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Tides fall to Yankees 4-0 despite Solid Performance by Brandon Erbe; Orioles Sweep Red Sox

Brandon Erbe allowed 1 run on 3 hits but got the loss Sunday

It was a hot day at Harbor Park but the bats of the Norfolk Tides were cold as the Tides dropped game two of their series against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees by a score of 4 -0.  Tides starting pitcher Brandon Erbe (0-5 6.66) had his best outing of the year pitching six innings and allowing just one run on three hits. Unfortunately for Brandon and the Tides Yankees starter Jason Hirsch (2-3 3.06) and relievers Royce Ring and Amaury Sanit shut down the Tides offense allowing just three hits.

Steve Lerud forces Kevin Russo at home and

Erbe pitched his best game of the season giving up his only run in the top of the sixth inning when Kevin Russo tripled to right and scored on a soft ground ball to third that Tides Third Baseman Josh Bell could only go to first for the out.  Brandon worked out of the inning and was relieved by Koji Uehara making a one inning rehab appearance as he prepares to rejoin the Orioles at the conclusion of his rehab. Uehara allowed one hit but no runs facing four batters and making just 8 pitches of which 7 were strikes.  According to the Tides website there is a possibility of making another appearance in Monday’s game against the Yankees.

Josh Bell singles off the glove of Amaury Sanit in the bottom of the 9th

Kam Mickolio came on in the 8th inning and the big right hander struggled against the Yankees hitters. Kevin Russo singled and then Mickolio walked Reegie Corona.  With runners on first and second Eduardo Nunez laid down a bunt between the pitcher’s mound and third base. Mickolio fielded the ball and considered going to third to get the lead runner and then paused and attempted to get Nunez at first but the delay allowed all to be safe.  Juan Miranda then hit a ground ball to Scott Moore at second base and Moore came to the plate cutting down Russo. Catcher Adam Donachie threw to first attempting to get the double play but Miranda beat out the throw.  David Winfree a Virginia Beach native hit a soft ground ball to Josh Bell leaving Bell with only the play at first allowing Corona to score.  Mickolio walked Jesus Montero to re-load the bases.  Jon Weber then singled to right scoring both Nunez and Miranda and was replaced by Armando Gabino who struck out Chad Huffman.

The Tides could mount nothing else and the game ended with Erbe getting loss while having his best start of the season. One hopes that the next time he has such a performance that he will get some run support.

Meanwhile up in Baltimore the Orioles completed a sweep of the Red Sox when in the 10th inning Ty Wigginton doubled to drive in Nick Markakis giving the Orioles the win.  Former Tides pitcher Matt Albers got the win in relief of Kevin Millwood while Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon got the loss. The Orioles have won three in a row for the first time this season and swept the Sox for the first time since September of 1974.  Former Tides Outfielder Rhyne Hughes connected on a two out RBI double in the 4th inning.

Orioles reliever Koji Uehara made a rehab appearance in the 7th inning for the Tides

On Monday the Tides will face the Yankees in game three of their series and the Orioles will travel to Yankee Stadium to take on the New York Yankees.  Here in Norfolk weather permitting Chris Tillman (2-3 4.05) coming off two exception starts on the road including his no-hitter against the Gwinett Braves will face Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0 2.70).

See you are Harbor Park,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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O’s Lose 10th Straight….How long Can this Go? Johnson Blows Save A’s Defeat O’s 4-3

“Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ’em I never knew existed before.” Casey Stengel

Well sports fans it is yet another day and another loss for the Baltimore Orioles.  This time it was close, the O’s despite a persistent lack of hitting had the lead until the bottom of the ninth when closer Jim Johnson blew the save giving up 2 runs to the A’s who came from behind to win 4-3.

The O’s got 2 runs in the sixth and 1 in the 8th and had nine hits but were unable to seal the deal.  Jeremy Guthrie gave up 2 runs and 6 hits but got a no decision for his work. Will Ohman, Matt Albers and Cla Meredith held the A’s to no runs in a combined 2.1 innings work, but when it came down to the clutch the O’s again could not keep the lead.  Ryan Sweeney of the A’s had 3 of the 4 RBIs for the A’s including the walk off 2 run single in the bottom of the ninth off of Johnson. Johnson contributed to the O’s demise with two wild pitches in the bottom of the ninth one on a strike out to Rejai Davis who reached first and scored the winning run.

The O’s experienced another injury when in when Miguel Tejada slid headfirst into first base in the sixth and had to leave the game.  As of yet the extent of the injury and any impact that it will have on Tejada has not been announced.

