After winning convincingly on Wednesday night the Norfolk Tides could not repeat and fell to the Gwinnett Braves 8-3 on a sunny spring afternoon at Harbor Park in front of 4375 fans. While fog enshrouded the home of the Tides in the morning it had dissipated by game time to reveal a beautiful day for a baseball game. I personally don’t give a kilo of Limburger cheese if the rest of the country is focused on the NFL Draft tonight as I prefer Gordon Biersch draft beer, preferably Czech Pilsner and the Church of Baseball to football in general. However I also enjoy the seasonal so long as it is not a Weizen and my mind and heart still believe the baseball is the true love of the Deity Herself and that she finds football in all forms only a mildly interesting metaphor for the Valley of Megiddo, but I digress.
After a convincing win on Wednesday night Tides starter Brandon Erbe (0-3 7.98) gave three runs in the top of the first inning on three hits and two more in the fourth on three hits. All told Erbe gave up 5 runs on 7 hits however he gave up two home runs to Tides killer Freddie Freeman who hit his third home run of this series and doubles to Gregor Blanco, Mitch Jones and Jean Boscan. The Braves would score 3 runs off of reliever Andy Mitchell before Jim Miller stood into his closer role in the bottom of the eighth giving up one hit and no runs.
The Tides did have some hitting; Jeff Salazar hit a two run shot in the bottom of the third driving in Joey Gathright. Rhyne Hughes hit a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth. The Tides would muster no more runs although Joey Gathright would double in the fifth. The Braves had 8 runs on 13 hits with no errors and the Tides 3 runs on 8 hits with two errors one of which a throwing error by Second Baseman Blake Davis resulted in a Braves run.
Brandon Erbe took the loss, his third of the young season and one has to wonder if it is a matter of confidence or mechanics that is the root cause of his lack of success. I would lean toward being uncomfortable in his first start and then lost his confidence and has not regained it. Andy Mitchell gave up one earned run on 3 hits in two innings of relief work and Jim Miller reprising his closer role from the first half of 2009 where he made the International League All-Star team allowed no runs on one hit.
With the loss the Tides fall to 5 wins and 10 losses falling 7 games behind the Durham Bulls who appear to a be the league Leviathan who are 12-3 and have scored 98 runs on 155 hits devastating many of their opponents with lopsided double digit wins. Their pitching has been equally dominating allowing the fewest hits and the second best ERA in the League. With the Tampa Bay Rays looking good and appearing deep the Bulls could well be on their way to repeating their 2009 AAA Championship and lead their nearest division competitor the Charlotte Knights by five games.
International League Southern Division April 22nd 2010
TEAM W L PCT GB
Durham 12 3 .800 –
Charlotte 7 8 .467 5.0
Gwinnett 6 9 .400 6.0
Norfolk 5 10 .333 7.0
Unfortunately I had to work and had to catch snippets of the game between meetings and patient visits on MiLB Game Day. The Tides will travel to Charlotte for a four game set against the Knights beginning Friday night which kicks off an eight game road trip which will also take them to Gwinnett. Chris Tillman (0-3 8.38) will try for his first win of the year going up against Charlotte’s Lucas Harrell (1-1 5.82) who defeated the Tides on the 13th allowing no runs and five hits in six innings work.
The Tides have added Left Handed Pitcher Pedro Viola who the Orioles picked up off waivers from Cincinnati. Viola provides a badly needed left handed arm for the Tides bullpen and will be on the Orioles 40 man roster. With Alberto Castillo and Kam Mickolio called to Baltimore and Dennis Sarfate on the DL the Tides bullpen has lost some of its power pitchers and the Tides have but two left handed pitchers on their roster.
The Tides for better or worse are inexorably bound to the fortunes of their parent club the Baltimore Orioles who have taken some major losses to injuries and are struggling. While I believe that they will recover for the time being they have been forced to call upon the Tides incredibly early in the season for position players as well as pitchers, something that was not expected. will return to Harbor Park on May 1st to face the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees.