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Orioles Down Yankees in the Bronx Go to 16-9

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the pleasant surprises of the first month of the 2012 baseball season. The team is winning they now are 16-9 and took two of three from the New York Yankees in the Bronx. In those three games Orioles pitchers held the Yankees to just 3 runs while the scored 13 runs in the series. Earlier in the season the Yankees took three from the Orioles in Baltimore but two of those were in extra innings where in both cases the Orioles failed to score with runners in scoring position in the 9th and 10th innings.

The Orioles pitchers are holding up well with the 4th best ERA in the Majors at 2.92 with their starters and relievers doing very well. Pitching has been a major problem for the Orioles the past few years and if the young pitchers, particularly Jake Arrieta who pitched an 8 inning shutout tonight continue to pitch well they O’s will make the American League East a much more interesting division this year.  Now led by Jason Hamel (3-1 1.97 ERA) the Orioles starters are making some quality starts. With Jim Johnson as their closer and other relievers pitching well the team is much deeper than in years past.

The Orioles also have hitting and are hitting with power, 3rd in the majors in home runs (33) and 6th in the majors for in slugging percentage (.446).  The Orioles have a number of potential All Stars including former All Stars Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis. Second Baseman Robert Andino is having a stellar start to his season as is Left Fielder Nolan Reimold. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and First Baseman Mark  Reynolds are providing additional power in the lineup.

At with a 7-5 record against their AL East rivals so far they are doing much better in the division. The are 6-1 against the AL Central and 3-3 against the West.

The Orioles head to Boston to begin a 3 game series with the Red Sox at Fenway beginning on Friday. They will then travel to play the red hot Texas Rangers in Arlington before returning home to face the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays who I think are the best team in the division. Taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees, which included Manager Buck Showalter’s 1000th managerial win in New York was important. If the Orioles can continue what they are doing it will be an exciting year for all of us Orioles fans.

The season is still young but this year I think is the year the Orioles become a real force in the AL East and the League.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Orioles Take Flight: The Showalter Era Takes Hold

Buck Showalter, a New Sheriff is in Town (Reuters Photo)

On August 3rd the Baltimore Orioles had a record of 32 and 73 and appeared to be heading not only for a 100 loss season but very possibly 110 or more losses.  Under Manager Dave Trembley and Interim Manager Juan Samuel they had lost 52 games before they had won 20.  It was a dismal record for a team that was demoralized and without real leadership.  Trembley and Samuel were both gentlemen and loyal organization people.  They were both popular with players but could not inspire them to win.

The organization was not only a losing organization of the field but in all departments except the minor league system. Unfortunately the promising prospects coming out of the minors entered a clubhouse where losing was accepted as a way of life presided over by an owner who did nothing to promote winning and spent no money to get All-Star caliber veterans to help provide leadership to the team. Instead of hiring top quality managers they settled for second and third tier managers for years, men who were good guys but terribly lackluster leaders and not Major League caliber managers.

The Orioles at that point seemed to be a franchise on the brink of an unrecoverable death spiral. In my times at Harbor Park last season and this season Elliott the Usher and I would spend much time together and muse about how if we ran the Orioles that things would be different.  As we talked about how to solve the problems of the world, in particular those of the Orioles I finally said that it was not the talent. I felt last season and this season that with the talent available at the Major League level as well as what the Orioles had in their farm system that they should at least be a .500 team this year.  But for the first two thirds of the season that was not the case and I told Elliott at the end of April that it was not the players but on field leadership that was the problem. I thought the Dave Trembley was a nice guy and a good minor league manager but that I felt that he had not been able to step up his game to the Major League level.  In fact I commented back on September 29th 2009 that I thought that Trembley needed to go.

