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Tides Double Up Braves 4-2 Split Series and Return Home Thursday

Robert Andino drove in his 70th run of the season in the 4-2 victory

After giving away Monday’s game to the Gwinnett Braves the Norfolk Tides were spoiling for a win on Tuesday and got it.  The Tides were aided by 5 errors committed by the G-Braves in the game.  Matt Angle led off the 1st inning with fly ball to right fielder Brent Clevlen which should have been caught for the first out of the game, however Clevlen misplayed the ball and Angle went to third on the error. Robert Andino immediately made the Braves pay for this error taking the first pitch from Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami to center field scoring Angle and giving the Tides a 1-0 lead.  This was Andino’s 70th RBI of the season, 4th in the International League. The Tides struck again in the 2nd inning when Lou Montanez leading off the inning took Kawakami to a 3-2 count and smashed a home run over the left field wall.

Tides pitchers made that lead stand up until the bottom of the 7th. Mike Hinckley just off the DL pitched 3.2 innings in his first start since he was at double-A Harrisburg.  He gave up a hit and two walks and struck out two in his starting debut with the Tides. He was followed by Cla Meredith who made one of his best appearances of the year pitched two hitless innings walking just one leaving with two outs in the 6th. Alberto Castillo got the final out of the inning and yielded to Kam Mickolio in the 7th.  Mickolio not long off the DL himself gave up singles to Barbaro Canizares, Willie Cabrera and Brent Clevlen with Clevlen’s hit scoring Canizares.  Joe Thurston laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners bringing Luis Bolivar to the plate and Bolivar grounded out to score Cabrera. Mickolio then got J.C. Boscan to ground out to Robert Andino to tie the game at 2-2.

The 8th inning started out inauspiciously for the Tides with quick as Matt Angle and Robert Andino both went down on strikes by reliever Stephen Marek.  However with 2 outs the Tides got another chance when Marek misplayed a ground ball allowing Jeff Salazar to get to first.  Marek then walked Nolan Reimold to send Salazar to second base. Marek’s problems were compounded when catcher J. C. Boscan attempting a pick off of Montanez at 2nd base threw the ball away allowing Montanez to take third. Scott Moore then doubled to score Salazar and Reimold to give the Tides a 4-2 lead.

Mike Hinckley made his first start in a Tides uniform

Dennis Sarfate entered the game in the 8th for a 2 inning save attempt and Dennis was sharp setting the Braves down in order in the 8th and 9th innings striking out two in the process to give the Tides the win.

Dennis Sarfate notched his 16th save with 2 innings flawless relief

Kam Mickolio (3-2 6.84 ERA) got the win and Dennis Sarfate picked up his 16th save and Stephan Marek (1-1 1.26 ERA) got the loss. The Tides had 4 runs on 5 hits with no errors leaving 6 stranded and the Braves had 2 runs on 5 hits with 5 errors leaving 6 men on base.  Wednesday was an off day for the Tides who begin a 5 game series against division and league leading Durham Thursday the 19th.

Rain could be in the forecast so bring your umbrella if you come and join me at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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NO HITTER! The Lights Go Out in Georgia; Chris Tillman Blanks the Braves

Chris Tillman no-hit the Gwinnett Braves on Wednesday night

It was a magical night in Georgia when dreams came true for a 22 year old Baltimore Orioles prospect named Chris Tillman as the lights went out in Georgia on the Gwinnett Braves.

Tillman became the first Norfolk Tides pitcher to pitch a 9 inning no-hitter since May 15th 1992 when Dave Telgheder no-hit the Pawtucket Red Sox.  In 2001 Steve Trachsel pitched a seven inning no-hitter against the Ottawa Lynx.  Back then the Tides were with the Mets in the pre-Minaya era.

The Tides changed up their road uniforms tonight wearing the old red jerseys that hearken back to early 1960s when the Tides were an affiliate of the St Louis Cardinals and had not been worn regularly since the 2008 season.

Tillman who had begun the year with a series of rough starts has turned things around in a big way on this road trip. He began the trip with an eight inning 5-3 win in Charlotte where he controlled the game.  However, tonight Chris made history in Lawrenceville Georgia where at Coolray Field on a chilly night in front of 2989 fans he tossed the first no-hitter of the year at the AAA level and is setting himself up for a rapid promotion to Baltimore along with his stable mate and the leading pitcher in the International League Jake Arrieta.  These young and talented pitchers will along with Brian Matusz be the mainstays of the Orioles rotation for years if managed right.   Both are exceptionally talented and though some are calling for their immediate promotion to the Orioles it would not be unwise to let them work a while longer in AAA before going up.

