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The Norfolk Tides 2010 Season in Review: Part One – The Team

1st Baseman Brandon Snyder was one of the Tides Called up in September

The 2010 Norfolk Tides season was a mixed bag of sorts for the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A International League affiliate.  In 2009 the Tides had a “Jeckyl and Hyde” quality. After an incredible April and May where they were playing close to .700 ball maybe of their young guns were prematurely called to Baltimore due to injuries of key players on the Major League Squad.  The result was predictable those called up by the O’s were not fully ready and while some like outfielder Nolan Reimold did very well others did not fare so well, especially among the young pitchers. The young “baby O’s” did not have the benefit of good leadership in the dugout from Manager Dave Trembley and were exposed to a clubhouse that was used to losing, season after season.  Meanwhile the Tides without the players who had given the team its early success went into a tailspin, as was the case with Tides players being called to the big league club too early the Tides found themselves restocked with promising but not quite ready Single and Double-A players.  In addition to that injuries to other key players crippled the team. The Tides finished the season with a .500 record but just barely having to win their final game of the season the accomplish that.

The 2010 campaign began with a team that looked pretty good on paper; until very early in the season the O’s called up some of the Tides best players which was compounded by the usual spike of injuries as well as the unexpectedly poor performance of some players that had been stars on the 2009 team.  In May the Tides received a new Manager, Bobby Dickerson when Gary Allenson was called up to Baltimore as the Interim Third Base Coach when Dave Trembley was fired.  Under Dickerson the Tides played a more aggressive style of baseball but were not consistent.  They finished the season tied with the Charlotte Knights each with a record of 67 wins and 77 loses and a .465 winning percentage. Both teams ended the season 21.5 games behind the league leading Durham Bulls.

A lot of the problem this year was in the hitting department. The Tides hit for only a .251 team average and with the exception of the home run category were near the bottom of the IL in every major offensive category. Now the hitting did improve as the season went on, in May the Tides team average was in the low .230s, they finished at .251.  In one area they significantly improved from 2009 and that was in Home Runs.  In 2010 the Tides had 122 well above the 78 of 2009.

In the pitching department the Tides look solid until Jake Arietta and Alfredo Simon were called to Baltimore while other pitchers had rocky starts to the season or lost games because of either having no run support or being victimized by defensive letdowns in critical situations.  In defense of the pitchers it must be noted that 80 of the runs scored against the Tides were unearned runs coming off of errors by the defense. Only one other team in the league allowed more than the Tides, their IL South rivals the Charlotte Knights.  I saw many of these games where a pitcher would have the lead, have two outs in an inning and have a defensive error allow runs to score and get more batters to the plate. It happened time and time again. The team had 147 errors which averages more than one error per game with Shortstop Robert Andino having 31 of those errors leading the league in that category.

It is my view that lack of fundamentals on the defensive side of the house and lack of hitting were the cause of most of the Tides misfortunes this year.  While they may not have matched Durham they most certainly would have had a much better record, possibly one good enough to compete for the Wild Card spot in the playoffs.

With a significant amount of moves coming up in the Orioles organization in the off season it will be interesting to see the changes on the Tides roster and possibly coaching staff.

There were a lot of positives during the season among the individual players that cannot be overlooked.  I will cover the players in part two of this series over the coming days and weeks.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Tides Lose to Tribe 10-6 and 7-4; Orioles win 3-1

Nolan Reimold is hitting .383 and has 2 home runs and 9 RBIs in the last 10 games

The Norfolk Tides were downed by the Indianapolis Indians on Tuesday by a score of 10-6 and Wednesday afternoon 7-4.  As was the case in Louisville it was in large part due to pitching though unlike the Louisville series only one of the two games could be held against the starting pitcher. In an unfortunate turn of events for the Tides Chris George was forced from the game after retiring the first two batters in the first inning with an injured elbow. He has not yet been placed on the DL and there is nothing currently on the Tides or Orioles website as to his status and the severity of the injury. In most of his starts this year Chris has been solid and if he is injured it will place even more stress on a struggling Tides starting rotation which could affect the bullpen. The bullpen with the exception of Tuesday’s game against the Indians has been very effective allowing the Tides to stay in games that earlier in the year would have been blowouts.

