Friday, September 13, 2019

Durham Bulls Swept; Season Ends

The game started out well enough. On the field were a bunch of familiar faces:

  • Former Bull Blake Snell, pitching for the Bulls and having a couple of good innings.
  • Former Bull Andrew Velazquez, playing shortstop for the Columbus Clippers who went 1 for 4 and scored a run.
  • Former Bull Dioner Navarro, playing catcher for the Clippers, who went 0 for 2 with a walk.
  • Former Bull Mitch Talbot, who was the Clippers starting pitcher and went 4 2/3 innings and gave up a bunch of walks and one run, but also got out of a bases-loaded mess in the 2nd inning and left the game allowing just one run.

On the Bulls side, not so many familiar faces. In fact, only two starters were in the Bulls opening day lineup, Jake Cronenworth and Nathan Lukes. (Andrew Velazquez was on that lineup as well)

The takeaway was that Columbus was simply a better team. Better pitching—although the Bulls' Aaron Slegers did a fine job for 3 innings, he got hammered for the next two. Better hitting—the Clippers hit a ton of home runs over the three games, 3 last night and a bunch at the two games in Columbus. If not better defense, then pretty darn good.

The Bulls left 14 baserunners on base, but that's been a feature for much of the year.

Now, let's not forget that this is a team that got into the playoffs for us, the fans, and did it under very difficult circumstances.

And they provided us with a ton of fun over the year.

I'll do my usual charts in a couple of days. And I'll miss being at the DBAP. Just wish I were going tonight.

Enjoy the winter!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Getting Ready

The Durham Bulls are probably in Columbus now, getting ready for their 18:35 game tomorrow.

Huntington Park
This appears to be a very nice place to play baseball (see this and this) and they certainly have a solid fan base. They have an even better attendance record than the Bulls and almost twice as many fans at their win over Gwinnett than at the last Bulls home game.

The team has been pulled apart much like the Bulls. They do have a few more on the Cleveland 40-man than the Bulls. The Bulls only have one, the Clippers have 5, including my favorite former Bull Andrew Velazquez.  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Durham Bulls to the Governors' Cup Finals — Again

Durham Bulls 17; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 2
Box

Just a couple of weeks ago it was not likely that Bulls' players would be going anywhere but home at the end of their 139-game season. Now they are headed for the finals.

Last night was in their hands from the very first inning when they scored 4 runs. Rehabbing Blake Snell opened for the Bulls and really didn't look so good, but it's been a long time since he'd pitched. He was pulled after two outs and left the bases loaded. Aaron Slagers come in and did a magnificent job for the next 6⅓ innings. Meanwhile, the RailRiders' pitching never got on track.

Over in Columbus, Ohio, the Clippers got 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th and that was enough for them to take the series from the Gwinnett Stripers. Box

The Bulls will now trek over to Columbus for two games starting on Tuesday and then, for the first time in recent memory, perhaps ever, play in the Governors' Cup championship game(s) at the DBAP.

With whom? Well, there's only one player left on the roster who is on the Tampa Bay 40-man. The only player they can call up without roster razzle-dazzle is RHP José De León. We can hope they will leave the Bulls alone. I'll stand by my assertions regarding playoff baseball made a few days ago.

By the way, Kean Wong got his first hit and scored his first run as a major leaguer yesterday. He was among the 16 different position players the Rays used yesterday. Welcome to September.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Game Two to the Bulls



NC survived Dorian. Flag replaced at Frying Pan

The Bulls skipped a day, but all is well.

We got to see some fine baseball last night. New guy Josh Fleming pitched 8 terrific innings (and was the ONLY Bulls pitcher to go 8 innings this year). Jake Cronenworth made a couple of nifty plays at shortstop and looked like the player we grew to love this year. Was I worried about the two times the Bulls left the bases loaded? You bet. But all was well at the end.

A nice feature of playoff baseball is that the crowds may be a bit small (3,600), but they are all Bulls fans (with the notable exception of the Yankees/RailRider fan sitting behind me, but, hey, still a serious fan). That means everyone is paying attention. That meant that when Sam McWilliams was pulled after just two batters in the 8th, they gave him a hard time. But when it turned out that, due to the "3 batter rule" he had to come back in, McWilliams was then applauded for a stellar play covering first base.

