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Finishing Well: The Orioles’ Revival a Portent of things to Come

Luke Scott and the Orioles finally have something to be excited about

The Baltimore Orioles under new manager Buck Showalter have become a force in the American League and the American League East.  On August the 2nd the O’s had the worst record in baseball, even lower than the perpetual dwellers in the Marinas Trench of baseball the Pittsburgh Pirates. In four months of play the O’s had but 32 wins and had gone through two managers.  They were on pace to lose well at least 110 games and maybe more games than any team in Major League Baseball History in a 162 game season.

Outfielders like Felix Pie (above) as well as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones will have Corey Patterson looking for a starting position and Nolan Reimold hoping for redemption

At the end of last season I said that manager Dave Trembley had to go. At the time I suggested Bobby Valentine as a replacement. After Trembley was fired Valentine as well as a number of other candidates was interviewed, shortly after Valentine removed himself from consideration as a possible successor to Trembley. On August the 2nd the Orioles hired Showalter to take the place of Interim Manager Juan Samuel. When Showalter took over the Orioles no-one gave him much of a chance of making any real progress this season, most considered the Orioles a lost cause.  I did not think so. At the beginning of the year I predicted that the Orioles would be a .500 team and that this would be a good year for them.  That prediction did not materialize but it was not a question of talent but of leadership and the ability of the Orioles Coaching staff to get the best out of the team, especially the young talent.  The team is playing to the level that I thought that they could at the beginning of the season.

Jeremy Guthrie as well as stable mates Jake Arietta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergeson will have competition from others including Zach Britton who is still at Norfolk

It is my belief that finishing a season well is an indicator of the real potential of a team.  If one was to simply look at the Orioles aggregate win and loss totals one might say that the season was a disaster. That is not true. The first 4 months of the season were an unmitigated disaster as the team lost 16 of its first 18 games and never recovered under the management of Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel. The team was obviously demoralized and looked to an outsider that they believed that they would lose when they took the field. Young players, especially the young pitchers either got knocked around or were given no run support.  Veterans acquired in the off-season to provide experience and on field leadership to the youngsters were a bust and the team had numerous injuries to key players. You could not have a worse first two thirds of a season if you tried.

But all of that changed on August 2nd with a simple change in leadership. The Orioles started to win and win frequently. Not only did they win frequently they began to win a lot more series than they lost.If the season began on August 2nd the AL east would look like this:

Orioles            34-23     .596

Blue Jays         30-26   .535

Yankees          30-27    .526

Red Sox          28-27    .509

Rays                28-28     .500

There were turnarounds in hitting as well as starting pitching. Orioles starters went 26-15 with a 3.13 ERA after Showalter.  With that their starters were the 3rd best rotation in majors since August 2nd.  They have the third best record in the Majors since August 2nd with only the Phillies and Twins winning more.

The Orioles have a lot to look forward to. Buck Showalter will not rest in the off season as he gets the O’s ready for next year. There will be changes. I would think that pitchers Kevin Millwood and Mark Hendrickson will be gone; others will have to fight for their jobs. In the off season Showalter will take the raw talent that has been present on the Orioles at the Major League and Minor League levels make prudent trades as well as assignments within the organization to get them ready to challenge the rest of the AL East in 2011.

While the Orioles are definitely on the way up one has to take a look at how others are doing not just in the East but in the Majors. In the AL East the Rays Owner says that payroll will be significantly reduced and with numerous key players in contract negotiations and declaring free agency they will not be the same team that they have been the past three years. The Yankees and Red Sox are both showing signs of age with the Sox being in worse shape in the long run because they have little to speak of in their minor league system are saddled with a good number of older players and have key players entering the free agent market.  The Yankees can always spend money but as the core of the team, Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera get older they will lose something. Since the organization will be unlikely to trade such favorites at some point they will spend more time on the DL and not perform as well as in previous years. It is simple; the older guys get the more that they wear out.  This may prove problematic for the Yankees in the coming years.  The Blue Jays finished strong but one does not know what will happen with them with the exit of long time manager Cito Gaston.

Outside of the AL East only the Twins performed really well.  Almost every team in the AL was just above .500 or below during the last two months of the season. This includes teams that have a history of doing well and some that are playoff bound.  Finishing well matters and with the exception of the Orioles and Twins in the AL no teams finished strong, many stumbled and the proof is in their records.