With the loss the O’s record drops to 1-11. The teams play again Sunday with the O’s sending Brian Matusz against Brian Anderson.  Having now lost 10 in a row can the Orioles turn things around before the season slips away before it even gets going?

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Paybacks are Hell: Bulls Pound Tides 14-7, Orioles fall to A’s slip to 1 and 10

Troy Patton (0-2) got the Loss

On a warm spring evening in Durham the Durham Bulls bats repaid last Friday’s 12-6 drubbing by the Tides in spades scoring 14 runs on 20 hits and aided by 3 Tides errors.  It seems that the Tides pitchers are either very good or very bad on any given day.  They are either hot or cold and definitely not Lukewarm which at least is one positive as Jesus will not spew them out of his mouth see Revelation 3:16 but I theologically digress. The point is that Tides pitching is awesome or atrocious. Last night was a case in point.  Starter Troy Patton was pounded for six runs on six hits including home runs by Joe Dillon and Ryan Shealy and a walk in the bottom of the first retiring only one batter before being pulled for Armondo Gabino. Gabino settled things down giving up just one run on four hits in 3.2 innings work.  Patton has struggled in his first two starts and one hopes that working with pitching Coach Mike Griffin that he will be able to turn things around.

In the top of the third inning the Tides bats came to life as the Tides scored two runs. Robert Andino reached on an error by Bulls Third Baseman Angel Chavez and was driven in by Joey Gathright’s triple. Gathright would then score on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Salazar.  In the top of the fourth inning Rhyne Hughes extended his hitting streak to eight games with a triple. Josh Bell drove in Hughes with a single to center and would score on a double to left by Robert Andino.  Catcher Steve Lerud doubled in Andino and the Tides were back in the game at 7-5.

In the bottom of the fifth however the Bulls would come back and score two more runs off of reliever Andy Mitchell who since his return to the team has not had the same effectiveness as he had in previous years when he served in the starting rotation. It is possible that the switch to middle relief has throw him out of his comfort zone but I think with a bit of time that he will adjust to that role and be an effective middle reliever.  Right now however Andy is struggling and being hit hard by his opponents.  After getting Dan Johnson to ground out Mitchell gave up back to back doubles to Ryan Shealy and Angel Chavez with Chavez’s hit bringing Shealy home.  Alvin Colina singled to send Chavez to third and Fernando Perez hit into a force out which brought in Chavez.  Mitchell then got out of the inning without further damage.  Rhyne Hughes led off the top of the sixth by reaching on an error by Angel Chavez. He advanced to second on a ground out to first by Josh bell and to third on Robert Andino’s infield single to second.  With runners at the corners Steve Lerud singled to right to drive in Hughes. Joey Gathright struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Bulls hit parade continued in the bottom of the sixth Mitchell struck out Hank Blalock.  The next batter Joe Dillon reached on a throwing error to first by first baseman Brandon Snyder.  Dan Johnson grounded out to Snyder on a play that should have without the error ended the inning to advance Dillon to second. Ryan Shealy singled to drive in Dillon and the score was now 10 to 1.  Mitchell walked Chavez and Colina to load the bases and with the walk to Colina was done.  Manager Gary Allenson brought in Jim Miller into the game with two outs in the inning.  Fernando Perez then bunted Shealy home before Miller retired Elliott Johnson on a grounder to short. The Tides went down in order to reliever Dale Thayer in the top of the seventh and as the Durham crowd stretched their Bulls were up 13-6 over the visiting Tides.

Durham was not done and struck hard again in the bottom of the seventh. Back to back singles by Justin Ruggiano set up Dan Johnson who homered to left over the Blue Monster. The three run shot was his 4th home run of the year. Miller retired the last two batters to end the inning.

Rhyne Hughes extended his hitting streak to 8 games

The Tides went down in order in the top of the eighth and Miller retired the Bulls in the bottom half of the inning.  In the ninth the Bulls brought in Joaquin Benoit to close the game. The Tides attempted a ninth inning rally as Robert Andino hit his first home run in a Tides uniform but could muster nothing more to end the game.

Normally 7 runs would be enough to win a game if the pitching is good.  Last night that was not the case as each Tides pitcher except Gabino were hit hard by the Bulls’ attack. Bulls starter Virgil Vasquez got the win bring his record to 2-0 and Troy Patton dropped to 0-2 for the year.  The Tides had 7 runs on 9 hits in the loss but Durham was simply overpowering scoring 14 runs on 20 hits aided by 3 Tides errors.  Brandon Erbe (0-1) will start Saturday’s game for the Tides and the Bulls have not announced their starter at the time of this post.

