Durham Notebook: Power Outage on Tobacco Road

Durham beat writer Ben Christoph checks in with his weekly notebook with notes on the Bulls anemic offense, an odd anomaly concerning the pitching staff and the obligatory update on Hideki Matsui.

Power outage on Tobacco Road

The Bulls have been outscored 228-165 so far this season, and although they have the fourth- most total hits in the International League, a .341 collective slugging percentage (which is only better than Indianapolis' .325 in the league) and a relative void of extra-base hits has left the team on the wrong side of the scoring margin all too often.

However, outfielders Leslie Anderson and Jesus Feliciano are both sitting in the top five in the league in total hits with 51 and 48 respectively, and the duo has supplied roughly a quarter of the team's RBIs and runs scored. With this in mind, Durham is poised to start producing as soon as someone is able to consistently knock the tandem at the top of the lineup around the base paths.

Loose cannons getting K's

Pitching has been an interesting issue for Durham so far, as the staff has left the league in the dust in strikeouts with 395 (Charlotte has the next highest with 368) but also maintains the highest ERA in the International League at 4.81—only two other teams, Syracuse and Louisville, have averages over four.

"I really don't know what to contribute this imbalance to," said Bulls pitching coach Neil Allen. "I know it was a very, very bad April—one of the toughest months I have been through as a player myself, or as a coach. But we've had a very good May to this point…it's my job keep these guys looking forward and not looking back."

Even if his staff is underperforming Allen remains upbeat and optimistic, refusing to give up on his men, saying "they've worked hard to put [last month] behind them, and we're trying to turn the corner and get this ship back to .500 then we can see where we sail from there."

The Godzilla report

Designated hitter Hideki Matsui has been off to a cold start with the Bulls, going 4-for-30 with 4 RBI and 6 strikeouts. His performance could be crucial to the team's turnaround if the veteran with a bat placed in Cooperstown for a legendary World Series performance can get his swagger at the plate back.

Matsui is 0-for-7 with 2 strikeouts against Tides probable pitcher for Thursday righty Jason Berken, according to Yahoo! Sports. The two players faced each other in the majors last season while Matsui was with the Oakland A's and Berken was playing for the Baltimore Orioles.

Go Midwest

The Bulls will finish their series with the Norfolk Tides over the weekend and then head west to take on the Indianapolis Indians (25-20) and the Lousiville Bats (15-32). The team will look to buck the trend of poor road play (5-17 away record) and gain some ground IL-South leading Gwinnett Braves who are 8.5 games ahead of Durham.

Ben Christoph is the Durham beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @btchristoph


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