The Norfolk Tides nearly pulled off a comeback but fell short on Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd of 4320 on a beautiful April day at Harbor Park. With the sun shining and a light breeze the conditions were ideal for a ball game. Troy Patton faced Durham’s Virgil Vasquez in a pitching duel. Patton pitched well giving up only 2 hits but gave up 3 walks which ultimately were decisive in the Bull’s win.
After a scoreless first inning Patton gave up a walk to Ryan Shealy to lead off the inning which was followed by what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right off the bat of Joe Dillon was dropped by right fielder Rhyne Hughes which advanced Shealy to third and allowed Dillon aboard. Shealy scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Angel Chavez before Patton retired the side. The Tides went down in order in the bottom half of the second and Patton returned the favor against the Bulls in the third.
The Tides had their first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the third when Rhyne Hughes doubled to left with one out. Adam Donachie walked and the Tides had two on with only one out. Joey Gathright grounded into a force out with Hughes being out at third. The inning ended on a force out on a ground ball by Robert Andino.
In the fourth inning Patton shut down the Bulls despite allowing a double to Joe Dillon. Scott Moore hammered a deep home run to right in the bottom of the fourth off Vasquez to tie the game. Moor who was injured early in 2009 after a strong start appears to have returned with a vengeance in 2010.
The fifth inning was Durham’s chance to give up what appeared to be an excellent scoring opportunity when Angel Chavez tripled to center when Joey Gathright attempted a diving catch on a dying line drive. The ball got by Gathright and rolled to deep center where Hughes recovered it and delivered it back to the infield. Patton then bore down on the bulls, striking out Alvin Colina, got Elliott Johnson to fly out softly to shallow right and then to get Fernando Perez to ground out to third on a nice diving stop and throw by Josh Bell. The Tides then squandered an opportunity in the bottom of the fifth when Michael Aubrey slammed a leadoff double off Vasquez but Hughes flied out while Donachie and Gathright both popped out to end the inning.
Patton came back out in the top of the sixth but appeared to be tiring. After striking out Rashad Eldridge Patton walked Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Shealy. Ross Wolf came in to relieve Patton and gave up a double to Joe Dillon which scored Ruggiano. With runners on second and third Chris Richard who had homered Saturday night off of Chris George was given an intentional pass to load the bases to set up the potential double play. Angel Chavez then sacrificed to right scoring Shealy. Wolf retired Alvin Colina on a fly to centerfielder Joey Gathright. In the bottom of the inning Scott Moore doubled with 2 outs which resulted in Vasquez being pulled for veteran reliever and former Texas Ranger Joaquin Benoit. Benoit who missed the entire 2009 season after having surgery on a torn rotator cuff was picked up by Tampa Bay in the off season. Benoit struck out Tides clean up man Brandon Snyder to end the inning.
Wolf held the line in the top of the seventh allowing a two out single to Rashad Eldridge but no runs and Benoit shut down the Tides in order in the bottom half of the inning. Wolf sent the Bulls down in order in the eighth and Winston Abreu came into the game to send the Tides down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
Frank Mata who got the Tides first win of the season Friday came on for the Tides in the 9th getting Angel Chavez, Alvin Colina and Elliott Johnson all to ground out to shortstop Robert Andino. The Tides finally got something going in the bottom of the ninth. Lou Montanez and Scott Moore began the inning with consecutive singles. Brandon Snyder grounded into a force out where Montanez was out at third. Still with runners on first and second the Tides still appeared to be rallying but Josh Bell also hit into a force and Snyder was out at second. With runners on first and third Michael Aubrey collected his second hit of the day a single to center which scored Moore. Rhyne Hughes walked and with the ides left 7 runners on base but had 10 in scoring position and only drove one in. It was a bad day for Tides hitting in that they could not put hits together in key situations with runners in scoring position although they outhit the Bulls 7-4. It was the walks as well as the error by Hughes that gave the Bulls the winning margin.
One Monday the Charlotte Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox come into town for a three game series at Harbor Park. Brandon Erbe will make his AAA debut for the Tides and Dan Hudson a Virginia Beach native who attended Princess Anne High School and Old Dominion University comes home to make his first appearance at Harbor Park. The game begins at 7:15 the weather is expected to be clear but cool with temperatures in the high 60s at game time and falling off during the evening. See you there.