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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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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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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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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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Tides shut out by Bats 6-0; Gabino Called up by O’s…O’s Sweep Angels

Armando Gabino pitched his way to the Orioles roster

The Norfolk Tides travelled west to Louisville where they began a four game series with the Louisville Bats at Louisville Slugger Park.   It was not a night top remember as the Tides were shut out by Cincinnati’s AAA affiliate by a score of 6-0.  Chris George started from the Tides and had no trouble in the first inning but the Bats torched Chris in the second for 5 runs.  In that inning Todd Frazier homered to lead of the inning on a 1-1 count from then on it was downhill for George who gave up a total of 5 runs on 7 hits including 2 doubles while facing 9 Louisville batters.    In the 4th inning George walked the bases loaded and was pulled from the game in favor of Jim Miller, just reactivated off of the inactive roster.  Miller gave up a wild pitch which scored a run prior to striking out the final batter.  Miller would pitch 2 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits while striking out 4 batters.  Tides relievers Cla Meredith and Kam Mickolio would also have good nights each allowing no runs or hits and striking out two men apiece but the damage was done.  For Mickolio it was his first appearance since June 11th when he went on the DL for a strained oblique. Tides hitters would scatter 9 hits but plated no one and the game ended with the Tides losing 6-0.

In personnel news the Orioles called up the gem of the Tides pitching staff this year, right hander Armando Gabino.  Gabino was 7-0 with 2 saves and had a 2.18 ERA with the Tides when called up by the O’s yesterday.  Jim Miller was reactivated from the inactive list and Kam Mickolio as noted above came off the DL.

In Baltimore the Orioles under the leadership of new Manager Buck Showalter completed a 3 game sweep of the Angels.  In last night’s game Jake Arietta pitched well enough to win but had the bullpen blow the save.  The Orioles would win 5-4 in on a walk off single but the game should have been won before then. It is funny I have said a long time that what Baltimore needed was leadership. I believe that the Orioles have the raw talent to be competitive with most teams in the league.  After the dismal 2 and 16 start to the season under Dave Trembley never got off the ground and Juan Samuel though liked and respected by the players was serving in an interim role.  I think that players sensed that Trembley was not going to survive and that Samuel was a temp and as a result did not perform as well as they could have, not intentionally, but there is a psychology that affects losing teams that kind of contributes to their losing. It may be because they believe that the manager will make the wrong moves or that something will happen to cause them to lose the game.  Just like the military, baseball players respond to leaders that they not only know and respect, but know who have the ability to lead.  When I was watching the Orioles this week I saw a different team than was on the field just a week ago.  Will the O’s contend this season or even have a winning record? No.  However they may be able to play spoiler while they evaluate talent, make changes and plan for a better 2011 season.

Peace,

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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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