FieldView: Wild Weekend

I've watched a lot of baseball and missed out on a ton of things because of that. If you're a member of this site, you can probably attest to that too. For as many games as I've watched there are still those moments that make me say, "Wow that's the first time I've ever seen that happen".

That would be the best way to sum up my observations from this weekend in Syracuse. The box scores will read 5-4 Syracuse and 10-3 Durham, but if you watched or attended the games, you know that the results don't tell half the story.

Scary Saturday

It was one of those things you wouldn't even wish on your worst enemies. Bulls' second baseman Elliott Johnson laced a 3-2 Josh Banks fastball deep to right center. Chiefs' center fielder Jeff Duncan was playing shallower than usual, considering that Johnson is widely considered to be just a scrappy, contact hitter. Duncan's positioning forced him to chase the ball down full tilt, and eventually he ran out of real estate. He slammed into the manual scoreboard without bracing himself. Johnson would pull into third with the triple, but the play left Duncan crushed on the outfield carpet.

Right fielder Chad Mottola was the first to come to Duncan's aid. Duncan told him that he thought he broke both his legs. It was a sobering scene. For a half hour a medical team worked to stabilize Duncan. A cart and ambulance had to be rushed onto the field.

I was sitting behind home plate, and the buzz from Chiefs' brass was that Duncan sustained a major concussion. My conversation with manager Doug Davis after the game would back-up that fact. Duncan was placed on the disabled list Sunday and is expected to miss a couple of weeks. To be honest, that's good news, it looked a lot worse. For a point of reference, think back to that play Aaron Rowand made against the Mets last season in center field when he busted up his nose.

This whole thing could have easily been prevented though. Alliance Bank Stadium doesn't have a warning track. There is no dirt out in front of the walls, just a chalked line, separating Astroturf from Astroturf. Without a signal to the players that they're getting close to the wall there's really nothing to stop something like this from happening again.

Wolfe Man Brian

Brian Wolfe is about as dominant a reliever as you see in minor league baseball. On Saturday he finally gave up a run. It was a critical error that pitchers just can't make. With an 0-2 count to Durham 3-hitter Justin Ruggiano, Wolfe threw a slider that was intended for the outside half of the plate. Well, it hung out there over the middle, and Ruggiano smashed it to center giving the Bulls a 4-3 edge in the eighth inning.

It was the hardest I've seen Wolfe throw all year. He came back out to pitch the ninth and was daring hitters to touch his fastball. Wolfe's heater was clocked at a season-high 95 mph.

"I was part me taking out my frustration after what happened in the 8th," said Wolfe, "I had an impingement in my shoulder that caused me to miss sometime, I'm over that, and feeling much better now."

In the two innings, Wolfe fanned three. His ERA remains at just over one for the season.

Bizzare Ninth Frame

Saturday night looked like another Chiefs loss. Down 4-3 in the ninth, Bulls closer Seth McClung entered the game. McClung has had little success at the big league level, but he feasts on triple-A batters. He still has that 96 mph fastball, and when he's commanding it, a devastating slider.

It was a perfect example of a blow-up. If baseball is ninety percent mental, then I think McClung will be in a psychiatric ward before he gets back to Tampa. Besides an Eric Kratz single, Syracuse didn't hit the ball at all in the inning. There was a shortstop Ben Zobrist low throw to first baseman Wes Bankston on a routine grounder that would have ended the game that went uncaught. There was a full count walk to John-Ford Griffin. McClung stupidly decided to nibble around the plate to a dangerous, but still slumping hitter. A 2-0 fastball trickled to the backstop between catcher Raul Casanova's legs that score the game's tying run. McClung punched his glove and cursed at home plate in anticipation. He was as rattled as a rusty fence.

The sealer came with the bases chucked and shortstop Howie Clark at-bat. Clark has refused to take the outside pitch the opposite way. He's become pull happy and he was in this spot too. Clark fought off two 3-2 pitches foul, both on the outside corner, but reaching to pull. The next pitch was a weakly hit grounder to first that hit a seam in the artificial turf and skied over Bankston's head.

I guess sometimes baseball is about luck. Instead of the Chiefs winning the game, they let the Bulls lose it. Either way, it still looks the same in the win column.

Chiefs Catastrophic Inning

Syracuse would have a blow-up of its own on Sunday afternoon. This one would come in the seventh inning. The Bulls scored seven runs, two of which were charged to Chiefs' starter Ty Taubenheim.

It's been a rough month for Taubenheim. His ERA in May is over eight. For a guy who doesn't throw particularly hard control is crucial, and Taubenheim just hasn't had it.

"I don't know what it is," said Taubenheim, "if it's something mechanically, probably more mentally. I just got to get it figured out and get on a roll."

I'm not quite sure what it is either, but he's running in to trouble because he's not throwing strikes early in the count. Twice Taubenheim walked the lead-off man in an inning. He relies on his sinkerball for ground outs, and for the most part Taubenheim feels that he still has that pitch. I sense that he's extremely frustrated. A few starts ago he probably thought he was in line for a promotion to Toronto, now he's one of the most inconsistent pieces of this rotation.


Jeff Duncan will be replaced on the roster by Mike Vento. The right fielder was activated from the DL on Sunday after missing a month with a hamstring injury. He's hitting .359 on the season…Ray Olmedo has missed the past couple of games. According to Doug Davis Olmedo had surgery on his right arm a while back, and needs a few days every now and then to rest it…Curtis Thigpen threw out Ben Zobrist at second base on Sunday. Zobrist is a real speedster too. It was only the second time all year Thigpen has got a man stealing at second…Reliever Ryan Houston easily had his worst outing of the year on Sunday. He allowed four runs in just a third of an inning. His ERA has ballooned to over six.

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