Tim Bascom and other Starters have been hammered over the past few weeks

With Jake Arietta, Alfredo Simon and Armando Gabino now at Baltimore the Tides are without their three most effective starters.  Chris Tillman has been affected and he has not been as effective as he was earlier in the year I believe by the constant actions of Orioles management to keep sending Chris up and down between Baltimore and Norfolk.  He has had some outstanding games including a no-hitter against the Gwinnett Braves. Troy Patton has improved throughout the year and is now one of the Tides most dependable starters, unfortunately for the Tides he has missed several recent starts due to being called up to Baltimore where he saw no action.  Brandon Erbe had a number of rough outings and during his good starts did not have run support from the offense or saw the defense commit errors that resulted in runs.   Tim Bascom called up from Bowie in May has struggled his last win occurred on June 27th and was tagged for 7 earned runs in today’s game.  Zach Britton who was called up on July 1st has been effective despite a record of 1 win and 2 losses.  His worst outing occurred in Louisville where he gave up 5 earned runs in 3.2 innings. Chris George as I mentioned earlier has had a decent but not remarkable season but now the verdict is out concerning the severity of the injury to his elbow that he appeared to sustain Tuesday night.

The Tides and Orioles need to find a solution to the difficulty that the current starters are having in the early innings.  Again with few exceptions the bullpen has been solid since the All-Star break but the starting pitching needs to improve.  The Tides are now scoring enough runs on a regular basis that they should be winning more games than they are losing. They are losing in the early innings when starters have given up too many runs to opponents. Examples include July 16th when Bascom gave up 6 runs in 1.2 innings, July 24th when Tillman gave up 6 runs in 3.2 innings, the 29th when Tillman gave up 5 runs in 4.1 innings, August 5th when George gave up 6 runs in 3.2 innings, August 6th when Bascom gave up 7 runs in 3.2 innings, the 8th when Britton gave up 5 runs in 3.2 innings and today when Bascom gave up 7 runs in 6 innings.  All things considered getting down by that many runs that often makes it very difficult on the offense.  It is true that there have been many occasions when the offense failed to produce when starters pitched well but the trend lately is to get behind early and despite solid performances from the offense to score plenty of runs and get plenty of hits and nearly come back to win.

Tides hitters are showing signs of life, in the past 10 days Nolan Reimold has hit .389 with 2 home runs and 9 RBIs, Robert Andino .350 with 5 RBIs, Scott Moore .324 with 2 homers and 6 RBIs, Matt Angle .385 and 5 RBIs.  A couple of players hot earlier have cooled down or are slumping but even so in the past two weeks the Tides team batting average has gone up from .248 to .252 with corresponding increases in other offensive categories, a sign that overall the hitting is getting better.

On Tuesday night the Tides lost 10-6 and following the injury to Chris George saw the bullpen not be able to get the job done giving up 10 runs (7 earned) on 12 hits with 2 errors and walking 5 in 7.1 innings, a game ERA of 8.87.  Tides hitters had a good night of their own pounding our 6 runs on 12 hits including a home run by Scott Moore, an inside the park home run by catcher Adam Donachie and doubles by Michael Aubrey, Rhyne Hughes and Donachie who had 4 RBIs.  Cla Meredith (1-2 7.65 ERA) got the loss for the Tides and Joe Martinez (1-0 4.00 ERA) the win for the Tribe.

Today it was Tom Bascom who was stung giving up 7 runs, )4 in the 4th inning) in 6 innings work relievers Kam Mickolio, making his first appearance since coming off the DL and Denis Sarfate each pitched well, Mickolio allowing a hit but no runs and Sarfate putting the Tribe down in order with 2 strikeouts.  Nolan Reimold had two hits one a double with 2 RBIs, Robert Andino had a RBI producing sacrifice fly, Michael Aubrey had a RBI double and Brandon Snyder a double.

