Well, the Rays had an off day last night, but there were a few games of interest to keep me busy. I spent the night mostly glued to my computer, watching the Durham Bulls entertain the Pawtucket Red Sox. I do admit that I strayed on occasion to watch the Mets versus Cardinals game and when both were over; I watch the College World Series matchup between LSU and Texas, which lasted 11 innings of nail biting baseball. Mikie Mahtook hit a single in the top of the 11th which scored D.J. LeMahieu to give LSU a 7-6 lead. They shut Texas down in the bottom half of the inning to take the first game. I still have that PING sound of the aluminum bat in my head…
So, back to Durham. There were 8,666 fans packed into the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (they set an attendance record this week) to watch the epic battle between two lefties, both of whom are undefeated in International League (AAA) play this year.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that these two may face off again when their Major League ball clubs play in September, so I was looking at this a sneak preview. I’m gonna spoil the surprise right now and tell you that Bucholz (now 5-1) took his first loss of the year last night. He was a victim of bad defense behind him, little offense, but mainly he just wasn’t hitting his spots. He lasted only 3-2/3 innings, striking out 4, but walking 5. He threw 82 pitches, only 43 (52%) for strikes. He only gave up 1 earned run before leaving the game, but was down 2-1 when he was yanked, courtesy of a throwing error by (rehabbing) shortstop Jed Lowrie which allowed the second run to score... Incidentally, in his rehab start, Lowrie was 0-3 with a throwing error and was replaced by Travis Denker in the field in the seventh inning. I don’t think he’s quite ready to return.
The Bulls struck first, scoring a run in the 2nd inning when Ray Olmedo singled home Ray Sadler, who had hit a two-out double. That was about it for the Bulls bats with men on. Leadoff hitter, second baseman Henry Mateo (.330 BA) did his job setting the table for the Bulls. He was 0-2 officially, but reached base on three walks. He did not score a run because Durham was pathetic (2-12) with runners in scoring position. Ten Bulls were left on base in the game.
Kazmir looked sharp on the mound all game. His pitches had good movement and he was throwing strikes. His velocity didn’t look as good as it did last week in Port Charlotte, but I was watching on a tiny computer screen. He went a full 6 innings, earning the win and striking out 5 Paw Sox. He allowed 1 earned run and did not walk a batter. He threw 79 pitches on the day, 55 (70%) for strikes. He was aided by his defense, which not only didn’t commit an error, both Jon Weber and Justin Ruggiano gunned down base runners trying to stretch a hit to a double. The lone Sox run came when Angel Chavez singled home Bubba Bell, who had doubled, in the second inning. Kazmir faced the minimum 3 batters from the 3 inning on. I don’t know if his strength is there yet to join the big team, but his composure, mechanics and location are right on. Joe Maddon has not yet announced if Kaz will rejoin the Rays in St. Pete for this home stand.
Bucholz was pulled in the bottom of the 4th. After Lowrie’s error allowed a run to score, he walked the next batter (John Jaso) he faced. He was lifted in favor of Randor Bierd. Bierd did not look too impressive. He allowed a double to Justin Ruggiano, walked 3 batters and served up a home run to John Jaso before being yanked after 2 innings. Javier Lopez replaced him and went 1-1/3 scoreless. Billy Traber pitched the bottom of the 8th for the Sox and sent the Bulls down in order.
Jason Cromer, the originally scheduled starter for Durham, started the 7th for the Bulls. He pitched 2-1/3 innings of shut out ball. He didn’t look on his game; he walked 2, but didn’t allow any runs. Dale Thayer got two ground ball outs in the top of the ninth to record his 9th save.
I don’t know if the matchup lived up to its hype, but Kazmir got the better of Bucholz last night. Time will tell if he is ready for the Majors yet. Bucholz, who was in the running to replace the injured and poor pitching Dice K, did not make a good case for himself. He will still likely start the International League All Star Game.
In other “rehab” news, Phillies closer, Brad “Lights Out” Lidge will likely see action with the Florida State League’s (A) Clearwater Phillies tonight.
Just a few miles away, in St. Pete, the Rays will play the big league Phillies. 46-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer (4-6 6.32 ERA) will be going for his 251st career win. He will be facing 24-year-old lefty, David Price, going for his 2nd career victory. Game time is 7:08 at the Trop.
In other news, Rays center fielder BJ Upton was named the American League Player of the Week. He hit .429 with 3 doubles, 2 homers, 2 steals and 9 RBIs. Way to go BJ!!