All of this bodes well for the Orioles especially if Showalter is able to continue what he started this year.  I expect the Orioles to be competitive in the AL East. I do not think that they will necessarily win the division but they will not be the door-mat that they have been for so many years.  There is work to do in Birdland but for the first time in years there is real hope based on their performance the last two months of the season.  The team believes that it can win every time it takes the field. When there is leadership and talent there is no limit to where the O’s can go.

Over the off-season I will continue my reporting and commentary on the Orioles and their organization, particularly the Triple-A affiliate the Norfolk Tides. Over the next month I will be commenting of the MLB playoffs and begin to publish articles on the young talent in the Orioles organization and what I think might happen as Buck Showalter and Andy McPhail makes the changes to the organization to make the team a force in the American League for years to come.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tillman Sharp as Tides end Skid Defeat Indians 9-1; Orioles take 3 of 4 from White Sox and crush Tribe Tuesday 14-8

Chris Tillman got his 9th Win on Monday

Chris Tillman pitched well on Monday night in Indianapolis to pick up his 9th win of the season and his first in four starts since returning from Baltimore. Tillman pitched 6.2 innings allowing 1 run on 8 hits, striking out 9 and walking only one in the outing.  The Tides hitters continued to hit well pounding out 9 runs on 15 hits tearing up the Indians pitching staff. Matt Angle went 4 for 5 with a double, triple and 2 RBIs, Robert Andino went 2 for 5 but had 2 triples and an RBI, Brandon Snyder went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs while Adam Donachie had an RBI double and Scott Moore a 2 run home run.

Brandon Snyder doubled twice with 2 RBIs Monday

The Tides took a 2-0 lead on Scott Moore’s 6th home run of the season in the second inning and never looked back. They added another in the 3rd when Robert Andino tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Salazar.  The 4th inning was a big inning for the Tides as they sent 8 batters to the plate and scored 4 runs.  Brandon Snyder led off the inning with a double and Scott Moore walked. Adam Donachie laid down a sacrifice bunt to send the runners to 2nd and 3rd base with 1 out. Paco Figueroa singled to score Snyder and send Moore to 3rd base.  Matt Angle tripled to score Moore and Figueroa.  Starter Jeremy Powell then hit Andino and was replaced by Dana Eveland. Jeff Salazar had a sacrifice fly to score Angle before Nolan Reimold grounded into a force out to end the inning. The Tides scored an insurance run in the 6th when Matt Angle singled and scored on Robert Andino’s second triple of the game and a final run in the top of the 9th when Brandon Snyder hit his 2nd double and was driven in by Adam Donachie who doubled.

The Indians scored just 1 run in the bottom of the 4th inning on consecutive singles by Brandon Moss, John Bowker and Mitch Jones.

The Tides rolled to the win with Chris Tillman (9-7 3.45 ERA) notching the victory and Jeremy Powell (8-8 5.24 ERA) the loss.  The Tides had 9 runs on 15 hits and no errors leaving 11 men on base, the Indians 1 run on 8 hits with 8 runners left stranded.  The Tides sent 47 batters to the plate in the effort.

Jake Arietta got his 4th win as the O’s won their 7th win under Buck Showalter

In Baltimore the Orioles closed out their series with the White Sox winning on a walk off home run by Brian Roberts to give the O’s their 6th win in 7 games and a series win over the Sox following their sweep of the Angels. The Orioles played tonight in Cleveland winning 14-8 with Jake Arietta getting the win. The O’s had home runs from Felix Pie, Luke Scott, Matt Wieters and Corey Patterson. The O’s had 13 hits in the effort and improved their record to 39 and 74 and are not far from climbing out of the Marianas Trench of Major League Baseball.  It is amazing to see the turn around on the O’s since the hiring of Buck Showalter as manager making their record under him 7-1.  The Orioles hitting has come alive after a relatively dismal season and now their starting pitchers are getting good starts.

The Tides are losing 10-6 in Indianapolis as this is published.

Peace

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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All Star Break Norfolk Tides Wrap Up

Armando Gabino has been an excellent spot starter and middle reliever for the Tides on Sunday he picked up his 5th win against the powerful Durham Bulls

The Norfolk Tides played the Durham Bulls much better in the friendly confines of Harbor Park than they did in Durham last week splitting a pair where they could easily have won both games.  On Saturday the Bulls and Tides played a very even game that had both teams with 12 hits the difference being a 3 run 5th inning where the Bulls had three consecutive singles to load the bases on Tides starter Chris George and despite a double play would manufacture 3 runs against George.  The Tides did not help their own causes despite the number of hits given up by Durham pitchers leaving the bases loaded in the 1st, 3rd and 5th innings.  In all the Tides would strand 14 runners, 9 in scoring position with two outs mostly because the bottom third of the batting order which had recently getting very clutch hits went 2 for 12 with two walks, both hits coming from the bat of Blake Davis.  In addition to Davis Matt Angle, Jeff Salazar and Nolan Reimold all had multiple hit games with Reimold connecting on his 6th home run, a solo shot in the 7th inning off of Bulls reliever Michael Eckstrom.

