by Adam Sobsey
The Bulls who were in the lineup last night can tell their grandkids that they played against John Smoltz, who is probably headed for the Hall of Fame after he retires---not that he's in a hurry to do that. The 42-year-old is rehabbing from major shoulder surgery last year, just so he can keep on pitching into his mid-40s and risk further injury. Apparently he cares a lot, or he has some sort of a grudge against Jamie Moyer.
(Jamie Moyer was born in 1962---in other words, he was old enough to think Boston's debut album was uncool when it first came out.)
And had they scratched out a hit or two, the Bulls could tell their grandkids that they beat John Smoltz. The Pawsox won, 2-1, and Smoltz was excellent, according to the box score and reports from Pawtucket/Providence. He allowed only a single hit in six innings of work (74 pitches), with one walk and three strikeouts. That the Bulls scored off of him at all is to their credit. In the second, Chris Richard led off with a walk by laying off of a couple of changeups in the dirt. (Smoltz is developing that pitch; maybe he and David Price should have lunch.) John Jaso drilled a single to right, and Richard moved to third. He scored on Ray Olmedo's sacrifice fly. From there, Smoltz was literally unhittable. He needed fewer than 10 pitches in each of his final three innings of work. The Bulls went 0-8 with runners in scoring position against him and two other relievers.
Unfortunately, Durham wasted a fine start by Jason Cromer, who allowed just a pair of solo homers in 5 2/3 innings, although he needed 93 pitches to get that far---partially the result of four walks. But Cromer, Jason Childers and Julio DePaula limited Pawtucket to just three hits overall. The Bulls starting pitching has come around lately; it's been more than a week since a starter has allowed more than four runs in an outing. That helps explain why "we're never out of it," as Charlie Montoyo said recently after a Bulls' comeback victory.
In less than half an hour, the Bulls and Pawsox play again. Matt DeSalvo goes for Durham against Michael Bowden, whom Baseball America ranks as Boston's No. 2 overall prospect. Could be another day when runs are hard to come by.