Chris allowed just two base runners both in the 5th inning, one a walk to Brent Clevlen and the other on an error committed by First Baseman Michael Aubrey.   The rest of the game Tillman was perfect striking out 6 Braves and getting 13 more on ground outs.  He threw just 105 pitches in the effort making it all look easy.  With the win Tillman improves his record to 2-3 with a 4.05 ERA.   Jim Parr would take the loss for the Braves his first of the year.

Chris was aided by excellent defense by a number of Tides players including Corey Patterson who ran down a deep fly ball by Wes Timmons in the 3rd inning which easily could have gone for a hit had Patterson not tracked it down.

Tides hitters came forward tonight scoring 6 runs on 9 hits aided by 3 walks issued by Braves pitchers and 3 errors two by Brandon Hicks and 1 by Joe Thurston.  Seven of the nine Tides hitters hit in the game with Joey Gathright and Jeff Salazar having two each and Scott Moore and Michael Aubrey both connecting for doubles against Gwinnett starting pitcher Jim Parr.  Jeff Salazar had two stolen bases and Corey Patterson stole another as everything came together for Chris Tillman and the Tides tonight.

If you have never been to a no-hitter in person or watched or listened in rapt suspense as one unfolded before your eyes on television or a broadcaster poetically called one on the radio then you have missed what I think is one of the most suspenseful and riveting events in all of sports. I saw Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets 6-0 in Candlestick Park back on August 24th 1975.  I have been close to attending a couple of other’s missing Clyde Wright of the California Angels no-hit the A’s on July 3rd 1970 as our tickets were for the fireworks on the 4th and Nolan Ryan on May 1st 1991 when I had tickets for the following day.

However one has to imagine what it would be like for this young man to walk out onto the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning knowing how many no-hitters have been lost to unknown players who got a base hit, perhaps a line drive into the gap or a bloop into Right Field or even a grounder with eyes that gets past the outstretched glove of an infielder trying desperately to make the play to save his pitcher’s no-hitter.

Knowing things like this when the bench begins to realize that their starter is pitching the no-hitter the pitcher is left alone in the dugout.  No one talks about what is happening as they do not want to “jinx” the pitcher.  The tension begins to mount from about the 5th inning on as players and spectators alike sensing that something magical is happening before their eyes.  With every pitch and especially every time the a batter puts the ball in play there is a collective gasp as everyone, except the opposing team prays to whatever Deity they worship, and I know that even the Atheists are praying to someone at this point for a putout to be made.

I was doing that as Tides Announcer Bob Socci called the 9th inning.  Tillman got Brandon Hicks to ground out to Josh Bell at Third Base, Bell made the play and threw to Michael Aubrey for the out.  He then faced Clint Sammons and his first pitch to Sammons was a strike.  Sammons then swung at and missed the second pitch to take the count to 0-2.  His next pitch was a ball that was high in the zone followed by another low.  With the count 2 balls and 2 strikes Sammons hit one back to Tillman who ran towards first and tossed the ball to Michael Aubrey for out number two.  My heart was now racing as Chris stepped up to the rubber and faced Braves lead off hitter Michael Young.  The first pitch was fouled off by Young.  Tillman’s next pitch was a ball, the count one and one.  The next pitch also a ball and Tillman was behind in the count to Young a 250 hitter.  Chris then wound up and delivered a called strike to move the count to two and two.  Tillman paused and then delivered his fifth pitch to Young which Young hit a ground ball to Shortstop Robert Andino who threw to Aubrey for the out.  The Tides mobbed Tillman coming out of the dugout to congratulate Chris and celebrate his accomplishment.

Steve Melewski of MASN.com  has a page with audio of Bob Socci’s call of the last out, an interview with Chris and another interview with Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin.  That page is linked here:

http://masnsports.com/steve_melewski/2010/04/audio-from-chris-tillmans-no-hitter.html

Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com the Orioles’ major league beat reporter was able to ask Tillman about the game:

“Everything kind of fell into place,” Tillman said Wednesday. “I was pitching around my fastball. I had my curveball when I needed it. I was able to throw my changeup and my cutter.  My catcher [Adam Donachie] did a great job calling pitches. I had three or four great plays behind me.”