The Tides and Indians finish the series Friday night with Rick Vanden Hurk (1-1 2.84 ERA) on the hill for the Tides and Brad Lincoln (6-3 4.17 ERA) up for the Indians.

The Orioles played their second game of a 3 game series against Cleveland and defeated the Indians 3-1 on the strength of a 2 hit complete game shutout by Brad Bergeson.  The Orioles are now 8-1 under Buck Showalter and are now 40-74 for the first time during the season not having the worst record in the majors, which is now held by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They are close to overtaking the Mariners and within striking distance of the Indians, Royals, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Nationals.  Showalter is a leader a precise man that uses statistics, views of others in the organization and his own observations to evaluate players including their competitive spirit.

Anyway, it is late; I am tired and have an early morning.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Swept by Bats, Orioles continue to win

Michale Aubrey (above) and Brandon Snyder (below) continue to have clutch hits


The Norfolk Tides ebbed out of Louisville Monday morning after having been swept by the red hot Louisville Bats.  They had lost game one on Thursday as they opened the road trip and would drop the final three, all be close margins despite the fact that in each game the Tides starter got knocked around in the early innings bad enough that despite two tremendous comebacks the Tides failed to put anything in the win column.  On Thursday they were shut out by the Bats by a score of 6-0 with Chris George getting the loss.

The next three games were close but the Tides fell short in comeback attempts. On Friday starter Tim Bascom (2-6 7.28 ERA) got the loss and gave up 7 runs on 10 hits in 3.2 innings work and the Tides lost 8-7.  The Tides made it interesting picking up a run in the 5th inning and 6 runs in the 6th but were unable to overtake the Bats.  On Saturday the Tides lost 5-2 with Rick Vanden Hurk giving up 5 runs on 8 hits with the Tides scoring 2 runs in the 7th inning. Vanden Hurk (1-1 2.84 ERA) took the loss.  On Sunday it was another slugfest in which the Tides got out to an early 2-0 lead but saw it melt in a 5 run 5th inning for the Bats against starter Zach Britton.  The Tides would lose by a score of 8-7 when a 9th inning rally fell just short.  Michael Aubrey and Nolan Reimold each had a home run and a double.

The problem for this series was the starting pitching. The four Tides starters gave up 27 (25 earned) runs on 27 hits in a combined 16.2 innings for a 13.88 ERA. Tides relievers on the other hands were very good pitching 15.1 innings allowing 5 runs on 14 hits a 2.98 ERA.  The only reliever that had a bad appearance was Pat Egan who gave up 3 runs on 4 hits in 0.2 innings work in the final game of the series. After Thursday’s shutout the Tides scored 16 runs in the next three games collecting 34 hits.

Jim Miller came back off the Inactive List to provide solid relief work, it’s Miller Time again

This series showed the importance of starting pitching to the Tides. Early in the year Tides starters led by Jake Arietta, Chris Tillman and Alfredo Simon were better than the bullpen much of the time and other starters including Troy Patton and Brandon Erbe often lost games pitching well but getting little in the way of run support.

In Baltimore over the weekend the O’s took 2 of 3 from the White Sox and are playing a close game tied 2-2 in the 9th tonight.  Starting pitching and solid hitting have been the difference since Buck Showalter took over. At the same time Showalter’s arrival coincides with the first time in the season that the Orioles are playing healthy with several positions players including Brian Roberts, Luke Scott and Felix Pie back off of the DL and relievers Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara back in the lineup after being on the DL extended lengths of time. .

In personnel matters Troy Patton was sent back down today to make room for Craig Tatum, a move designed to bolster the O’s bench and Adam Donachie was brought back up from double A Bowie to the Tides.

Both the Tides and Orioles continue to play tonight and I will write about those games tomorrow.