On the west coast the Orioles lost their 9th straight game this time falling to the Athletics at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum by a score of 4-2.  Starter Kevin Millwood gave up all four Oakland runs giving up 9 hits in six innings.  On the bright side relievers Will Ohman and Matt Albers shut down the A’s allowing no runs or hits to finish the game. The O’s offense was anemic but Ty Wigginton homered in the fifth to produce both Orioles runs.  The O’s offense was 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and have and last in the league scoring only 10 of 78 runners in scoring position for the season.

The Orioles are looking to end an eight game losing streak in Oakland in which they have been outscored by the A’s 43 to 17.  The losing streak extends back to July 22nd 2007. In today’s match up Jeremy Guthrie (0-2) will face A’s pitcher Justin Duchscherer.

We’ll see what happens today for both the Tides and the Birds.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Tale of Two Organizations: How Major League Performance Impacts Minor League Systems

“We’re so bad right now that for us back-to-back home runs means one today and another one tomorrow.”  Earl Weaver

165Russ Ortiz Bearing Down on a Tides Batter

This is a hard blog to write and while things are not as nearly as bad for the Norfolk Tides as they were for Earl Weaver’s Orioles things are not going well at the present time.  The Tides are not nearly the quality of team that they were in the first half of the season.   On the positive side they are still doing better than any time in the past 4 years and still have a shot at making the International League playoffs as either the Southern Division champion or wild card. At the same time they have fallen off their torrid pace of winning in April May and early June where they were almost playing .700 ball and up anywhere from 6-10 games over their competitors.

People are wondering what has happened and the answer is all too obvious.  While the Orioles have remarkably improved every level of their farm system they have no real depth at the Major League level.  They have some potentially great players, but a lot are still relatively young and inexperienced.  The Orioles began the year as a marginal Major League franchise with a great farm system. Unfortunately the big team was so bad early that the Orioles elected to raid their minor league system of their best players, both pitchers and hitters.  The Tides lost pitchers Jim Johnson, David Hernandez, Chris Tillman, Matt Albers, Brad Bergeson and Jason Berken.  Unfortunately I think some were called up before their time, however this is certainly not the case with starters David Hernandez, Brad Bergeson who need just a bit more seasoning and relievers Jim Johnson and Matt Albers. As for hitting the Tides lost the center of their order to the big club, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Oscar Salazar.  Salazar was traded to the Padres while hitting well over .400 of the bench and providing solid hitting and fielding percentages.  The Orioles also brought pitcher Brain Matusz up from AA Bowie without bringing him up to the AAA team.

170Another Strike for Ortiz

Do not get me wrong, all of these players are good, but they are all still very young.  While they will get better and are getting valuable Major League experience it is not contributing to the current success of the Orioles nor helping the minor league system. An example of what happens when a Major League team raids its farm system is the 2005 Atlanta Braves, the year of the “Baby Braves” where Atlanta almost made it to the World Series based on incredible performances by their rookies.  Unfortunately the call up of all of these players decimated the minor league system and it has only been in the last couple of years that the Braves minor league system, which is consistently one of the best in baseball to restock and rebuild.  Now the Orioles are fortunate to have a deep farm system, however the risk in doing what they have done is to potentially sacrifice the future for the present.

As I said the Tides are not the same team they were a month or two ago.  They seem to  have lost the edge, the swagger and self confidence is gone, frustration shows on many players faces. They do not look relaxed or like they are having fun anymore.  Tonight they dropped their second game in a row to the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who won the International League last year and who they New York Yankees have built into a formidable AAA franchise.  The Yankees, despite all the criticism they have received for “being the best team money can buy” with huge contracts for free agents and a massive payroll nonetheless invest a considerable amount in their farm system.  They are deep both in prospects as well as talented former Major Leaguers such as Shelly Duncan and recently acquired Russ Ortiz.  The Yankees have also used their minor league system to raise their own middle relievers Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, David Robertson and a reliever converted to a starter Joba Chamberlain.  Say what you will that is home grown quality.

Last night the Tides lost 6-1 and were thoroughly out classed by the Yankees.  Tonight was even worse as Russ Ortiz pitched 7 innings of 1 hit ball in 90 degree weather making the Tides, even their .300 plus hitters Justin Turner, Joey Gathright and Jeff Fiorentino look bad.  The Tides lost the game 9-0 getting their second hit with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.  If I wasn’t a big fan of Russ Ortiz tonight would have absolutely no redeeming value except to have worshiped in the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.  In two starts for the Yankees Ortiz is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA.  Ortiz has a career Major League Record of 113 wins and 88 losses.