Congratulations Chris and congratulations to the Tides in the field and at the plate who helped this dream come true.  I do think that this might be a magical season for the Tides as well as Chris Tillman and maybe, just maybe things will begin looking up for the Orioles.

Peace and blessings

Padre Steve+

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Tides Lose Opener in Georgia 7-2 Leave 9 Runners in Scoring Position; Orioles defeat Yankees 5-4 at Camden Yards

Brandon Hicks went 1 for 3 on Tuesday Night

The Norfolk Tides went down to Georgia to open their series against the Gwinnett Braves in cool and windy weather under a cloudy night sky more reminiscent of Norfolk than suburban Atlanta in front of 2547 fans at Gwinnett County Coolray Field.  The Tides hoped to come off of a loss in the final game of their series against Charlotte on Monday to restart their recent winning streak against the Braves but that did not happen as the Braves defeated the Tides 7-2 behind the solid pitching of four Braves pitchers who allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits despite walking 7 Tides batters.

Brandon Erbe fell to 0-4 continuing to struggle at AAA

Tides starter Brandon Erbe went down to Georgia seeking his first win of the season but got in trouble early walking Matt Young to lead off the inning followed by a single to Gregor Blanco, another walk this time to Freddie Freeman and a bases loaded single to Brent Clevlen which drove in Young and Blanco.  He gave up a third run in the 2nd inning when Wes Timmons and J C Boscan both singled and Timmons was driven home by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Matt Young.

The Tides would get a run back in the top of the 4th inning when Josh Bell doubled on a sharp line drive to center and was advanced to third on a single by Scott Moore.  Braves catcher J C Boscan allowed a pitch by Braves starter Tim Gustafson to get by him giving Moore the chance to take second base. With two on and no outs Brandon Snyder grounded out to short scoring Bell.  The Tides mustered nothing else in the fourth as Corey Patterson flied to left and Justin Turner grounded into a Fielder’s Choice in which Moore was out at third.

Joey Gathright went 2 for 4 with a double

The Braves took that run back in the bottom of the fourth as Brandon Erbe’s woes continued.  Erbe walked Brandon Hicks and Wes Timmons. J C Boscan dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt that Tides Catcher Adam Donachie fielded but who only had a play at first.  This advanced Hicks and Timmons and brought Matt Young to the plate.  Young hit a sacrifice fly to Left Fielder Joey Gathright scoring Hicks.  Erbe want to the showers when he gave up a walk to Gregor Blanco.  Chris George entered the game to get the final out.

In the top of the 5th the Tides got another run when Adam Donachie singled, Joey Gathright doubled and Robert Andino hit a sacrifice fly to right which scored Donachie.

With the score 4-2 and the Tides looking to get back into the game the Braves literally “stole” the game and put a stake in the heart of the Tides hopes for the night. Chris George who has been a solid middle reliever this year walked the first batter Brent Clevlen and then got Mitchell Jones looking.  George then walked Joe Thurston.  The Braves then pulled off a double steal which advanced Clevlen to third and Thurston to second.  George then got Brandon Hicks to strike out and intentionally walked Wes Timmons.  With the bases loaded J C Boscan hit a soft fly to right which fell for a hit and scored Clevlen and Thurston and advanced Timmons to third.  With Matt Young batting Wes Timmons did what is seldom done and on a double steal attempt stole home for the third run of the inning.

The game would finish with the Braves using three relievers beginning in the top of the 6th inning to shut down the Tides.  The Tides would make an 8th inning rally attempt which fell short with the bases loaded.  Ross Wolf came on for the Tides to pitch the 6th and 7th innings and Frank Mata closed out the game with neither pitcher allowing any Braves runs.  Braves pitching was adequate Tim Gustafson (1-1 6.75) got the win giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and two walks. Both teams committed an error.

For the Tides Joey Gathright went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Brandon Snyder and Jeff Salazar each had an RBI.  Brandon Erbe got the loss dropping to 0-4 on the season with an 8.35 ERA.  Brandon gave up 4 runs on 6 hits walking 5 in 3.2 innings work. Chris George (1-0 4.50) had his first bad outing of the year going only one and a third innings giving up 3 runs on 1 hit with two walks.  The story for the Tides was the inability to score runs. They left eleven men on base and had eleven in scoring position of which only one the Tides brought home.