Blessings,

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Tides and Orioles Report: A Look at Where we Stand

As the Tides get ready for game three of their four-game set with the Syracuse Chiefs there have been some significant personnel moves which involve both the Tides and their parent organization the Baltimore Orioles.  These moves are probably just the start of moves that might take place prior to the trading deadline at the end of the month.  This is the report that I promised back at the All-Star break

To begin in Baltimore the O’s reinstated closer Mike Gonzalez after the completion of his minor league rehab for a strained left shoulder.  They made room on the 40 man roster by moving relief pitcher Jim Johnson from the 15 day disabled list to the 60 day disabled list effectively ending his season.  Johnson has been on the DL since May 28th with right elbow inflammation.  Third Baseman Josh Bell was optioned back to the Tides after going 6 for 19 (.263) in six games for the O’s.  Bell’s return to the Tides will add another strong bat to the order as well as a switch hitter.  On Tuesday the Orioles had optioned Chris Tillman back to the Tides as was reliever Frank Mata on the 19th. While disappointing for these pitchers they are both still on the 40 man roster and their return to the Tides solidifies both the starting rotation as well as the bullpen.

Some Tides are making a difference at Baltimore, especially outfielder Corey Patterson and relief pitcher Alfredo Simon.

In the moves Tides left handed pitcher Troy Patton was recalled to Baltimore after going 6 and 9 with a 4.91 ERA which was 3.44 in the last 18 games. A lot of Troy’s losses came on games where he got no run support or the opposing team was given extra chances through the errors of Tides players.  It the first time that Troy has been at the Major League level since 2007 with Houston.  The move of Patton to Baltimore means that Armando Gabino will be called upon again to make a spot start.

The Tides have 29 players on the roster 3 of which are on the DL so a player will have to be moved to keep the active roster at the 25 man limit.  My recommendation would be Tim Bascom for the time being in order to let his injury heal and to get his confidence back after several outings where he was shelled by the opposition. Pat Egan is another possibility for movement and even potentially Brandon Erbe however I would not want to see that move just yet.  There is the case of Cla Meredith who was sent to Norfolk from the Orioles and cut from the O’s 40 man roster and he has not been effective at all since coming down to Norfolk and my sources tell me that he is extremely frustrated with his situation vice the Orioles.  He could be used to sweeten any deals that the O’s make approaching the trading deadline as I believe that he can be effective at the Major League level despite his struggles here and that a fresh start may be what he needs.  Alberto Castillo has performed adequately with the exception of a couple of bad outings but it is obvious that the 35 year old lefty’s better days are behind him.  Chris George has been solid for the Tides and is good to have in the organization as a left hander and Armando Gabino is the undiscovered gem of the Tides. Gabino has pitched well in starting situations where he is 5-0 and has helped hold the bullpen together in middle to late relief.  Two men that have been up and down between the Tides and Aberdeen which is for all purposes functioning as a taxi squad are relievers Jim Miller and Andy Mitchell.  Both had rough starts to their seasons but have been solid “go to” guys when a starter gets in trouble early in the game and Miller has served well in his natural position of being a closer.  Brandon Erbe has been on the DL and while struggling early has been bereft of run support and as is the case with most of the Tides pitchers victimized by poor defense at critical junctures.  Mike Hinckley appears to have major league stuff but still needs some work as he is inconsistent.  Zack Clark also seems to be solid and except for one bad outing has done well but had almost no run support.  Zack Britton seems to be on the fast track for the majors and I am really impressed by his speed, ball movement and control as well his sense for where he needs to be on the diamond when the ball is in play.  Kam Mickolio has been on the DL much of the year and when he was healthy seemed to struggle. He has major league stuff but something needs to be fine tuned. He has been on the 7 day DL for some time now and since he is on the 40 man roster I wonder if it would not be wise at this point to move him to the 60 day DL if he is not ready in order to free up some room and give him time to heal and get his mechanics right.  He has too much potential just to let go but I wonder about leaving him in the 7 day DL limbo.  Denis Sarfate is another that is overlooked. He has been functioning for the most part as the closer and done well with the exception of one appearance.  He has great stuff with speed, control and good movement throwing in the mid to high 90s with the ability to throw hitters off with an occasional off speed pitch.  Jim Hoey looks to have promise but has not been up long enough to see how he will do in the long run.