“The one spot that I think that the team needs a change is the Field Manager Dave Trembley.  Trembley seems to be a good teacher but is not terribly inspirational.  Admittedly he began the year with a weak squad but something is not working and I do like his calm, but I wonder if the teams needs fire rather than calm right now.” See Oh, Oh, Oh, O’s….The Orioles Skid Continues But there are Some Bright Spots

I repeated this when the O’s had lost 9 of their first 10 games this season. Last year I was looking at Bobby Valentine as a potential manager having forgotten that Showalter was available. At the time that Trembley was fired the Orioles had a 15 and 39 record, the word by far in the majors with a pitiful .278 winning percentage. This did not improve much under Samuel who had served under Trembley as the Third Base Coach.  Samuel had a 17 and 24 record as the Orioles interim skipper with a cumulative .305 winning percentage. Most people doubted that Showalter do much with this year’s team but they were wrong. Drew Forrester wrote: As I wrote earlier this week, if I had to place a bet, I’d bet AGAINST you because history has shown that no one can turn this thing around in Baltimore…because management and ownership don’t want to do what it takes to win. But I’m really pulling for you, because I think you’re exactly what we need in Baltimore.”

I remember when Showalter was hired and I took a look at his track record. He has been successful at every team that he has managed. In fact he was in large part responsible for building the Yankees team that Joe Torre would lead to 4 World Series Championships. He did the same foundation laying work in Arizona with the Diamondbacks.  I would dare say that without Showalter building the foundation that Joe Torre might have been about as successful in New York as he was with Mets, Braves, Cardinals or Dodgers.  All of Torre’s championships came with the Yankees. I believe that this was in large part due to the acumen of Showalter and the willingness of George Steinbrenner for big name player as well as building up an excellent Minor League system to spend the money needed to produce a winner. When I saw Showalter begin to manage the O’s I knew that he would change things and that the team would start producing.  Since he took over the Orioles have won 25 and lost 15 and for the first time since 2008 had two consecutive winning road trips.  They have the second best record in the American League during this time period behind the Minnesota Twins.  The Orioles are now beating the teams of the AL East and in the past week have taken 2 of three each from the Rays, Yankees and as of tonight the Blue Jays who they will play again tomorrow.

The Orioles hitting has come alive and their starting pitchers who had been beaten about by about everyone in baseball made a turn as well.  It is interesting to look at Orioles player’s reactions after Showalter took over. Center Fielder Adam Jones said: “I think what’s really going on is everyone knows his reputation as a hard-ass. He’s going to get on you for doing this; he’s going to say something about everything. I think that’s actually worked. Hey, let’s get it done. You might as well. You don’t want him on you. I think that’s the approach a lot of guys are taking. Hey, let him sit in there with that scowl. If it works, it works.”

“It’s just that his presence, well, you can just feel the change coming. He’s been on some winning ballclubs, he knows what it takes. Everybody knows his reputation around here. They know it as someone who’s going to get on you, and it’s working for us.”

Showalter and his hard driving style, ability to get the most out of players and develop young talent is already remaking the Orioles. Any observe can sense that this team, which before Showalter’s arrival was described by Forrester as “a lot of people — players, coaches and management — who have done nothing but LOSE in their respective careers in Baltimore…  Pick a player on the team.  I don’t care what his name is or what his stats show, I can guarantee you this:  He’s contributed to LOSING during his time here.  Guys who won elsewhere in their career – like Tejada and Millwood – show up here…and start losing.  It’s the “Oriole Way”.

That has changed. As of tonight they have won 4 consecutive series for the first time since 2004.  The Orioles have made one of the most dramatic end of season turnarounds in recent memory.  Players universally talk about Showalter’s tough expectations and the difference in the clubhouse. They now believe that they can win any game against any team that they play.

The starting pitching is one department where things have changed When Showalter arrived; the rotation of Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta had a combined record of 15-45 with a 5.50 earned run average. As of September 7th under Showalter, those pitchers are 15-11 with a 3.23 E.R.A.

The expectations are high. Ty Wigginton commented ”This is our manager….You’ve got his track record, and everybody knows that Buck knows how to win. That speaks for itself with a lot of guys. Let’s wait and see, but I think for some of the younger players, it kind of opened their eyes to realize: I’ve got to start getting this right.”

Brian Matusz commented: ”You can’t just walk over us….We’re playing good baseball right now. We’re doing all the little things right. It’s fun to come out and beat teams in our division and continue this streak that we have.”

