me. Florence will surely make things difficult if not dangerous before the weekend.

Note that the RailRiders will honor your ticket if you can make the game.

Here's the biggest downside for me — other than not being able to be at the game — the RailRiders only drew 1,491 & 912 fans for the two games they hosted for the first two games of the Cup series. That doesn't bode well for anyone being there to witness our Bulls at work.

We will surely be listening/watching from afar tonight.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Waiting for Florence

Hurricane Fran Comes Ashore, September 6, 1996
Got to start worrying about Hurricane Florence due to arrive sometime this week.

Are we going to have a game 3 of the Governors' Cup on Thursday?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Durham Bulls Win First Round of Governors' Cup Playoffs

I can tell you that I'm really glad the Bulls aren't playing today (Sunday). I mean I would have had trouble getting to the DBAP with all the life that's intruding on my baseball watching ...

The other reason is, obviously, that the Bulls are going to the Governors' Cup Finals! And they are going in a moment when this team looks really, really solid. The pitching and defense are sound, especially the relief crew. 11 Mud Hens got left on base last night! The offense is not depending on the home run. More would be nice, only one has been hit (McCarthy in game 3).

They are getting two days off before Tuesday's game against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who play in neither Scranton or Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees franchise plays in Moosic, Pennsylvania. Hats off to them for their run to the wild card and their 3-1 win over the team with the best regular season record in the International League, the IronPigs.

My big worry now is hurricane Florence. That critter is headed right at Raleigh ...

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Bulls Go Ahead 2-1 in Playoffs

Wrap, Box

The Durham Bulls win last night was a very big deal. After a long, long trip back to Durham, they managed to stay focused against a very good and hard-hitting team. The first several innings saw a bunch of long balls hit out to the warning track, but Hu escaped with only one home run.

Meanwhile, McCarthy, Lowe, Refsnyder, and Wong provided the hits and runs for a win. Also notable was some very slick shortstop work by new guy Jake Cronenworth and seeing Austin Meadows get a very solid single.

And there was even a real newspaper reporter at the game with a real news story! Bob Sutton reporting for the Times-News.

Tonight should be fun.

Up in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs were in desperate straits. After posting the league's best record and sweeping essentially all of the post-season awards, they were down 0-2 to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. It took 13 innings before catcher Nick Rickles (a Stetson University grad I might point out) hit a walk-off single to keep the IronPigs in the running. Story. Nevertheless, the RailRiders have the lead.

Friday, September 7, 2018

While We Wait for Tonight's Game, Wonder What Happened To?

  • Justin Williams (last Bulls game July 30): Ended the AAA season with the Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals), who are  in the Pacific Coast League championship playoffs.
  • Jeremy Hazelbaker (last Bulls game, July 16): Had a decent rest of the year with the Rochester Red Wings (Twins) with an OPS of .716.
  • Johnny Field (last Bulls game, July 18): Finished season with Rochester Red Wings (Twins) and was called up to the Twins.
  • Curt Casali (last Bulls game, May 29): Became regular catcher with Cincinnati Reds carrying an OPS of .868! Congrats!

Local Coverage of the Governors Cup Run? Nah

I guess I get to indulge myself a bit with this blog, so indulge me in my rant:

Four teams are playing for the Governors' Cup, one of the oldest trophies in professional baseball.
Last night saw two games, both with their ups and downs and interesting moments. Three of those teams had solid coverage in their home town newspaper:
The Toledo Blade had a solid story on their Mud Hens' near comeback in the 9th inning.
The Allentown Morning Call raised concerns about the IronPigs falling 0-2 before the RailRiders.
The Scranton Times Tribune reported on the near no-hitter and the 2-0 lead of the RailRiders.

The Herald-Sun? Nothing, zilch, there's a baseball team in Durham? We haven't run a Bulls baseball story all year. Why start now?

The News & Observer? Oh man. It ain't basketball, or hockey, or Duke, UNC, or NC State. And Durham's just too far to go.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

There, I feel a little bit better.

Oh. The Burlington Times-News covered the game.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Rays & Injuries Blow Up Bulls Roster

The Bulls are leaving soon for Toledo, Ohio and the first round of the Governors' Cup playoffs. If you tune in Wednesday to listen (or watch on MiLB TV), the team will look a bit different (as it did yesterday in the season's last game).

  • Catcher Adam Moore got called up and then pushed aside (visa problems?)  for 
  • Catcher Nick Cuiffo who started in Toronto on Sep 3
  • Infielder Andrew Velazquez was called up and has had two, count 'em, two plate appearances as a pinch hitter
Those three had a lot to do with the Bulls getting to the playoffs. I don't begrudge them their opportunity, but I sure wish the Rays had waited.
  • Jaime Schultz and Jose Mujica were called up as well. I'm not a big fan of Mr. Schultz. He is very likely a very good pitcher. But he has not been much of an asset to the Bulls (32 appearances, 35 innings, 2-1, 2 holds, 3 saves, 2 blown saves, 5.75 ERA). 
  • To be honest, I didn't know Mr. Mujica was well-enough to play. He only made one appearance as a Bull (August 22) since May 5th. Must be some sort of rosterizing going on there.

Much more worrisome is the list of serious and, I hope, not-so-serious injuries.
  • Kean Wong (who certainly deserved a call-up before a couple of the guys who are now playing with the Rays) got hit on the elbow a couple of days ago and looked awkward in yesterday's game. 
  • Brandon Snyder fouled a ball into the side of his knee yesterday and, although he stayed in the game, was certainly limping a lot.
  • Rob Refsnyder did not play yesterday. Not sure of injury status
  • Austin Meadows did not play yesterday. Also not sure of injury status.
  • Christian Arroyo was placed on the disabled list a couple of days ago and won't be back.
So, the Rays have done some raiding of the Montgomery Biscuits.
  • Mac James has actually been with the team a while. I did not explect to see him at 3rd base, though. With the Bulls grabbing catchers, however, my guess is that he will be the primary backstop in Toledo
  • Jake Cronenworth was called up from Montgomery. He had a good day at bat and played shortstop Sep 3
  • LHP Travis Ott made his AAA debut on Sep 2. It did not go well (3 walks, 1 hit batsman). But maybe ...
Likely to be more, but the Biscuits are also in their own playoffs, so more promotions may be tough.

What we can hope for is that the bus ride to Toledo does not lead to locking up of muscles, but rather some rest and recuperation. With all except Arroyo possibly at form and assuming that James and Pena can handle the catching, the Bulls are still in good shape.

So why am I haunted by the memory that the Bulls won their first AAA National Championship on a wild pitch/passed ball thrown/missed by two recently called-up players?