The Tides first northern expedition of the year ended badly in Buffalo on Monday night. On a cool, cloudy and breezy Buffalo night the Tides fell to the Bisons by a score of 11-4. The game was actually relatively close and could have gone to extra innings but for the 7 runs allowed by the Tides in the 7th and 8th innings. Tides Starter Troy Patton (2-5 5.53) gave up 4 runs, three earned on 8 hits in 5.2 innings work. Jim Miller came into the game to relieve Patton in the bottom of the 6th with 2 outs and retired the first batter that he faced. Miller gave up a solo home run to Jason Pridie in the bottom of the 7th before retiring the rest of the order. However the 8th inning was the inning of doom for the Tides as the Bisons’ bats lit up Miller and Pedro Viola for 6 runs on 4 hits which included home runs by Russ Adams and Mike Jacobs and a double by Jesus Feliciano each of which scored two runs. The Tides tried to rally in the top of the 9th but the rally fell very short with the Tides scoring 2 runs on a series of singles by Josh Bell, Michael Aubrey, Brandon Snyder, Robert Andino and Adam Donachie. The Tides had scored two runs early in the game when Michael Aubrey hit a two run home run in the top of the 2nd inning.
The road trip was difficult for the Tides especially in the hitting department. The Tides scored just 21 runs on 57 hits and only 2 home runs. They were shut out twice with one of those a complete game for the opposing pitcher. They now sit at the bottom of the International League in the team batting average with a .234 team average and an On Base Percentage of just .299 also the lowest in the league. They rank third from the bottom in run production with a total of 157 runs in 39 games with a Slugging Percentage of .366 the second lowest in the league. In some ways the Tides hitting mirrors that of their parent club the Baltimore Orioles. Who have a .251 average a .310 OBP and scored just 133 runs next to last in the American League with a fourth from the bottom Slugging Percentage of .384. It is obvious that the Orioles and the Tides need to improve markedly in hitting and run production if they ever want to be competitive.
In the pitching department the Tides are part of the middle of the pack in the International League with an ERA of 4.27. In a number of pitching categories the Tides are competitive however they have given up 142 walks the most in the League other than Pawtucket and are in the top third of the league in terms of home runs, runs and earned runs. With the exception of the final game of the series in Buffalo the pitchers kept the Tides in the games despite giving up the long ball in inopportune moments.
While the Tides pitching could improve the pitchers are on the whole improving but the hitters are struggling and players that hit for good averages last year are not getting it done this year. In 2009 Joey Gathright hit .325, Justin Turner .300, Michael Aubrey .290, Scott Moore .254 and Brandon Snyder .248. By comparison Gathright is hitting .184, Turner .250, Aubrey .266, Moore .256 and Snyder .202. The team batting average in 2009 was .272 and currently in 2010 .234. On base percentage 2009 was .330 and this year .299, slugging percentage in 2009 .389 and 2010 just .366. The Tides have to figure out a way to hit this year otherwise even the improving pitching staff will continue to lose games that on other teams that they would win. Certainly the talent is there and the hitters are capable of better. Could it be the change in the hitting coach that occurred with Richie Hebner replacing Dallas Williams who had held the job for four years? If it is not Hebner certainly there has to be an explanation for this slump. At the beginning of the season I was not concerned but coming up on a third of the way into the season I am becoming concerned about despite a number of games where the Tides appeared to have broken out of this collective slump but then lapsed back into it.
The Tides played tonight against the Pawtucket Red Sox and lost by a score of 6-0, more on this game tomorrow.
Meanwhile in Baltimore the Orioles defeated teh Royals by a score of 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Luke Scott hit 2 home runs off of last year’s Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. Former Tides outfielder Corey Patterson hit a home run in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game and give the O’s another chance to win. Former Tides starter and now Orioles closer Alfredo Simon got the win.