The Orioles management has stated that the off season will be very busy. There will be a lot of moves and hard evaluation of talent. There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Buck. I expect that the Orioles will now be a factor in the AL East.  I do not expect them to be the “Washington Generals” of the division and they will make the East a very interesting division next year as teams that were used to getting 10-15 wins at their expense will have to fight the Orioles at every step of the way. It will be fun to watch the Orioles the rest of this season and next year as they take flight as they have not in the last 14 years.

This could well be the start of something good.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Tides Drop Final Two Games in Durham Finish Season 67-77

Former Tides Outfielder Nolan Reimold now in Baltimore homered on Tuesday as the Orioles defeated the Yankees 6-2

The Norfolk Tides entered Sunday with a five game winning streak hoping to finish the season on a winning note by defeating their International League South nemesis the Durham Bull’s.  The Tides had taken the first game of the series 7-6 on Saturday behind the hitting of Third Baseman Scott Moore with Frank Mata getting the win in relief.

On Sunday the Tides sent Armando Gabino to the and the right hander making a spot start had a 5-3 lead when he came out of the game at the end of the 5th inning. Kam Mickolio pitched two innings. In the 7th Kam sent the Bulls down in order but in the 8th game up a walk and a single and was replaced on the hill by closer Dennis Sarfate who has set down the opposition like clockwork with 20 saves this season.  However Sunday the usually reliable Sarfate, who has pitched the Tides out of numerous jams in the late innings did not have a good day. After striking out Kyle Holloway, Sarfate gave up a triple to Tide Killer Elliott Johnson to score both runs which were charged to Mickolio.  With the score tied and Johnson on third base intentionally walked the hot hitting Chris Richard to get to Joe Dillon. Dillon hit a sacrifice fly ball to center which scored Johnson to give the Bulls a 6-5 lead before Leslie Anderson grounding into a force out to end the inning. In the top of the 9th innings the Tides got Jeff Salazar aboard on a two out single but Michael Aubrey struck out on a long at bat against Joe Bateman to end the game. Sarfate (2-2, 20S 2.73 ERA) got the loss and Bateman (7-0 1.66 ERA) got the win for the Bulls.  The Tides outhit the Bulls but came up short having 5 runs on 10 hits with 1 error leaving 8 men on base. The Bulls 6 runs on 6 hits with no errors leaving 3 aboard.

On Sunday the Tides suffered another disappointing 12 inning loss to the Bulls. The Tides sent Tim Bascom who of late had pitched very well against the Bulls but the young right-hander was roughed up giving up 5 runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings work. Tides relievers Pat Egan and Jim Hoey held the Bulls as did Mike Hinckley who pitched three innings but gave up a leadoff double to Justin Ruggiano in the bottom of the 12th inning. Ruggiano advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt by Nevin Ashley. Hinckley then intentionally walked Joe Dillon before giving up the game winning single to Leslie Anderson.  Hinckley (1-4 4.19 ERA) who pitched well got the loss for the Tides in his first appearance after coming off of the DL while Paul Phillips (1-0 1.69 ERA) picked up the win for the Bulls. The Tides had 5 runs on 12 hits with 2 errors leaving 8 runners stranded.  The Bulls had 6 runs on 17 hits with 1 error leaving 12 men on base.

Former Tide Jake Arrieta got the Win in Yankee Stadium Tuesday

The Tides finished the year tied with Charlotte for 3rd in the IL South with 67-77 records.  The day following the game the Orioles called up Troy Patton.  On Monday and Tuesday the Orioles defeated the New York Yankees in New York with former Tides figuring in the wins especially on Tuesday as Jake Arrieta got the win aided by a home run by Nolan Reimold and some outstanding defense including that of Robert Andino at shortstop.