Andy Mitchell did an excellent job in middle relief in a losing effort Saturday night

A tide pitching with the exception of the 5th inning was very good and even in the 5th inning it was a successive collection of quirky hits that got Chris George in trouble.  George (4-4 4.36 ERA) got the loss going 4.2 innings giving up 4 runs on 8 hits walking 1 and striking out 4. Andy Mitchell gave up 1 run on 4 hits in 3.1 innings of work.  Mitchell needs to be given credit; he has come in on a number of occasions this year and pitched 3-5 innings of solid relief which has saved some of the other members of the bullpen from being used up after multiple games of relief.  Andy has made the transition from starting pitcher to reliever and continues to improve. He is not young anymore but in the right spots he has what it takes to be the man to stand in the gap so to speak to give his team mates in the bullpen badly needed rest.

Robert Andino singles in the 3rd inning on Sunday against Durham

The Bulls as I said had 12 hits with several players having multiple hit games. Among them was Angel Chavez who went 2-4 with 2 RBIs and Joe Dillon who also went 2-4 with two doubles, one each of George and Mitchell and 1 RBI.  Apart from Dillon the Tides pitchers allowed no other extra base hits to the very powerful Bulls offense.  Michael Eckstrom (4-1 2.61 ERA) got the win in relief for the Bulls and Winston Abreu got his 11th save of the campaign.  The Bulls had 5 runs on 12 hits and no errors leaving 9 men stranded.  The Tides had 3 runs on 12 hits with 1 error leaving 14 men on base.

Matt Angle scores a key run in the 7th inning

On Sunday Armando Gabino made a spot start for the Tides as Bobby Dickerson juggled his pitching staff with the departure of Chris Tillman to Baltimore and Chris George and Andy Mitchell both added back to the Tides roster.  Gabino has been very effective both as a middle reliever where he began the year as well as in spot starts and was so again going 6.1 innings giving up no runs and only 3 hits striking out 4 and walking none.  Alberto Castillo pitched an inning of scoreless relief but Pat Egan who game in with 1 out in the top of the 8th was crushed by a hit starved Durham lineup giving up 4 runs on 3 hits and a walk, one of the hits being a 3 run home run by Justin Ruggiano and a ground rule double to Dan Johnson with 1 out in the top of the 9th.  Denis Sarfate came in to get the last two outs, a double play to end the inning and the game.

Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta both won against the Rangers this weekend


Alfredo Simon went from Tides Starter to Orioles Closer

Tides hitters had 8 hits and a walk with the damage to Bulls pitching coming in the bottom of the 3rd inning and bottom of the 7th inning using small ball, a collection of 3 singles, a walk and a couple of fielder’s choice situations which netted the Tides runs.  In the bottom of the 7th it was a leadoff double by Blake Davis as well as singles by Matt Angle and Robert Andino to score two more runs without which Durham may have just won the game despite the pitching of Gabino.  Gabino held the Bulls down but once again the Bulls showed just how good that they are in the 9th inning rally that came close to stealing the game from the Tides.

Gabino got the win and Denis Sarfate got his 11th save of the season.  Bulls starter Carlos Hernandez (6-5 4.09 ERA) took the loss.  The Bulls had 4 runs on 7 hits with no errors leaving 2 aboard. The Tides had 5 runs on 8 hits and no errors leaving 4 runners stranded.

The Tides will not play again until Thursday when the teams return to action following the AAA All-Star Game break; the All-Star game will be played at Coca Cola Field in Allentown PA, the home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs with Jeff Salazar on the roster for the Tides.  Chris Tillman was also named to the squad but was removed following his call up to Baltimore.