Of position players there are a number that have been struggling or injured that might be moved to Aberdeen as a holding measure including Joey Gathright who has not been the same as he was last year when he hit .325 for the Tides.  Joey still hustles and plays hard but there is something in his mechanics that is limiting his effectiveness at the plate.  Nolan Reimold who the Orioles have invested a great deal of hope in is still only hitting .210 after leading the American League rookies in 2009 in home runs. He too had an injury that he does not seem to have bounced back from and suffered from some personal issues that have taken his focus off the game.  He does not seem to have the winning look in his eyes right now and seems to have his head down a lot.  Orioles and Tides fans really want him to succeed so I don’t know what will be the case.  Michael Aubrey has come on strong hitting 5 home runs in the last 6 games while Jeff Salazar, Matt Angle and Rhyne Hughes stay very productive.  Paco Figueroa  and Blake Davis are coming along and Jonathan Tucker shows promise.  Robert Andino has to improve defensively but he has been a clutch hitter with men in scoring position leading the Tides in RBI production.

I think that there are a good number of Tides with major league potential. Of course their disposition depends on what the Orioles do in Baltimore. The trade deadline is approaching and there are a number of players that could be moved whose moves could affect players in Norfolk and Bowie.  In the system the O’s have players that could be used to sweeten deals and would not have to be their big time prospects. We saw this in the move of Ross Wolf to get Jake Fox from Oakland.

The time has come for Andy McPhail and the Orioles to get a new manager, hopefully Buck Showalter and start shedding unproductive or underperforming players at Baltimore and in their minor league system. The teaching of fundamentals at all levels must be reemphasized especially fielding and various reaction drills.  Bobby Dickerson has really done well in changing how the Tides play, there is a lot more heads up play and players that are not on the field seem now to be in the game.  The team is responding to his leadership where maybe they had gotten used to Gary Allenson and did not respond to him as they should have done.

There is work to be done in the Orioles organization and it has to start from the top, a new manager and possibly new hitting and pitching coaches at the major league level. I think that Showalter need to be hired now and not later and that Bobby Dickerson be announced as the manager and not the interim manager of the Tides.

My prediction is that I think that the Tides will finish the season above .500 and I do not see the meltdown of last year happening with this year’s team. I think that they will finish in either second or third place in the division while Durham wins it.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Dumped 7-2 by Bulls but Patterson and Simon Shine for O’s in Comeback Win against Rangers

Jim Miller continued to show composure under pressure in sending down the heart of the Bulls order in the 6th inning

The Norfolk Tides lost their second straight to division leading Durham who are by the way the best team in the International League as well as the division leader.  The Bulls defeated the Tides by a score of 7-2 on a hot and humid Friday night in Durham.  The Tides were held scoreless by Bulls starter Virgil Vasquez (4-0 3.55 ERA) and middle reliever Dale Thayer for 8 innings.  During those first 8 innings the Tides had 8 hits and loaded the bases in the 7th inning but failed to score.

Chris Tillman was recalled to the Orioles and will start against the Rangers tonight

While Bulls pitchers closed down the Tides offense the Bulls worked over Tides starter Tim Bascom (2-3 5.87 ERA) who gave up 5 runs, 4 of which were earned on 7 hits in 4.1 innings work.  Jim Miller came on in middle relief and got the Tides out of the 5th inning and then got in early trouble in the 6th but after giving up a run and having 2 men on base struck out Tides killers Elliott Johnson and Justin Ruggiano finishing the inning by getting Dan Johnson to fly out.  It was a case of Miller keeping his composure against the Durham offense which leads the league in hitting despite getting in trouble. Though he gave up a run the performance shows that Miller is on his way to becoming an excellent all round relief pitcher that can pitch in any situation.  Pat Egan also gave up a run while Armando Gabino closed out the Bulls in the 8th when they were threatening again.

