It was bound to happen. After I was fortunate enough to score a string of several very-good-to-outstanding baseball games, I got to work the Father’s Day match between Norfolk and Toledo. It was a sloppy, poorly-played game, a game that taxes the datacaster’s abilities both because the game action is not very compelling and because the goings-on in the press box can be very compelling. Fortunately for Tides fans, Toledo contributed most of the poor play.
Tides starter Chris Tillman wasn’t very sharp, as 32 of the 88 pitches in his six innings missed the strike zone. But he was effective, as he gave up one run on three hits and struck out eight. Toledo baserunning mistakes helped Tillman out some, as Tillman picked one runner off first and a second was caught stealing after he got a miserable jump. I still don’t see Tillman pitch and think “Wow, this guy’s too good for AAA” but I must say he’s been pitching well.
The originally-scheduled Toledo starting pitcher was called up to Detroit, so Detroit promoted a relief pitcher from AA to be the first pitcher in a “bullpen day.” A bullpen day is when the team doesn’t have a normal starting pitcher available, so the team hopes to have four pitchers go two or three innings each and nurse the team through the game. The Mud Hens starting pitcher did quite well the first time through the order, but as soon as the leadoff batter game up for the second time he fell apart; with two outs in the third, the Tides got a walk, a hit batsman, and another walk. In came the next pitcher, who got Miguel Tejada to line out to right field.
The Tides took advantage of the sloppiness in the fifth. Blake Davis placed a bunt perfectly for a single. Then, Caleb Joseph struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Davis raced for second, but Joseph’s backswing hit catcher Rob Brantly, killing the ball and forcing Davis to remain at first. Then, on a 2-2 pitch, Xavier Avery was hit by a pitch. Nate McLouth singled in Davis with the tying run. Then Lew Ford smote a hard fly to deep right-center field. Avery scored easily, and Ford rounded second thinking “triple.” But McLouth, who should have scored easily, was held up at third; Ford stopped suddenly and retreated to second, which fortunately wasn’t covered. The Toledo pitching coach came out and ordered Miguel Tejada intentionally walked. With the bases loaded, Joe Mahoney hit a medium-speed grounder back to the pitcher. He threw home to force McLouth and Brantly threw a perfect strike to try to double up Mahoney. The throw was too perfect, as it was right on line and struck Mahoney as he was approaching the bag. I’m not sure that Mahoney wouldn’t have beaten a throw that didn’t hit him; but the ball bounded behind first as Ford scored and Tejada moved to third. Although catcher Brantly didn’t make a wild throw, he was charged with an error. A fourth run scored on a single.
But the really bad inning was the bottom of the eighth. With one out and a runner on first, the Toledo third baseman tried and failed to backhand a fairly sharp grounder hit by Avery. McLouth hit a slowish grounder to short; the shortstop thought about forcing Avery at second, decided against it, and dropped the ball as he was starting to throw it. That brought in pitcher #4, who evidently hadn’t warmed up enough. His first eight pitches — four to Ford, four to Tejada — missed the strike zone. Both batters walked and two runs scored. Believe me, the inning was much worse to watch than it was to read about. Fortunately for me, he recovered enough to retire the next two batters and not require runs to be scored as earned to the pitcher, but unearned to the team.