In the coming days and weeks I will do some analysis of the Tides 2010 season.   I will miss this year’s Tides players many of whom that I gave come to know over the past two years. The Orioles have stated that the off season will be very active and that will certainly affect the careers of some of these young men that I count as friends.  It is my hope and prayer that they will all continue in baseball and make the Majors at some point be it with the Orioles or another organization. Some of those that are getting older may not continue but I hope that they too will be able to remain in baseball in the professional or collegiate ranks managing, coaching or scouting as so many others have done.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Pound Yankees 12-4 at Harbor Park

Jake Arrieta got his 3rd win of the season on Tuesday against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees

The big guns of the Norfolk Tides finally opened fire at Harbor Park on a cloudy, warm and humid Tuesday afternoon at Harbor Park and left the pitching staff of the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees in shambles.  4541 fans came out for this business person’s special which began at 1215 and the Tides fans among them went away very satisfied as the Tides pounded out 12 runs on 16 hits and committed no errors to split the series with the Yankees.

Scott Moore hit his 3rd home run of the season

Tuesday was a far different affair than the previous three games against the Yankees where in 27 innings the team managed just 5 runs and had no home runs.  Jake Arrieta was not as sharp as he has been but still picked up the win going five innings giving up 2 runs on 2 hits but surrendering five walks to the Yankees.  Yankees starter Zack McAllister went just 3 innings and was tagged for 7 runs on 9 hits including 2 home runs while reliever Amaury Sanit fared little better giving up 5 runs on 5 hits including 2 home runs in two innings work.

Adam Donachie had key hits including a bunt single and a RBI double

The Tides offensive barrage began in the 1st inning when leadoff batter Robert Andino hit the fourth pitch of the game over the left field wall off of Zack McAllister.  In the second inning the Tides went back to work.  Corey Patterson who went four for four on Monday connected and doubled to right. He was followed by Scott Moore who homered to right field getting down in the count 0-2.  The Tides threatened more in the inning as Michael Aubrey came to the plate and singled and Adam Donachie was safe on a force attempt on a throwing error by McAllister.  Blake Davis flied out to center and then on an unusual play hit a fly ball to right which Yankees Right Fielder David Winfree caught and threw back in to McAllister.  On the play Aubrey had advanced to third but was called out when the Yankees claimed that he had tagged too soon and McAllister threw to Eduardo Nunez for the double play.

Josh Bell hit his 4th home run of the season

After a scoreless 3rd inning the Yankees went quietly in the top of the fourth.  It was then that the Tides hits blitzed McAllister and Sanit with a fearsome hitting attack.  Scott Moore and Michael Aubrey both singled to put runners on first and second with no outs.  Adam Donachie then bunted successfully to load the bases.  Up came Blake Davis who doubled to left scoring Moore and Aubrey.  This ended McAllister’s day and Amuary Sanit (1-0 5.54) got the call to try to stop the Tides barrage.  Like McAllister he faced Robert Andino as his first batter and Andino wasted no time whatsoever blasting the first pitch over the left center field wall top clear the bases.  Joey Gathright grounded out and the Yankees must have felt that the worst was over.  However that would not be the case.  Jeff Salazar singled and was driven home when Josh Bell hitting from the left side of the plate hit his first Harbor Park home run taking the first pitch from Sanit to the opposite field over the left field wall.  Corey Patterson grounded out and with no one on base and two outs the Yankees found that the Tides were not finished.  Sanit walked Scott Moore on four pitches and was followed by Michael Aubrey who doubled to score Moore.  Adam Donachie doubled to right on the first pitch delivered by Sanit to score Aubrey to make the score 12-0.  At long last following a wild pitch which allowed Donachie to take third Sanit was able to get out of the inning by striking out Blake Davis.

Robert Andino hit his 3rd and 4th home runs of the season Tuesday

The Yankees got two runs back in the top of the 5th inning as Arrieta began to have some control problems. Jake walked former Tides Catcher Robby Hammock and then former Tides Catcher Chad Moeller singled.  Hammock had been released by the Orioles at the end of last season and Moeller during spring training and both were signed to minor league contracts by the Yankees.  Kevin Russo walked to load the bases and the Yankees got their first run when Arrieta walked Reegie Corona scoring Hammock. Edaurdo Nunez then grounded into a force out which scored Moeller before Arrieta got Juan Miranda to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.

