by Adam Sobsey
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="358" caption="The Bulls have owned the Keystone Sack for the last two days."][/caption]The Bulls pounded six doubles today at Rochester to add to the eight they hit yesterday and held on to beat the Red Wings, 8-7. Those 14 doubles over two games represent almost 14% of the team's season total, and they lead the league in the category. They also lead in homers---although, amazingly, they hit none during their two-game doubles barrage---and are second in walks drawn.
The win today finished off a 6-2 road trip. The Bulls are now 30-17 and trail Norfolk by 1.5 games in the IL South. They're as far over .500 as the team has been in over a year. In other words, the Bulls haven't missed a beat even though they've lost five players to the major-league squad and three more to injury while they've been away---that's nearly a third of the roster (!). So many new faces were mustered in mid-trip that Charlie Montoyo must have needed name tags to recognize his charges.
Are the facelifted Bulls the real deal or just small-sample-sized? Many hitters, including the newbies, contributed to today's 12-hit attack (abetted by eight walks), but the game belonged mostly to stalwarts Ray Sadler and Jon Weber. Sadler has steadily moved up in the batting order over the last few games, moving from sixth to fifth to third. He rewarded Montoyo's latest promotion by going 3-6 today with a pair of doubles and three RBI, and Weber added two more two-baggers and a pair of RBI. Matt Joyce, who hit three doubles yesterday, was carefully pitched around: He was walked three times, once intentionally.
The bullpen wasn't up to its usual level today. Jason Childers and Winston Abreu allowed four runs over four innings (sandwiching a scoreless eighth by Joe Bateman, whose ERA is now a team-leading 0.96) in support of Matt DeSalvo's first start as a Bull. DeSalvo, who replaced David Price in the rotation, wasn't exactly DeSavior, allowing three runs in four innings and gobbling up 87 pitches in the process; but today the Bulls scored enough runs to give the pitchers a cushion.
And they needed it. The Bulls plated what turned out to be the decisive run in the top of the ninth, a gift from former Bull Jason Pridie, whose error in center field made the score 8-5. Abreu let two runs score in the bottom of the inning but fanned Trevor Plouffe with the tying run on to earn his seventh save.
(Hard to know what to think of Plouffe, other than that his name sounds like a French pastry that ought to be drizzled with a creme Anglaise. Plouffe had savvy, productive at-bats almost every time up when Rochester played a series at Durham last week, hitting the ball hard almost every time up, it seemed; but somehow he's hitting just .229. Well, fortunately he's the Twins' problem.)
John Jaso returned to action as the designated hitter, which was a good sign (although he went 0-4), but Ray Olmedo and Chris Richard are still in the M.A.S.H. unit. Justin Ruggiano got what was probably a scheduled day off.
It will be fun to see the Bulls Mark II in action when the club returns to Durham tomorrow for an eight-game homestand versus Rust-belters Buffalo and Toledo. Those are the two worst teams in the league. (I probably just jinxed the Bulls by writing that last sentence.) The Bulls are like a friend who's just had a lot of exciting and sometimes traumatic travel adventure; we have a lot of catching up to do. I don't know about you, but I'm excited they're home.