Durham Bulls shut out Columbus to snap mini-skid: In late, out early

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Richard De Los Santos led the Bulls to Tuesdays win
  • photo courtesy of Durham Bulls
  • Richard De Los Santos led the Bulls to Tuesday's win
DBAP/ DURHAM—I was sure it was Ernest Hemingway who gave writers the advice to "get in late and get out early," but it turns out to be either the playwright David Mamet or the anonymous wind Mamet received it from; it's one of those dicta that seems to have acquired the force of nature. Start your story (scene, etc.) somewhere in the middle, after the action has already gained momentum, and end it before the last "thing" happens. Better dramatic compression.

Perhaps it's good that the source of the quotation remains unclear, because it has to be corrupted a little in order to apply it to the Bulls' 7-0 victory over Columbus last night. Rain delayed the start of the game by 91 minutes—that's the in-late part, and there were three early gettings-out. One of them certainly affected the outcome, and the other two probably did as well.

But nothing affected Bulls' starter Richard De Los Santos, who looked good from his first pitch and went on to turn in one of his best starts of the season, perhaps trailing only his seven shutout innings at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 2. Last night he threw six scoreless innings against Columbus, his sinking two-seam fastball, slider and changeup all working beautifully in an 87-pitch, walk-free performance. The previous night's 12-walk debacle, which led to a six-inning bullpen burnout in the Bulls' 8-3 loss on Monday, "put a lot of pressure on me to have a great game," De Los Santos said, not long after he had just that. Only two runners reached second base, and none made it to third, thanks partially to a pair of pickoffs. "Those little guys like to run," De Los Santos said of Columbus's speedsters, although he was really just referring to Jose Constanza, who leads the league in stolen bases. "So I had to pay attention."

The early exits and the late entries after the jump.

It was almost too bad that Clippers' starter Carlos Carrasco had to leave the game in the eventful fourth inning last night, because he and De Los Santos were well into a sharp pitcher's duel by then. Carrasco, hitting 96 mph on the DBAP radar gun a few times, had five strikeouts through 3 1/3 innings, allowing just a pair of singles. But he suffered what another reporter learned was muscle pain that may have been related to dehydration, and his premature departure led indirectly to the Bulls' win: they teed off two innings later on Clippers' reliever Jeremy Sowers, a former first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians who appears to be mostly very good with occasional bouts of terribleness: The lefty has made 23 appearances this season, and 15 of them have been scoreless (in another, he allowed a single unearned run). But of the 34 runs he's given up, 28 of them have come in a total of just five appearances. The fifth of those was last night, when Sowers took one for the team and was left in the game for three disfiguring innings in which he surrendered a whopping 11 hits and seven runs. His ERA jumped more than a full run as a result. The Bulls broke open a scoreless tie with four runs off of him in the sixth inning, needing to see just 17 pitches for the project, and then used a comparatively wasteful 16 more pitches to tack on three insurance runs in the eighth. Thanks, Jeremy (you could imagine the Bulls saying), for helping us out of our hitting slump!

One of the beneficiaries of Sowers's charity was Jose Lobaton, who went 2-4 with a pair of singles (12 of the Bulls' 14 hits were singles). Lobaton wasn't even supposed to be in the lineup; Joe Dillon was scratched with a fever—another early exit—and a lineup shuffle resulted in Lobaton's insertion at designated hitter. He took advantage.

It would have been nice, if you could have gotten in late, to have started last night's game in the top of the fourth inning. With one out, De Los Santos hit Jared Goedert with a pitch. (Oddly, on a night when he located his pitches very well, De Los Santos hit two batters.) Goedert tried to steal second, and a good throw would have had him out. But Alvin Colina's attempt was well off to the third base side of the bag, and for whatever reason, Goedert decided not to slide but rather to lurch out of the way of Elliot Johnson's swipe tag, getting his toe on the base just as Johnson made contact. Umpire Derek Crabill (in the thick of things for the second straight night) called Goedert safe, and replays showed that he probably was. Bulls' manager Charlie Montoyo came out to argue the call, and was almost immediately ejected. He got his money's worth, though (managers are fined by the league for ejections), giving Crabill plenty of what-for before finally heading to the clubhouse.