Michael Aubrey went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI

Ross Wolf (0-0 2.76) came in at the top of the 6th inning to relieve Arrieta who had made 92 pitches. Wolf sent the Yankees down in order in the 6th and finally the Yankees were able to put a lid on the Tides offensive juggernaut although the Tides had another big scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 6th when Zack Segovia (1-1 7.71) who had come on in relief of Sanit hit Josh Bell, gave up a single to Corey Patterson and had Scott Moore reach on a throwing error by Eduardo Nunez.  Segovia got out of the inning by striking out Michael Aubrey, Adam Donachie and Blake Davis in order.

In the 7th inning Ross Wolf retired the first two batters and then walked Kevin Russo. Russo was followed by Reegie Corona who after getting down in the count 0-2 kept fouling balls off until he launched a home runner over the right field wall.  Wolf then retired Eduardo Nunez to end the inning but pounded his fist in his glove in frustration for giving up the two out home run after nearly having Corona out.

In the 8th inning Jim Johnson (0-0 0.00) made his first appearance for the Tides this year after being sent down from Baltimore when Brad Bergeson was brought back to the team from the Tides. Johnson allowed a 2 out double to Jon Weber but allowed no runs.  The Yankees brought in Tim Norton (0-0 0.00) to pitch to the Tides.  Norton gave up a leadoff double to Josh Bell.  Corey Patterson grounded out and Scott Moore flied out.  Michael Aubrey walked and with runners on first and third Adam Donachie flied out to center to end the inning.  Frank Mata (1-0 1.50 S4) came in to close the game for the Tides in a non-save situation and put down the Yankees in order.

In all the Tides scored 12 runs on 16 hits with no errors leaving 8 men on base. The Yankees had 4 runs on 4 hits and two errors with 6 left on base. Corey Patterson went 2-5 today and ended the series with the Yankees at 9 for 16.  Josh Bell hit his fourth home run, Robert Andino got numbers three and four and Scott Moore got his third dinger of the season.

Jake Arrieta (3-1 1.50) got the win and Zack McAllister (0-2 5.52) got the loss.  The Tides get a well deserved day off on Wednesday and return to Harbor Park to face the Toledo Mud Hens with Chris George (1-1 4.24) taking the hill for the Tides going up against Toledo’s Armando Galarraga (3-2 2.30).  The weather should be great with daytime highs in the mid- 80’s and clear skies. See you there.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Yankees Double up Tides 6-3; Patterson has Four Hit Night

Chris Tillman got a no-decision in his first game following his no-hitter

On a warm and windy Monday night in front of a crowd of 2932 fans the Norfolk Tides dropped their second straight to the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees at Harbor Park. Once again the Tides lack of offense despite 11 hits spoiled a good pitching performance by Chris Tillman.  Tillman (2-3 3.98) making his first appearance since his historic no-hitter in Gwinnett was not as sharp as his last two outings but still only allowed 2 runs in five innings work and left the Tides in position to come back and win the game.  Unfortunately for Chris and the Tides hitters failed to capitalize on 11 hits, two walks and 2 Yankees errors and save for an error in the bottom of the 6th inning could have been shut out a second straight night.

Despite this Corey Patterson has definitely got his bat back in the groove and probably making the Mariners wish that they had kept him or other Major League teams wish that they had picked him up. Patterson went four for four getting four singles.

Corey Patterson went  4 for 4

The Yankees scored two runs in the top of the 4th inning as Jesus Montero led off with a double. Tillman then got Jon Weber to fly out and struck out Chad Huffman. He then walked Greg Golson which brought Kevin Russo to the plate. Russo who is hitting .290 and has 5 doubles, 2 triples hit a sharp line drive double into the right-center gap which scored both Montero and Golson. This prompted a visit to the mound by pitching coach Mike Griffin.  Tillman then got Reegie Corona out to end the inning.

