by Adam Sobsey
Yesterday I was worrying about the potential suppressive effects of the rash of recent callups to Tampa and assorted injuries on the Bulls' hitting, especially down at the bottom of the order. Before that I had turned an eye to the remaining sluggers in the lineup, noting that they'd have to step it up in order to keep the team in runs.
Apparently, the whole team gathered round the old laptop, because last night they pounded out a season-high 17 hits in routing Rochester, 13-2 at Frontier Field. Sure enough, remaining slugger Matt Joyce paced the attack with three doubles and six RBI; and down in the ninth slot in the lineup, newly-promoted (from Montgomery) shortstop Brandon Chaves went 4-4. All of his hits were singles, but 4-4 is pretty perfect, and Chaves added a walk to his quartet of singles and so reached base in all five of his plate appearances. In all, the Bulls hit eight doubles (!) and a triple, the latter by catcher Craig Albernaz—his second of the season, improbably. Catchers hitting triples is lunar-eclipse rare. In Albernaz's case, it ought to be mentioned that he was gifted his first three-bagger of the season when Wes Bankston approached Albernaz's opposite-field pop fly like he was auditioning for the Family Circus comic strip.
So the kids were more than alright yesterday, and it's tempting to fall into some after-therefore-because sophistry as circumstantial evidence for the cause of the sudden outburst. Starter Mitch Talbot ran into trouble in the second inning, loading the bases with no one out on three straight singles, but he stranded all three runners via a strikeout and a double play. The chances of scoring at least one run in that scenario are 82 percent, so Talbot performed some unlikely magic in escaping unscathed. An old-school commentator (i.e. a baseball manager) might tell you that Talbot's prestidigitation galvanized the Durham hitters, who scored two runs in the following inning and then added seven more over the next three to put the game away. But that's another one for the Momentum Debate, and the debate goes, "Is there such a thing as momentum in baseball?" I'm all no on that one, but inside the clubhouse you'll find plenty of supporters, as well as athletic supporters.
It's also tempting to speculate that Mitch Talbot may be increasing his mastery of the art of pitching. He was on the mound during a game at the DBAP earlier this season and struggling a bit. Someone in the press box observed that Talbot was prone to imploding in difficult situations. Bases loaded and no outs is pretty much the most difficult of situations, but last night Talbot held fast. He has good stuff, and if he can continue bulldoggery like last night's second inning, he may yet develop in to a serviceable major-league hurler.
The Hurricanes are done, sadly, for the year, but at least one local team gets to play on and face the Red Wings. The Bulls and Rochester tangle in less than an hour, one of those 11:05 a.m. games known around the International League as "Education Day" (read: No-Prep Teacher Day). Matt DeSalvo gets his first start as a Bull.