The Tides and Brave meet tonight at 7:05 PM with Chris Tillman (1-3 6.11) taking the Hill for the Tides and James Parr (1-1 3.48) on the hill for the Braves.

Alberto Castillo got his first win of the year in Baltimore against the Yankees

Meanwhile at Camden Yards the Orioles got their first home win of the season as well as their first winning streak by defeating the Champion New York Yankees and their wrecking crew holding on to win 5-4.  It was a night where former Norfolk Tides shined to secure the win.   In the 6th inning Rhyne Hughes continued to shine beginning an Orioles rally with a RBI single, this was followed by one by Nolan Reimold and Cesar Izturis.  Recent Tides Alberto Castillo got the win and Alfredo Simon in his appearance as an Oriole got the save.  Tonight the Yankees send C C Sabathia against the Orioles Jeremy Guthrie.

We’ll see how the night goes.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Lose Heartbreaker: Drop 5th Straight

Errors and unearned runs have been the bane of the Norfolk Tides this year. On a beautiful night in from of 3292 fans the Tides lost a game despite excellent pitching for their starting pitcher on an unearned run. Last night the Tides lost 4-3 to the Braves but gave up three unearned runs and tonight the Braves scored the deciding run on a throwing error by Tides Second Baseman Scott Moore to first.  Tides starter Alfredo Simon pitched a solid game surrendering just one earned run in the first inning on a little twisting fly ball that was knocked down by the wind and fell in front of Jonathan Tucker by Brent Clevlen which scored Matt Young.  Simon would give up just that one earned run on 7 hits with 5 strike outs in the loss. Simon had an excellent night continues his solid performance for the Tides and might wind up with a mid or late season call up.

For the second night in a row the Tides gave up three errors.  Some of this is due to players like Moore playing out of position. Moore had not played the middle infield before this season and obviously has not adjusted to it.  Of course he is there because Justin Turner was called up to Baltimore when Brian Roberts was injured.

Gwinnett was the beneficiary of an outstanding start by Todd Redmond who pitched 7.1 innings giving up one earned run on 6 hits with 4 strike outs.  Scott Proctor got the two outs in the 8th and Craig Kimbrel got his third save of the year taking the Tides down in order in the ninth.

Joey Gathright grounding out to third. Gathright went 0-4 in Tuesday’s game

The Tides woes at the plate continued Joey Gathright, Scott Moore and Brandon Snyder all were hitless in 4 trips to the plate each.  Robert Andino doubled deep to left center with 2 outs in the bottom of the eighth to drive in Adam Donachie.

Robert Andino getting one of his two hits, a single

The loss drops the Tides to 4 and 9.  The anemic Tides hitting has driven the team batting average to .230 which is third from the bottom in the International League and their team on base percentage is a miserable .304.  In 13 games the Tides have given up 68 runs on 131 hits while scoring 55 runs on 99 hits.

Jeff Salazar doubled in the bottom of the 8th to drive in the only Tides run

Now the Tides have already felt the ripple effect of the glut of injuries at Baltimore.  Lou Montanez, Justin Turner and Kam Mickolio have all replaced injured O’s and Tides Alberto Castillo was brought up when Brad Bergeson was optioned to Norfolk.   The talk is that if Bergeson can get his sinker and confidence back that he may go back up to Baltimore on May 1st to face the Red Sox.  If he is not ready the belief is that Tides starter Jake Arrieta who is not on the 40 man roster could make his major league debut on that day.  In one other personnel move Blake Davis was promoted to the Tides from AA Bowie.

Although the season is very early it appears that the depth, talent and youth of the Tampa Bay Rays organization is paying off big for their International League affiliate the Durham Bulls.  The bulls lead the league in almost every offensive category.  Durham’s pitching is solid giving up only 4 earned runs on 95 hits.  In the past four games the Bulls have produced 39 runs compared with 5 by their opponents. When one looks at the Rays and the Bulls it is clear that unless both are hit with a ton of injuries that the Rays could challenge the Yankees in the AL East and the Bulls could well repeat as the Governor’s Cup Champion.

On Wednesday the Tides will send Troy Patton (0-2  11.12 ERA)  against the Braves’ Ryne Reynoso (0-2  6.30) The weather might be on the soupy side with temperatures in the 60s and 50s and a 50% chance of rain showers.  I’ll be there and hope that you are too!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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