The Norfolk Tides had no luck on Saturday as they were manhandled by the Durham Bulls 7-2 on a beautiful North Carolina spring afternoon. The Tides started Brandon Erbe who faced Durham’s Carlos Hernandez. Today was Brandon’s second International League start for the Tides after a disappointing debut for the Orioles prospect in Norfolk on Monday. Yet the Tides hitters failed to produce runs that might have supported Erbe and the relievers with Rhyne Hughes driving in both of Norfolk’s runs. It is starting to look like at least some of the hitters for the Tides might need hats for their bats like Pedro Cerrano in Major League.
Today the Tides got out to an early lead when the streaking Rhyne Hughes extended his hitting streak to nine games driving in Robert Andino with a double to right. Erbe held the Bulls scoreless through the first three innings then began to weaken in the fourth when Justin Ruggiano homered to right to tie the game. The Tides lost an opportunity in the fifth when with Joey Gathright at the plate Jonathan Tucker was gunned down trying to steal second and as luck would have it Gathright doubled immediately following the out. Robert Andino then grounded out to end the inning leaving Gathright stranded at second.
The Bulls took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Elliott Johnson doubled to score Fernando Perez. They would add to the lead in the sixth when Hank Blalock and Dan Johnson singled and Blalock was driven in on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Shealy. Chris Richard then doubled to left scoring Johnson. This brought Gary Allenson to the mound and Erbe headed to the clubhouse with Ross Wolf coming in to relieve Erbe. Wolf was able to stop the bleeding and end the inning. In the top of the seventh Heath Rollins relieved Hernandez and sent the Tides down in order. Wolf gave up three singles in the fourth inning to Ruggiano, Blalock and Shealy with Shealy driving in Ruggiano to extend the Durham lead to 5-1.
The Tides attempted a rally in the top of the eighth. Joey Gathright singled to left to begin the inning and was followed by Andino who struck out swinging. Rhyne Hughes who had driven in the Tides only run came to the plate. Gathright took the opportunity and stole second base. Hughes then continued his hot hitting doubling for the second time in the evening to bring Gathright home. Unfortunately for the Tides neither Brandon Snyder nor Scott Moore was able to extend the rally and the Tides went into the bottom of the eighth down 5-2.
The Bulls went back to work in the bottom of the eighth against Alberto Castillo who came into the game to relieve Ross Wolf. Castillo fared no better than the previous Tides pitchers and gave up a single to Angel Chavez to start the inning. He got Jose Lobaton to strike out swinging and Fernando Perez to fly to right. Then lightening struck when Elliott Johnson smashed his first home run of the season over the right field fence making the lead 7-2. Winston Abreu came in to close out the game and did not disappoint the Bull’s fans. After surrendering a base on balls to Josh Bell he got Jeff Salazar and Adam Donachie on strike outs and Jonathan Tucker to fly out to Center Fielder Justin Ruggiano to end the game.
Erbe got his second loss of the season pitching 5.1 innings giving up 4 runs on 7 hits including the home run by Ruggiano and striking out 4. Hernandez got the win going 6 innings giving up 1 run on 5 hits with 5 strike outs. Once again Rhyne Hughes proved his value to the Tides with two doubles and two RBIs. He has now hit in nine consecutive games. Hughes is hitting .394 with a home run, triple and four doubles with 9 RBIs and scoring seven. The acquisition of Hughes last year by the Orioles might well be one of the best moves made by Orioles management and one that good benefit the O’s later in the season or in 2011. Hughes is on the 40 man roster and should there be a need in the outfield at Orioles Park.
The Tides and Bulls play Sunday to complete the series with Chris Tillman scheduled to take the mound for the Tides in search of his first victory of the 2010 season. The Tides will return to Harbor Park on Monday where they will face the Gwinnett Braves.