Price sizzles, Thayer fizzles as Bulls blow four-run lead in ninth | Sports

Price sizzles, Thayer fizzles as Bulls blow four-run lead in ninth

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DBAP/ DURHAM—I've been avoiding this post all day, partly because I'm so damn busy but mostly because of the praise lavished on Adam Sobsey, our principal Bulls correspondent, by the redoubtable Bull City Rising. Here it is:

A gold star for Adam Sobsey, who's covering the Bulls for the Independent Weekly's Triangle Offense blog -- for now. I say "for now" since Sobsey's writing is stunningly good, and I mean he's-going-to-get-snapped-up-somewhere-national-someday good.

So, for those of you tuning in because of this endorsement: No, I'm not Adam Sobsey. I covered last night’s game for Adam Sobsey, and I hasten to assure you that Adam Sobsey will be attending tonight's game between the Bulls and the Louisville Bats.

Due to the Indy production schedule, I didn't take my seat last night until the bottom of the first, and already David Price had given up two runs.  It's no stretch to say the novelty of having Price here in Durham has worn off a bit: Announced attendance to this game, which saw the Bulls' ostensible closer give up five runs in the ninth inning to lose 7-6, was 4,112.

No doubt many stayed home to watch the Hurricanes gratefully accept their asses from the hands of the Boston Bruins (a spectacle that claimed the attention of press-box denizens, too), but no-shows missed a pretty good 76-pitch effort from the big lefty.

 Although the Bats jumped on him in the first, with a double, an error, a sac fly and a reportedly preposterous dinger from ex-Bull Jonny Gomes, Price settled down and sailed through the next three and two-thirds innings, leaving just one out shy of qualifying as the winning pitcher of record. He had five strikeouts, no walks and gave up four hits.

Price was bringing the heat, too: One pitch in the fourth, to Wes Bankston (another ex-Bull), was clocked at 98 mph.

Statistics were nothing but damned lies last night, truth be told. The night's best pitcher, Price, entered the game with an unimpressive 1-4 record in six starts and an ERA of 4.74. Price would have more chances at victories, though, if he were allowed to pitch to the sixth inning more often. As it happens, his ERA dropped slightly after tonight's effort, but his record remains 1-4. Of course, his win totals and his ERA are of less consequence than those upper-90s fastballs that he's throwing for strikes .  

On the other hand, the night's worst pitcher was Dale Thayer, he of the 0.56 ERA and four saves in as many opportunities. Sobsey wrote a post here (scroll down) wondering what the 28-year-old Thayer, who has yet to pitch in a single major league game, has to do to earn a major league call-up. On last night's evidence, one thing he presumably has to do is hold on to four-run leads.

The box score will tell you that four of the five runs Thayer gave up were unearned due to a would-be game-ending double-play ball that Chris Richard instead threw over second base and into left field. But as a wise man in the press box said later, "[Thayer] was still up four runs after that error. You gotta be able to pitch out of that."

Instead, batter after batter pulled and poked at Thayer's tosses. Four balls were sent to left field, including a Gomes double that brought in the tying and winning runs. At no time did Thayer appear to have a booster rocket for his pitches, one that would get him out of the inning. And at no time did Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo have a reliever warming up in the bullpen. Clearly, he was going to live and die with Thayer on the mound.

In fairness to Thayer, even Mariano Rivera blows four-run leads once in a while. But what's misleading is that Thayer's ERA is now a still-sizzling 1.06, while Price's is now 4.60.

The actual Adam Sobsey returns tonight.

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