188Joey Gathright is Victimized by Ortiz in the 6th in which he struck out the side

I was talking with Elliott the Usher as well as Barry the Scorekeeper about what was happening and we all agreed.  The difference between the teams is that the Major League Yankees have held together with only minor bumps in the road due to injury.  Their pitching staff aided by the home grown middle relievers has done a masterful job in shutting down opponents as their hitters have been on fire.  By doing this they have allowed their minor league clubs to become very good, in particular the Scranton Wilkes-Barre team.  They have talent and depth and players at the minor league level who are proven major leaguers.  The Tides on the other hand have been hampered by the Orioles descent and the resultant decimation of the minor league rosters to fill the gaping holes on the Major League team.  What would have been a very even match up a month and a half ago now was not even close.  The Tides were out-classed and out played by the Yankees. Ortiz in particular made the Tides hitters look bad putting on a major league performance that hopefully will help get him up to the Yankees as they make their pennant run.  I still think that Dusty Baker blew the 2002 World Series by taking Russ out with 1 out in the 7th and a 5-0 lead against the Angels.  If Ortiz gets back up and the Yankees win the World Series I will be happy for him.

On a positive note the Orioles led by former Tides pitcher David Hernandez beat the Oakland A’s 3-2, their first win against the A’s since 2008.  Hernandez improved his record to 4-4 with a 3.96 ERA.

So tomorrow is another day.  The Tides are only 3 ½ behind the Gwinnett Braves and 2 ½ behind the Durham Bulls in the International League South.  They still have a lot of talent and have a shot at getting in the playoffs, but need to come up big tomorrow to reverse this slide and keep in the playoff race.  I will be back in section 102 row B seat 2 tomorrow come what may.  Hopefully the Deity Herself will help us get through this stretch.

Peace, Steve+

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Breaking Slumps and Losing Streaks

Fiorentino HR against ColonJeff Fiorentino, seen here Hitting a Home Run off Bartolo Colon has Come up Big for the Norfolk Tides in 2009

The Norfolk Tides came home Tuesday after their worst road trip of the season in which they fell behind both the Durham Bulls and Gwinett Braves.  When things are not going well for a team, organization or individual it seems that events almost conspire against them.  It was that way for the Tides, errors and bad decisions at the plate, on the base paths and the field plagued them over the road trip.  The problems continued on Tuesday where the Tides lost their 9th of the last 10 games.  Now it was not that the team was bad, they made some great comebacks but fell short each time sometimes in heartbreaking ways.

Tonight after getting out to an early lead the Tides were behind 5-2 in the bottom of the 7th.  Elliott the Usher and I as well as Barry the Scorekeeper wondered what was happening.  It seemed that there was no energy on the team.  Unfortunately when a team, organization, military unit or individual gets on a losing streak it is hard to get motivated, especially when you come close but come up short. I remember being told in my Pastoral Care Residency that I had to stop believing that things were going to be difficult or that I would always come up short.  My supervisor told me that I had the power to actually envision a positive future and make things happen to see it come into being.  Now I have always been a fighter and even a survivor, but being a survivor doesn’t necessarily make you a winner.

The Tides picked up 2 in the 7th as Robby Hammock led off with a hit and Tides hitters Blake Davis, Joey Gathright and Jeff Fiorentino brought the runs across with key hits.  Brandon Snyder singled to drive in Victor Diaz and tie the game the game in the 8th.  Tides reliever Alberto Castillo came in at the top of the 9th and shut down the Indians after getting into a jam after giving up a hit and an error by 3rd Baseman Brandon Snyder.

Sometimes the key to breaking a losing streak is in how one player can raise help lift the team.  Following the promotion of Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold and Oscar Salazar to the Orioles and the loss of Scott Moore, Jolbert Cabrerra to season ending injuries and temporary absences to injury of Justin Turner and Joey Gathright, it was Jeff Fiorentino that stepped up.  He now stands near the top of the International League in hitting with a .315 batting average and has been a clutch player offensively and defensively.  Tonight Jeff went four for four with a walk, drove in a run in the 7th.  Hecame to bat with one out in the 9th to single to drive Justin Turner in for the winning run.   It broke the losing streak and hopefully will begin a rebound for the Tides.  Since the Tides have played well the bulk of the season even allowing for significant numbers of call ups and injuries it is well possible that they will turn things around.  It was significant that other Tides were involved in the comeback and that instead of giving in to going through the motions they came together to win.  The team still has a lot of heart and character and still can only continue to get better.