Tillman left the game at the end of the 5th inning and was relieved by Koji Uehara who pitched the 6th inning. Uehara, who was making his second rehab appearance with the Tides gave up a hit but no runs serving up 14 pitches of which 12 were strikes. Uehara was effective in both appearances at Harbor Park and it seems apparent that he is ready to rejoin the Orioles bullpen.

The Tides got on the board in the bottom of the 6th when with one out Corey Patterson got on with a single.  Pattersonwas then called out attempting to steal second after having appeared to slide under the tag.  Josh Bell then singled as did Jeff Salazar. With two on and two out Scott Moore came to the plate.  Moore who is hitting .237 and has two home runs and 10 RBIs, hit a routine pop up to left center, which unexpectedly became anything but routine when Yankees Center Fielder Greg Golson dropped the ball allowing both Bell and Salazar to score.  Justin Turner walked but Brandon Snyder grounded into a force out to end the inning.

With the score now tied it seemed that the Tides were poised for a comeback.  Pedro Viola (0-1 27.00) came on in relief of Uehara. Viola who was claimed off of waivers by the Orioles and placed on the team’s 40 man roster after being designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds on April 21st was rocked in this outing as he was in his first two appearances for the Tides.  Viola pitched but two thirds of an inning and gave up 4 runs on 4 hits and a walk despite striking out two Yankees batters.  The inning began with some promise; Viola struck out Reegie Corona then walked Eduardo Nunez before striking out Juan Miranda.  It was then that things went bad in a hurry for the Tides new reliever.  David Winfree singled to left. Jesus Montero hit his 6th double of the season driving in Nunez and advancing Winfree to third.  Jon Weber then singled to score Winfree prompting a visit to the mound by Gary Allenson.  Chad Huffman then came to the plate and singled to score both Montero and Winfree.  This drove Viola from the game and brought in Jim Miller who struck out Kevin Russo swinging.

The Tides attempted a two out rally in the 7th inning when Robert Andino walked and was advanced to third on a single by Corey Patterson.  Andino then scored when Josh Bell connected on a single but the inning ended when Jeff Salazar flied out to Chad Huffman.

Neither team added to their run totals while Jim Miller finished the game for the Tides giving up no runs on two hits with a strikeout in 2.1 innings work.  Yankees closer Jonathan Albaladejo (1-1 S8 1.32) got the save giving up two hits but surrendering no runs.

The Tides and Yankees meet again on Tuesday with Jake Arrieta pitching for the Tides against Scranton’s Zack McAllister and the Tides hope to bounce back and get their hitting on track.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Fall Thursday and Friday to Braves to End Road Trip Even

Just a short article as I didn’t get a chance to post anything about the last two games of the Norfolk Tides southern road trip to Charlotte where they faced the Knights and Lawrenceville Georgia where they faced the Gwinnett Braves.

Chris Tillman dominated the Knights and no-hit the Braves on the road trip

In Charlotte the Tides took three out of four from the Knights with dominant pitching and excellent hit production including 9 home runs.  Against the Brave the Tides did not fare as well dropping three of four games to the Braves and only hitting well in the second game.  Against the Braves the Tides left significant numbers of base runners in scoring position.  The highlight of the series in Georgia was Chris Tillman’s no-hitter on Wednesday night.

The Tides dropped the final two games of the series against the Braves.  Each night the Tides had good numbers of runners in scoring position and they left 20 men on base. On Thursday Jake Arrieta got his first loss of the year as the Tides lost 6-1.  Jake gave up 4 runs, three of which were earned on 5 hits with 4 walks in 6 innings pitched for the loss.  Three runs came on a home run by Mitch Jones who has 237 minor league home runs to his credit since being drafted by the Yankees in 2001.  In the final game Chris George making his first start for the Tides gave up 2 runs on 2 hits including and was victimized by Mitch Jones for a two run homer.  Jim Miller coming in during the 7th gave up 3 runs on 3 hits including a home run by Barbaro Canizares.  The Tides lost the game 5-1.

Tonight the Tides begin a four game set against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees at Harbor Park. The Orioles will have Koji Uehara pitch an inning tonight as he continues his rehab in the minor leagues. See you there.

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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