I had assumed that Montoyo's ejection was strategic, that he was just trying to light a fire under his team, which has been soggy since the All-Star break ended—and perhaps also taking the opportunity to berate Crabill for his strike zone on Monday. But Montoyo insisted after the game that he had really just gone out to object to what he felt was a bad call. Nonetheless, he was shown the door. Given that the game wound up ending well after 11:00 PM, he may have done himself a favor.

It was in the bottom of the fourth inning, not long after Montoyo's early get-out, that Carrasco followed suit. The Bulls failed to capitalize on an opportunity granted them by Carrasco's replacement, Josh Judy, who walked Dan Johnson and Chris Richard to load the bases. But Lobaton, who would single in each of his next two at-bats, hadn't gotten in early enough, apparently: he grounded into an easy double play to kill the rally.

And when, in the bottom of the fifth, J. J. Furmaniak was thrown out at home after tagging up on Alvin Colina's fly ball to medium center field, keeping the game scoreless, it looked like Durham might simply be snakebit until further notice. But Sowers came on in the sixth, and before he even threw a pitch I announced that the Bulls would get to him; he just has that mealy left-handed stuff that looks ripe for mauling. Sure enough, with one out Elliot Johnson whacked a misplaced 0-2 fastball for an opposite-field double, and then Justin Ruggiano followed with the little scintilla of luck the Bulls needed: his wilting flare down the right-field dropped just fair for an RBI double. From there, it was olly-olly-oxen-free. Dan Johnson, Richard and Lobaton all singled, Furmaniak added a well-pushed safety squeeze to score another run, and Angel Chavez punched yet another single through the infield. That was pretty much it, and it gave De Los Santos his eighth win of the year. Too bad we couldn't have gotten out early and gone home right then; the final three innings were just obligatory and nothing more.

One other thing got in later than usual last night. That was R. J. Swindle's curveball, which is so delightfully, whimsically, deceptively malevolent that it belongs in a Roald Dahl story. Last night, apparently in an effort to take even more miles per hour off of the pitch, Swindle set a personal record by slowing the thing down to an eye-popping 48 mph. (It was taken for a ball.) Noting his new benchmark, Swindle said after the game that he'd try to get it down to 47. I hope I get to see that.

After Winston Abreu struck out the side in the ninth inning to polish off the win—he now has 55 Ks in just 36 1/3 innings—Bulls' television broadcaster Ken Tanner conducted his customary "Star of the Game" interview with Elliot Johnson, who was 2-4 with a stolen base. Except that Tanner and Johnson pulled a double-switch, and Johnson did a dead-on and very funny impression of Tanner in interviewing "Elliot Johnson" (i.e., Tanner). [ed. note: here it is! Ellliot Johnson should also add Jimmy Stewart to his repertoire.] General hilarity ensued, and it was still in full giggle in the clubhouse, where the mood was that of an appropriately loose, bouncy first-place team, happy not only for the drought-breaking win but also, perhaps, for Charlotte's second straight loss at home to Louisville. That pushed the Bulls' division lead back up to eight games; and the woes of yesterday, which surely affected fans and sportswriters much more deeply than they did the Bulls, if they affected them at all, were gone and forgotten, erased after a cleansing, cooling rain came in early and got out late, but left plenty of the night for the Bulls to look like their old June selves again—from the sixth inning on, anyway. Not even having three runners thrown out at home plate dented the newly-shined armor.

I had a gratifyingly nerdy talk with Richard De Los Santos about the hows, whys and wherefores of his sinking two-seam fastball, and I also have some stray thoughts about the business of minor-league baseball in the wake of my weekend trip to Charlotte. But given that I got in late (around midnight, sportsfans), I'm going to get out a little earlier than usual and sign off on this late entry. I'm off on Wednesday night, but I'll see you again Thursday night at the DBAP.

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