The Tides go into the break with a record of 42 wins and 50 losses in last place in the International League South. They are half a game behind the Gwinnett Braves who are 42-49 and 5 games behind Charlotte who have a record of 45-47.  Right now no one is contending with Durham, the Bull’s leading not only the Southern Division but the International League with a record of 55 wins and 35 losses.  The biggest challenge will be consistence and experience for the Tides as the Orioles still with many injuries to key players will continue to rely on the Tides for replacements the remainder of the season.  However, the Orioles are starting to look better being 12 and 12 since June 15th sweeping a four game set with the Western Division leading Texas Rangers in Arlington in the series prior to the break and it is possible that they could finish the season, even if a losing one with a measure of respectability as the team seems to be coming together with a lot of great performances by former Tides Corey Patterson, Jason Berken and Alfredo Simon.  Additionally Chris Tillman and Jake Arietta both had excellent starts in against Texas having back to back wins for the first time since they played for the Tides.

Tomorrow a look at the Major Leagues as I analyze the first half of the season and prognosticate about the second half that begins after the All-Star break including my post season picks. I have never tried to pick this far out so we will see how good I am.  Don’t forget my record in the 2009 playoffs and World’s Series was pretty impressive, especially my game by game World Series predictions.

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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Shutting the Other Team out for 26 Outs is not good enough: Tides Lose to Syracuse 2-1

“You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.” Casey Stengel

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” Earl Weaver

Corey Patterson seen here with the Norfolk Tides hit his 1st Home run as a Oriole

Brandon Erbe must wonder what is going on. The young prospect was one out from winning his first AAA game when is disappeared like a fleeting cloud on a mid-summer day.  However it was not mid-summer and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when Erbe watched his victory evaporate with two outs in the bottom of the 9th at Alliance Bank Field in Syracuse.

Erbe had pitched his best game of the season.  He allowed no runs giving up no hits and 4 walks in 7 innings work. Kam Mickolio came on in relief and had another strong outing and then closer Frank Mata who has been has been solid in relief blew the save and lost the game after getting the first two batters that he faced in the bottom of the 9th out.

The game was a pitcher’s duel all the way.  Syracuse starter Andrew Kown went 6.2 innings giving up one run on seven hits. Had it not been for the Chiefs’ two out comeback in the bottom of the 9th he would have taken the loss. Instead he was off the hook got a no decision instead and Jason Bergmann in relief got the win.

Michael Aubrey seen in 2009 had a double and scored the Tides only run

The Tides went ahead in the top of the 5th when Michael Aubrey led off with a double, advanced to second on a ground out by Robert Andino and scored when Michel Hernandez singled.  The Tides loaded the bases in the top of the 7th and could not score and left a runner on in each of the 8th and 9th innings.

Usually reliable Frank Mata blew the save and lost the game with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th

In the bottom of the 9th Frank Mata who has been almost lights out each time he has come into a game retired the first two batters. With two outs Chris Duncan a .244 hitter batting in the 7th position singled. Eric Bruntlett the third baseman a .219 hitter smacked a triple to right which scored Duncan to tie the game and blow the save. With one out and the runner on third and Mata facing catcher Deven Ivany the unthinkable happened.  Mata threw the first pitch in the dirt past Michel Hernandez who could not stop it and Brunlett scored easily giving the Chiefs’ the victory.

It was the kind of loss that tears the heart out of a team, a game that by all means the Tides should have won was lost on two hits by marginal hitters and a bad pitch by a solid closer.  For Erbe who has had nothing but trouble this year it seemed that he would have his first win after pitching his best game.  Instead of getting a 1-0 win the Tides went down to defeat by a score of 2-1.  The Tides had 1 run on 8 hits with 1 error and left 9 men on base.  The Chiefs who looked like they were going down in defeat got to celebrate the victory with 2 runs on 6 hits and no errors while stranding seven.

The Chiefs take the series 3 games to one and the Tides travel tonight to Buffalo where they will play the team that used to be the Tides, the New York Mets AAA affiliate the Buffalo Bisons with Chris Tillman (3-3 3.49) going up against Bisons’ knuckleballer R A Dickey (3-2 2.56).

Up in Baltimore the Orioles won their series against the Seattle Mariners by a score of 6-5 doing something that they have not been able to do in a long time by coming back from a four run deficit in the top of the 8th.  With recently promoted former Tides outfielder Corey Patterson starting the inning with a solo home run and Luke Scott slammed a grand-slam giving the Orioles the lead Mark Hendrickson got the win and former Tides pitcher Alfredo Simon got his 5th save.   The Orioles improve to 11 and 24 and have a two game winning streak going into their three game series at Camden Yards against the 13-9 Cleveland Indians.

Until tomorrow all the best,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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