With the score 7-0 in the top of the 9th it appeared that the Tides were on their way to being shut out and sent home, but they did not quit and got a rally of sorts going as Paco Figueroa and Blake Davis had back to back home runs off of Bulls reliever Darin Downs and had a runner on base before Robert Andino grounded out to end the game.

The game was not the best for the Tides in fact the failure to score early and Bascom’s lack of success being clearly overmatched by the Bulls’ offense ensured that they would not win this game. On the positive side the performance of Jim Miller who despite getting in trouble in the top of the 6th was able to keep his composure and mow down the heart of the Bulls order was a positive take away as were the two home runs by Figueroa and Davis in the 9th inning.

Alfredo Simon notched his 12th save following Corey Patterson’s Grand Slam in the 9th and Jake Fox’s solo shot in the 10th in the O’s comeback win against the Rangers on Friday Night

Tonight the teams meet again this time in the friendly confines of Harbor Park with Brian Baker (7-0 2.50 ERA) taking the hill for the Bulls against a yet unannounced Tides starter. Chris Tillman who was the scheduled starter was recalled by the Orioles and it would be my guess that either Chris George or Andy Mitchell could be brought back to the team or that Armando Gabino could reprise his starting role where he had success the last time that Tillman was called up by the O’s.

Speaking of the Orioles for the second night in a row they had a 9th inning comeback and stunned the powerful Texas Rangers.  Last night behind by a score of 6-2 the Orioles loaded the bases and with two outs former Tides outfielder Corey Patterson went yard against one of the best closers in the league, All-Star rookie closer Neftali Feliz for a grand slam home run which tied the game. In the 10th Jake Fox newly acquired from the Athletics in a deal which sent Tides reliever Ross Wolf to the A’s homered to give the Tides the lead and former Tides starter and now Orioles closer Alfredo Simon came in to send the Rangers down in order for his 12th save of the year. Jason Berken (2-0 2.01 ERA) got the win for the O’s. Chris Tillman will start for the O’s tonight in Arlington and we hope that he will get his first Major League win of the year against the Rangers after pitching so well for the Tides.  The Orioles are evaluating catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Felix Pie after both incurred injuries in the game. If one or both end up on the DL Josh Bell will likely remain in Baltimore instead of returning to Norfolk and conceivably outfielder Jeff Salazar could be called up to fill in for Pie.

With the Tides back in town yours truly will be at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish to be there to record the action and enjoy the game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Blown Out of Buffalo 11-4: Northern Road Trip Ends with Tides Losing Six of Eight Games….Is there any Hitting in the House?

Frustrated Hitters like Joey Gathright have not had a Good Season so far in 2010

The Tides first northern expedition of the year ended badly in Buffalo on Monday night. On a cool, cloudy and breezy Buffalo night the Tides fell to the Bisons by a score of 11-4.  The game was actually relatively close and could have gone to extra innings but for the 7 runs allowed by the Tides in the 7th and 8th innings.  Tides Starter Troy Patton (2-5 5.53)  gave up 4 runs, three earned on 8 hits in 5.2 innings work.    Jim Miller came into the game to relieve Patton in the bottom of the 6th with 2 outs and retired the first batter that he faced.  Miller gave up a solo home run to Jason Pridie in the bottom of the 7th before retiring the rest of the order.  However the 8th inning was the inning of doom for the Tides as the Bisons’ bats lit up Miller and Pedro Viola for 6 runs on 4 hits which included home runs by Russ Adams and Mike Jacobs and a double by Jesus Feliciano each of which scored two runs.  The Tides tried to rally in the top of the 9th but the rally fell very short with the Tides scoring 2 runs on a series of singles by Josh Bell, Michael Aubrey, Brandon Snyder, Robert Andino and Adam Donachie.  The Tides had scored two runs early in the game when Michael Aubrey hit a two run home run in the top of the 2nd inning.