Arturo Reyes got his first save in his pro career to wrap it up.

By now the Bulls are up in Scranton, or is it Wilkes-Barre, or is it Moosic, Pennsylvania getting ready to play the third game of a best-of-three series.

Meanwhile, over in Columbus, Ohio, the Clippers could not close the deal against the Strippers, losing Game 3 10-6. They are 2-1.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Kean Wong Called Up!

Kean Wong

I know that I complain about the Tampa Bay Rays from time to time ... Well, maybe more often than that.

But this time they did something right. Kean Wong has been a critical piece of the Durham Bulls for so long it's hard to remember when he wasn't with the team. In the last three years, he played in 334 games and was involved in winning two Governors' Cups and one AAA National Championship. And yet he's never been to the major leagues. Until today.

This is a very, very big deal. We Durham Bulls fans will miss you! Good luck!

Durham Bulls Win; 23-Hour Rain Delay Coming

We saw some decent baseball last night, mostly. The RailRiders' Brian Keller was awfully good through the first five innings, but things got ugly for him in the 6th and two runners he left behind came home on a Jason Coats home run. That pretty much sealed the game.

For the Bulls, José De León looked awfully good for his 5 innings. And new guy Ryan Thompson, up from Montgomery, had a spectacular AAA debut with the Bulls, striking out the first four batters he saw in the 6th and 7th innings.

Today's game is on a 23-hour rain delay (Hurricane Dorian) and will be played at 6:00 Friday.

DBAP 5 Sep 2019, 9:03 am

Friday is going to be a new day. Looks interesting.

Sure wish they could figure out some useful data to put up on the videoboard. Postseason info isn't very helpful. I know that many of these guys don't have much AAA time this year, maybe summarize all 2019 data from Baseball-Reference.com? E.g., Dylan Cozens in 2019 was in 29 games has a BA of .183, an OPS of .795, 8 HR,  18 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases. Maybe list the number of teams he's played for (Cozens has played for 4 including 1 game with the Phillies). Or Johnny Davis who got in the game as a pinch-runner for Cozens late in the game and stayed to play center field. In 2019 he's got 54 stolen bases (!) all in the AAA Mexican League, but most recently was with Montgomery. Info like that would be helpful as the game goes along for those of us not listening on the radio.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Playoff Baseball in the International League

In my opinion, we have three factors that drive success in the playoffs.
  1. The manager/coach crew. This time of year the team rosters are chaotic. Leadership and the skill of the manager and coaching staff are crucial. 
  2. Depth of the parent club's minor league system—although that can work against the Bulls. For example, the Ray's AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits, are in the Southern League championship playoffs. And they start today, too. Two of the pitchers on Monday came all the way up from A ball.
  3. Luck. That may sound a bit silly, but I will point out that the Bulls won their first National Triple-A title on a passed ball.
How do we assess these games coming up? We can't. There's simply too much turmoil and we are left at the mercy of Brady Williams and his crew's competence.

Meanwhile, take a look at the box score of yesterday's tie-breaker game. The RailRiders beat the Mets 14 to 13. They used 7 pitchers who gave up 10 earned runs, but I'm too lazy to drill down into how young or experienced the players are. We can point out, as they did, that they were down 1–7 going into the 7th inning, and had had just one hit in the game up to that point.

For real reportage, check out the Burlington Times-News. N&O and H-S continue to ignore the Bulls.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Durham Bulls in the Governors' Cup Playoffs


That was some kind of Labor Day. Remember the win/loss options from yesterday—if the Bulls lose and Charlotte wins, they are out.

 I admit to watching from home and it was painful watching the Gwinnett Braves score 6 runs (having gone through 5 Bulls pitchers) before the Bulls scored a run in the 6th.

I fired up my laptop to follow things at Harbor Park over in Norfolk (although Kinas was doing a fine job keeping up). That did not look good either. At the end of 7 innings, the Charlotte Knights were leading the Norfolk Tides 5 – 1.

