by Adam Sobsey
It's starting to seem like this is going to go on for the rest of the season: Bulls in first, Bulls out of first. I don't have crunchable numbers in front of me, but I don't think Durham's been more than three games up or three games down since April. That's quite remarkable, if true.
So last night's 5-4 loss at Louisville, yet another close game, was pretty much the way it goes these days. It's impossible to predict how they'll do on any given night. They beat Louisville ace Matt Maloney on Thursday, but lost to the extremely average Ramon Ramirez on Friday with their own top prospect Wade Davis on the mound. Davis had only one bad inning---indeed, only one inning in which the Bats scored---but it cost him all five runs. A passed ball and a questionable fielding decision by catcher Craig Albernaz got Davis into trouble and he couldn't pitch out of it, allowing a catastrophic three-run triple to All-Star Drew Stubbs during the game-deciding fifth inning. The Bulls were shut down by the Louisville bullpen for the final 3 1/3. They went 1-8 with runners in scoring position, although it should be said that Louisville did, too.
Norfolk retook sole possession of first place with a doubleheader sweep of Charlotte. The Tides have played four twinbills this year and swept all of them. Guess what? The Bulls host the Tides for a doubleheader---the Bulls' first of the season---a week from today at the DBAP. That's part of a five-game set that could determine what sort of home stretch the Bulls will ultimately find themselves charging down.
A couple of notes:
* Chris Richard is enjoying a resurgence lately, batting .412 over his last 10 games. Five of his 14 hits have been for extra bases (three homers), and he's walked nine times in 43 plate appearances. His average has risen back up to .259, and his OPS is edging close to .900 again. The brightest sign here is that Richard's cranky hamstring is probably happy again.
* On the other end of things, Henry Mateo appears to be in his first slump since becoming a Bull. He's 9-48 (four walks, 10 strikeouts) since July 3, and his major stats have plunged this month. No way of knowing why this is, but he's Charlie Montoyo's sparkplug at the top of the lineup, and he needs to hit well in order for the Bulls to be a run-scoring machine.
* Julio DePaula over his last 10 appearances: 16 1/3 innings, three runs, 1.65 ERA. His WHIP and his K-rates are nothing special, but he's had a very good stretch for the Bulls.
* James Houser (not Carlos Hernandez?) gets the start for the Bulls on Saturday. Somehow it seems like one they need to win.