Rhyne Hughes leads the Tides in batting averaage

The road trip was difficult for the Tides especially in the hitting department. The Tides scored just 21 runs on 57 hits and only 2 home runs.  They were shut out twice with one of those a complete game for the opposing pitcher.  They now sit at the bottom of the International League in the team batting average with a .234 team average and an On Base Percentage of just .299 also the lowest in the league.  They rank third from the bottom in run production with a total of 157 runs in 39 games with a Slugging Percentage of .366 the second lowest in the league.   In some ways the Tides hitting mirrors that of their parent club the Baltimore Orioles.  Who have a .251 average a .310 OBP and scored just 133 runs next to last in the American League with a fourth from the bottom Slugging Percentage of .384.    It is obvious that the Orioles and the Tides need to improve markedly in hitting and run production if they ever want to be competitive.

Former Tides Pitcher Alfredo Simon got the win in Relief in Baltimore while Corey Patterson (below) had a game tying home run in the bottom of the 8th

In the pitching department the Tides are part of the middle of the pack in the International League with an ERA of 4.27.  In a number of pitching categories the Tides are competitive however they have given up 142 walks the most in the League other than Pawtucket and are in the top third of the league in terms of home runs, runs and earned runs.  With the exception of the final game of the series in Buffalo the pitchers kept the Tides in the games despite giving up the long ball in inopportune moments.

While the Tides pitching could improve the pitchers are on the whole improving but the hitters are struggling and players that hit for good averages last year are not getting it done this year. In 2009 Joey Gathright hit .325, Justin Turner .300, Michael Aubrey .290, Scott Moore .254 and Brandon Snyder .248.   By comparison Gathright is hitting .184, Turner .250, Aubrey .266, Moore .256 and Snyder .202.  The team batting average in 2009 was .272 and currently in 2010 .234.  On base percentage 2009 was .330 and this year .299, slugging percentage in 2009 .389 and 2010 just .366.  The Tides have to figure out a way to hit this year otherwise even the improving pitching staff will continue to lose games that on other teams that they would win.   Certainly the talent is there and the hitters are capable of better.  Could it be the change in the hitting coach that occurred with Richie Hebner replacing Dallas Williams who had held the job for four years?  If it is not Hebner certainly there has to be an explanation for this slump.  At the beginning of the season I was not concerned but coming up on a third of the way into the season I am becoming concerned about despite a number of games where the Tides appeared to have broken out of this collective slump but then lapsed back into it.

The Tides played tonight against the Pawtucket Red Sox and lost by a score of 6-0, more on this game tomorrow.

Meanwhile in Baltimore the Orioles defeated teh Royals by a score of 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Luke Scott hit 2 home runs off of last year’s Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.  Former Tides outfielder Corey Patterson hit a home run in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game and give the O’s another chance to win.  Former Tides starter and now Orioles closer Alfredo Simon got the win.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Northern Road Trip gets Frosty: Cold Tides Lose 5-3 and 4-0 in Buffalo

Mike Hessman in his Toledo Mud Hens uniform the all time Minor League Home Run King victimized Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta (James Venes photo 2007)

The Norfolk Tides have dropped their last four consecutive games on their northern road trip. After the last two games of their series against Syracuse including the heartbreaking 2-1 loss on Thursday the Tides have lost two more this time to the Buffalo Bisons the AAA affiliate of the Tides former parent club the New York Mets.  With cool weather and blustery winds the two teams faced off at Coca Cola Field and the Bisons took both Friday and Saturday’s games with Mike Hessman the all time minor league home run king victimizing Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta for his 11th and 12th home runs of the season.

On Friday night in front of 5729 with temperatures in the 50s and winds blowing 17 miles an hour the Tides started Chris Tillman (3-4 3.83) who as of late has done quite well.  Friday was a different matter. Tillman allowed 5 runs 4 of which were earned runs on 8 hits including two home runs in six innings work.  The damage started in the third inning when Tillman allowed a single to Alex Cintron who went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ruben Tejada. Tillman struck out Jason Pridie but then balked which allowed Pridie to advance to third. Jesus Feliciano then bunted for a single to score Pridie before Tillman got out of the inning getting Mike Jacobs to fly out to right fielder Blake Davis.