May we all do the same, with a little help from the Deity Herself.

On a side note, Tides pitcher Chris Tillman had his first Major League start in Baltimore against Kansas City.  He had a no decision but the Orioles won the game 7-3.  Former Tides relievers Matt Albers came in in the 5th to hold the Royals and Jim Johnson got the save.  Baltimore continues to get great performance out of the pitchers called up from Norfolk this year.

Peace, Steve+

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Rainy Days on Mondays and Tuesdays Always Get Me Down…Especially on Game Night

Last night was a disappointment.  We had our second rain out of the year at Harbor Park.  I got to the the stadium just prior to what should have been the first pitch.  We were already delayed, but the radio announcer on 1310 AM sports radio say that he thought that they might get the game in.  Boy was he wrong.   I got to the park and had my usual chat with Chip the usher for section 202, my friend and usher Elliott visiting family and slacking in Massachusetts this week.  I also talked with Ray and Bill the Vietnam Veteran  Beer vendors and Kenny over at the King Twist Pretzel stand.  As I was getting my cup of Gordon Biersch Marzen the rain started coming down again.  Like really heavy.  I went over and got my pretzel, this time salted with Guilden’s Spicy Brown Mustard and continued to visit on the concourse.  I did not even dare to try to take my seat in section 102 row B.  Far too exposed to the elements. The rain continued as me and my stadium buddies talked about life, baseball the military and other assorted subjects.

I’ve never been a big fan of rain, especially when I have to be out in it.  I have never been fond of the tropics for this very reason.  I always figured with my love for the military that had I served in World War II that I would have done very well with Rommel and the Afrika Korps, but not so well at Guadalcanal.  To my Vietnam era brothers, I’ll take the desert of my Iraq any day over the Mekong Delta.  When I deployed with the Marines to Okinawa in 2000-2001 I was ever so glad to go to Camp Fuji Japan and to South Korea for this very reason.  I don’t like to be out in the rain.  I know that we need it, but I still don’t like it.  I hate to clean mud off of me or dry out clothing and not only that there are the vermin.  Snakes, bugs and all sorts of slithery and slimy creatures that you can’t see loaded with all sorts of poisons and disease.  There are patently some of those things in the desert, but they are easier to spot.

We in addition to contenting with the infernal rain, we had a leak at the hospital which involved my office.  It was damaged by the leak, not nearly as badly as my next door neighbor Carl, but enough to warrant me getting called at home and to have to wait for maintenance people half of the morning.  That is now fixed and as I look at the fresh ceiling tile, untouched by moisture I breathe a sigh of relief.  I look in my trash can and see the goo of the former ceiling tiles which look like regurgitated oatmeal with mold on it, and I can only thank God for Grace.  Not God’s Grace, which I am always thankful to the Deity Herself for, but for Grace the lady who faithfully cleans my office who found the leak and reported it.  God does look after Her miscreant baseball loving Priests, and once again I am thankful.

It has been raining all day today.  I do feel that this is the Devils work for only the Devil could be involved in trying to rain out more one game in a short homestead.  I will head over to Harbor Park and hopefully this infernal rain will relent and we will be graced by baseball tonight. If not, I’ll have my beer and hot dog and go home when they call it after conversation with my friends on the concourse.

Blessings, Steve+

Post Script:  The Deity Herself smiled upon us.  The rain ended and we got game one in before it started coming down again.  The Tides won on a combined 2 hit shutout by starter Rich Hill and Matt Albers.  Hill was in his 3rd rehab start with the Tides.  Tarps we being readied as I left the stadium between the two games.   The weather radar shows some pretty heavy weather coming up from the southwest.  I do think that the Devil may take the nightcap away.   I had a nice time talking with Chip, Ray, Bill and Kenny up on the concourse.  Had an older gentleman who said that he played for the 1969 Tides sat next to me with his brother who knew little about the game.  The older gentleman knew the game and when his less than knowledgeable brother got distracted on the concourse for a couple of innings we had a nice talk.  All in all a nice night.  Hopefully tomorrow is even better. Peace, Steve+

Second Post Script: Despite the Devil’s best efforts the Deity Herself ensured that the weather held at Harbor Park for the Tides to take the nightcap from the Clippers 5-2.  This in spite of a 17 minute power outage.  The weather is now coming in fast.  David Hernadez got the win for theTides and Jim Miller the save. Nolan Reimold, Scott Moore and Oscar Salazer all doubled and Mike Costanzo tripled.

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