by Adam Sobsey
In their 2-1 loss to Pawtucket on Tuesday---every game in the series was decided by one run---the Bulls stranded 11 runners and went 0-9 with runners in scoring position. They went 4-31 (.129) with RISP for the series against Pawtucket, scoring just 10 runs in four games, and are 15-82 (.183) with RISP over the last 10 games. Yet they're 6-4 in that stretch, which says more, perhaps, about their pitching than it does about their clutchiness (the 10-game team ERA is 2.99). It would be interesting to see what the Bulls' overall RISP average is and whether recent rates are an anomaly or the norm, but that stat isn't readily available. I seem to recall that Durham struggled to plate runners from second and third earlier in the year, so we might be seeing the team we've got when the pressure is on.
Carlos Hernandez had another fine start for Durham, allowing a single run in six innings of work. He gave up six hits and two walks while striking out five. He needed 101 pitches (62 strikes), so his efficiency was down a bit. But most of the time you'll win with Hernandez's outing. Joe Bateman tossed a pair of scoreless relief innings, but in the ninth Jason Childers surrendered a one-out double to former N.C. State Wolfpack standout Aaron Bates. Childers intentionally walked Jonathan Van Every to set up a double play, and then Dusty Brown hit a ball to the left-field wall that ticked off Ray Olmedo's glove (according to the Bulls' official game report) for a game-winning hit.
That's right, Ray Olmedo's glove.
Apparently Justin Ruggiano was ill (I hope he didn't get food poisoning at the Modern Diner!), and so Olmedo was pressed into just his second start of the season (and fourth of his ten-year pro career) in the outfield. It should be said that he wasn't exactly "pressed": Jon Weber, who usually plays left, was the designated hitter on Tuesday. It isn't clear whether there were health/fatigue issues or whether Charlie Montoyo was pursuing his agenda of giving his men continued on-the-job training as utility players. In any case, who knows whether Weber or some other seasoned outfielder might have had a better chance of catching Brown's drive?
On the other side, Van Every made a spectacular diving catch in the top of the ninth to rob Ray Sadler of what would have been a tie-breaking RBI double. Some games seem to come down to what one team does better than the other (although they seldom do, really), and this appears to have been one of them. The PawSox also went a decent enough 2-7 with runners in scoring position.
One bright spot for the Bulls was the debut of Rhyne Hughes. Hughes played first base and went 2-4 with a double. John Jaso accounted for Durham's only run with a solo homer off of Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning. It would be great if Jaso started to mash, because right now the Bulls look like a much less potent team than they did two weeks ago. With Matt Joyce gone to Tampa, Chris Richard still hurting and Justin Ruggiano suffering an extended power outage (and an illness, apparently), someone needs to step up and provide long balls. Perhaps Hughes, who was leading the AA Southern League in homers when he was sent to Durham on Monday, will fill the void as well.
Speaking of roster changes, more Bulls on the move, this time for good: Reliever Chad Orvella (pictured at top) was released Tuesday. Orvella was the one reliever who didn't seem to have a regular place in Charlie Montoyo's bullpen rotation this season. It was common for him to sit for three or more days in a row while other pitchers made multiple appearances. Orvella, like Aaron Bates an N.C. State alum, missed all of 2008 with a shoulder injury, and it seems the Rays decided not to wait out his recovery. Instead, they signed right-hander Jorge Julio, a hard-throwing 30-year-old who became a free agent when he was released by the Brewers a week ago.
Julio has had significant success in the majors, saving 83 games for Baltimore as the team's closer in 2002, 2003 and most of 2004. But like many relievers, he hasn't been able to sustain his effectiveness, and since 2006 he has bounced around the majors---Tampa is his eighth team in just over three years. The apparent thinking here is that Julio's upside (and velocity) is higher than Orvella's, and that he has shown he can get major-league hitters out in the past. Tampa is obviously hoping that he'll harness his talent again, and they'll entrust Julio to the tutelage of Bulls pitching coach Xavier Hernandez. Sometimes a player needs nothing more than the right situation.
And speaking of that, we wish Orvella well, and success wherever he lands.
The Bulls have an off day Wednesday (what will you do with yourself?) and head up to Buffalo for a four-game weekend series. James Houser gets the start for Durham on Thursday afternoon at 1:05.