The Bisons added three more in the 4th inning beginning with Mike Hessman hitting a home run to left to lead off the inning.  Valentino Pascucci then popped out and Tillman walked Russ Adams.  J R House a former member of the Tides from 2007 who was just signed by the Mets to a minor league contract after playing with the Astros and the Astros organization singled Adams to second.  Alex Cintron grounded to Brandon Snyder at first which Snyder misplayed allowing Adams to score and House to advance to third. Meanwhile Cintron attempted to stretch his good fortune but was thrown out at second by right fielder Blake Davis who had fielded the ball after it got away from Snyder.  Ruben Tejada then singled to score House before Tillman retired Jason Pridie on a pop up to Justin Turner at second.

The Tides came back to score 3 runs in the top of the 5th.  Blake Davis singled to center and went to second on a passed ball. Robert Andino grounded out to second moving Davis to third. Catcher Michel Hernandez grounded out for the second out and Davis had to remain at third.  With two out Joey Gathright reached on an error by second baseman Alex Cintron and Davis scored.  Gathright then stole second and was driven in by Justin Turner who singled to center. Jeff Salazar then singled to right and Turner went to third. Josh Bell singled to score Turner before Nolan Reimold in his first game with the Tides since being optioned by Baltimore to Norfolk grounded into a force play to end the inning.

It seemed that the Tides were back in the game and that their dormant bats were alive again.  However in the bottom of the 6th inning Valentino Pascucci hit a leadoff home run to increase the lead to 5-3.  This was not an insurmountable lead but the Tides managed just one more hit the rest of the game going down in order in the 7th and 8th innings and only managing the hit, a single by pinch hitter Michael Aubrey  with two outs in the top of the 9th.

In the end the Tides had 3 runs on 9 hits and allowed an error the Bisons 5 runs on 11 hits and 1 error. Tillman (3-4 3.83) got the loss and knuckleballer R A Dickey (4-2 2.23) got the win for the Bisons.

The Tides fared worse on Saturday.  Today the Tides would scatter just four hits and only get one runner into scoring position and were shut out by the Bisons 4-0.  Jake Arietta (3-2 2.20) took the hill for the Tides going up against Pat Misch (3-0 3.30). Arietta gave up a run in the 1st inning when Mike Hessman who had victimized Chris Tillman on Friday singled to drive in Jesus Feliciano. The Bisons scored another run in the bottom of the 2nd inning after Arietta walked Andy Green to start the inning and Green advanced to third on a single by Ruben Tejada. He would score on a ground ball by Jason Pridie.  In the bottom of the third the Bisons scored again when Mike Hessman homered to lead off the inning. Hessman was drafted by the Braves in 1996 and has played 15 years in the minors 9 years at the AAA level getting to the majors in only four seasons for a total of 77 games hitting 13 home runs.  Hessman is interesting, he played on the 2008 Bronze Medal US Olympic team has hit 323 home runs in the minor leagues and holds the minor league record for home runs.  The shot in the 3rd inning was his 12th of this season.

The Bisons added a final run in the bottom of the 6th inning when Andy Green homered off Arietta.  Even though Pedro Viola and Denis Sarfate held the Bisons to no more runs once again the Tides could manage no offense and they fell to the Bisons by the score of 4-0.  The Tides final line was 0 runs on 4 hits with one error, the Bisons 4 runs on 5 hits and no errors.  With the loss the Tides drop to 15-22 having lost five of the first six games of the northern road trip and into the cellar of the IL South.  The Tides and Bisons will square off Sunday afternoon. The pitchers are not announced but the number three man in the Tides rotation Chris George was placed on the seven day DL which could move Troy Patton up in the rotation as the Tides have no real starters in the bullpen.  Short reliever Jim Miller was brought back up from Aberdeen.

Up in Baltimore the Orioles who had won their last three games relearned the hard lesson that you have to get 27 outs to win the game. The O’s blew a 2-0 lead to the Cleveland Indians in the 9th inning with Alfredo Simon and Cla Meredith each allowing four runs in an 8 run rally once again denying Brian Matusz his first win of the season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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