Durham Bulls whip Syracuse Chiefs, increase wild-card lead | Sports

Durham Bulls whip Syracuse Chiefs, increase wild-card lead

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Nice to see the Bulls get off to a resoundingly positive start on a crucial seven-game road trip to Syracuse and Norfolk, the two teams trailing them in the International League wild-card race. That isn't to say that the South Division title is out of reach---the Bulls trail Gwinnett by three games with 16 left to play---but if they concentrate on putting some distance between themselves and their pursuers, they'll have plenty of momentum coming into their four-game showdown with the Braves at the DBAP when they return (buy your tickets now!).

Desmond Jennings (pictured) was one hit short of the cycle for the second time in his last three starts, this time substituting a homer for the triple, and the Bulls took a quick 5-0 lead after three innings, extended it to 7-0 after five, and rode out a 9-2 win at Syracuse. Every Bull in the starting lineup had at least one hit, including Shawn Riggans, whose fifth-inning double snapped an 0/18 spell since his return from the disabled list. Jason Cromer pitched well enough, if inefficiently, and earned his sixth win. Calvin Medlock, Joe Nelson and Winston Abreu finished up. Nelson allowed singles to the first two men he faced, so his BA-against and OBP-against are still very scary, but perhaps we're seeing a gradual return to good form for him.

A very good thing has happened to the Chiefs' Mike Morse: he was recalled to Washington a few days ago. That's also very good thing for the Bulls, because Morse pounded Durham pitching when the Chiefs came to town earlier this month: he went 6/14 with two homers, a double, three walks and seven RBIs. Syracuse did, however, regain the services of 6-foot-5, 290-pound (!) righty slugger Brad Eldred. Eldred went hitless in five trips to the plate last night, with a walk and a strikeout. The Chiefs pulled a Durham, going 2/12 with RISP and stranding 12 men on base---a little balancing of the Bulls' recent ledger.

Chris Richard sat out a third straight game with what Charlie Montoyo told us was a wrist problem. With Elliot Johnson on the disabled list---he's eligible to come off Sunday, although there's no word if he will---Richard's absence means that Joe Dillon is the everyday first baseman and Ray Olmedo is inked in at third. Olmedo has now played nine straight games, which is many more than any Bull should be logging right now. He's 8/35 in that stretch. All eight of his hits have been singles (one of them a bunt), he's drawn only one walk, and he has hit into three double plays. He has also committed four errors. It's one of those oddities of minor-league baseball that a guy with a .614 OPS, who leads the team in errors, and who walks about once every 20 times at bat, can wind up with the third-most games played on the roster. The Olmedos of the world tend to be utility players because they aren't good enough to hold down a position. Their utility makes them, unfortunately, indispensable; they're the duct tape of ballclubs, which tend to want for nails (the good hardware is used for major-league jobs). And I think I've hammered that point into the floor (ha ha ha, sorry).

Wade Davis, coming off a superb outing in which he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, is on the mound for the Bulls on Sunday. On August 8 at the DBAP, he came within a batter of blanking Syracuse for seven innings. Gametime is 5:00 p.m.

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