Up North, the Syracuse Mets were soaring up into a tie with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. They will play a one-game tie-breaker tonight.

By the 8th inning in Durham, the Braves led the Bulls 8 to 1, but over in Norfolk, the Tides waited until they had two outs in the bottom of the 8th to score 4 runs and go ahead of the Knights 6-5. If the Knights were to lose, the Bulls would be in.

And then the Bulls scored 4 runs in the 8th and looked to be chewing up pitchers. Not enough.

In the Knights/Tides 9th, the Knights tied the game.

The Bulls/Braves game ended, the Bulls losing 8-5. Bulls face elimination.

I'm left listening to Kinas on the radio and watching the Knights/Tides on MiLB.TV. The Tides hold off the Knights in the top of the inning. Single brings in the runner from 3rd. Tides win! Bulls are in the playoffs!

I'll repeat my lament regarding news coverage. No print coverage with  one notable exception — check out Bob Sutton of the Burlington Times-News. He did a terrific job.

Also, there was a bit of tape at WRAL.

Over at the International League site, they got the playoff situation wrong.

Note that the Bulls used 8 pitchers. Pretty sure that was a season record. Of those, Michael Plassmeyer and Cristopher Sanchez were jumped directed up from A ball for their AAA debut. They got to join the celebration.

Here's the last wild card chart. Beautiful!


Monday, September 2, 2019

Today's the Day for the Durham Bulls

Back just a few days ago I wrote that the Durham Bulls has played themselves out of the wild card spot for the International League Governors' Cup playoffs. I was wrong.

Here they are in the last game of the season and, if the season were to end now, they would be getting ready to play the IL North winner for the first round of the Cup.



By any measure, this was a remarkable week of baseball for the Durham Bulls.  Yesterday's terrific pitching performance by Aaron Slegers and Jose De Leon; a booming home run in Dylan Cozens' first game as a Durham Bull; and rock-steady work by Emilio Bonifacio were much like the rest of this week.

And this was a week with considerable turmoil in the ranks. But, from a distance, little things were clear that these guys are hanging together as a team. Last night the little thing was when Gillermo Heredia caught  a fly ball for the last out in center field, he did not toss the ball into the stands. He kept it, either for himself or perhaps for Slegers. He, and the rest of the team, knew that they had played themselves into the wild card. And then they were all out there to slap hands with the kids running the bases.

About today.

  • If the Bulls win, they are the wild card team no matter what happens in the Norfolk Tides, Charlotte Knights game.
  • If the Bulls lose and the Knights lose, the Bulls are the wild card team.
  • If the Bulls lose and the Knights win, the 2019 season is over for the Bulls.
  • Game time: 1:05

Regrets

There are so many potentially fascinating stories about this week and this team that we'd love to hear. We get a few of them from Patrick Kinas' superb reporting on the radio. But it sure would be nice to hear more. I just checked the Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer, and Durham Herald-Sun web sites: Not a whisper about what's going on. Even WRAL, who's boss owns the Bulls, has only a whisper. Not a bad story in the Virginian-Pilot, of all places, though.

Up North

The Bulls/Knighs competition isn't the only story on this last day. Up in the IL North an end-of-season tie between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and the Syracuse Mets could happen. The RailRiders are playing the Buffalo Bisons and the Mets are playing the Rochester Red Wings. All these games are afternoon games, so you can expect solid coverage from Kinas, Scott Pose, and company if you listen/watch the game.

Note: If the IL North ends in a tie, they will have a one-game playoff to determine who comes south for a playoff game.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rays Strip Talent From Bulls; 2 Games Left in Season

We've complained a good bit about the Rays treatment of the Bulls this season, but what would 2 days have meant to the Rays own wild card chase?

Daniel Robertson, Michael Perez (hero of Friday's game), Nate Lowe, Hoby Milner, and Peter Fairbanks are off to the Bandbox by the Bay.

Thanks Tampa Bay!

Meanwhile, the Bulls have two games left and are now 1 game back from Charlotte.