Chiefs' pitching coach Rick Langford says it's been a pattern, but he's not really sure why. Quite frankly, I can't make any sense of it either.
The last month has turned out to be a pretty predictable one for Syracuse. The Chiefs have started each of their last five series by losing the first two games. That's the bad news. The good news is, in each case they've come back to win the next two. So if it's not how you start, but how you finish, then why don't the Chiefs have anything to show for it?
After Friday night's 7-5 win over the Indianapolis Indians, Syracuse now readies for the Durham Bulls. If they finally want to win a series, here's what they'll need to do.
Get Strong Starting Pitching
They got it on Friday. John Thomson looked like he's ready for the show. The sinkerball extraordinaire was dominant at times tonight. In six innings, he fanned six. According to sources in the Chiefs organization, it was Thomson, not Jesse Litsch who was going to make the start against the Orioles on Tuesday. Thomson didn't get the call because of a blister. He had a band-aid on the finger and when I asked him about it, he said he was fine.
From my conversations with the veteran starter, I just get the impression that he's dejected about still being in the minors. I haven't seen the guy smile since he made his first start two weeks ago. Despite the mood, he's still got that bottomless bag of pitches. His calling card is the still the sinker, but his finisher Friday was the cutter.
"He located it well. He went down and away with the cutter to right-handed hitter," said Chiefs pitching coach Rick Langford, "that late movement was the reason why you saw so many swings and misses."
Lefties got to hit lefties
That really didn't happen on Friday. Indians left hander Michael Tejera is a junk pitcher. He threw nothing but low 80s and high 70s pitches. He contorts his body like a pretzel during his windup. He throws over the top to right-handers and goes to a three-quarter to full side arm angle delivery against south-paws.
That uniqueness helped him against the Chiefs' predominantly lefty lineup. For the most part Russ Adams has done that. Even though he swings from the left side, he's bucking percentages by hitting .280 against them. Adams wasn't alone. Four and five hitters, Kevin Barker and John-Ford Griffin combined with Adams to go 0-for-11 in this one. It was Adams first appearance in a game this homestand.
The only lefty who hit the ball was Howie Clark. He got his first Chiefs start at shortstop. He creamed a middle-in fastball, a little up, over the picnic area in deep right for a two-run homerun in the fifth. It would turn out to be the difference.
Even though a deceptive lefty like Tejera can be deceptive and puzzling, Clark was able to find a way to figure him out.
"I faced him in winter ball," said Clark, "he throws from the first base side of the rubber. I think having all the lefties in the lineup actually helped us. He tried to be tricky. In the at-bat I hit a homerun on, he threw me four straight fastballs."
Thigpen needs to keep up the blistering pace
On a team that has few prospects and a litany of minor league players, Thigpen is almost by default has a microscope on him 24-7. I guess that comes with being the only top 10 prospect in the organization playing in Syracuse right now. Before this past week, by and large, I thought he was a disappointment. I didn't see much of a power stroke. He too often reached out and tried to pull outside pitches instead of going with them the other way. I also dug up an alarming stat. Thigpen is 3 of 38 on steal attempts. That is insanely atrocious.
In this series alone I've seen a new Thigpen. He went 4-for-5 on Thursday. With an all hands on deck offensively besides the injured Mike Vento, Thigpen still found himself hitting third in the lineup. He added three more hits and has seen his batting average swell to .314. Tonight his hits weren't cheap. Curtis doubled in his first two trips, almost to the identical spot. He tattooed two balls high and deep, both into the left center power alley. One bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. I asked Thigpen last week if he felt disappointed that it was Sal Fasano, not him, who was called up to replace the injured Gregg Zaun. He said that he's still waiting for his time to come. If you ask me, that's looking more and more like it's going to be sooner than later.
FieldView: Thomson or Litsch Controversy
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