Archive for the ‘ 2011: A Chiefs Odyssey ’ Category

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 6

Nope, Strasmas: The Sequel will have to wait…or maybe it’s not on my list?  OK, that was a joke, it’s obviously on the list.

#6 – You’re Outta Here!

Number Six takes us back to June 28 for the third game of a four-game set against the Columbus Clippers.  The first two games in the series will appear later on the timeline.  And that’s all that needs to be said about that right now.  But after two unforgettable and historic performances on the previous two nights – which, again, we’ll get to in short order – the stage was set for well, nothing, really.  Tommy Milone was on the hill against a Clippers team which was mashing the International League, but had been relatively shut down by Syracuse pitching to date.

Milone’s night didn’t start well when Nick Johnson hit a two-strike pitch over the right field wall in the second inning, giving Columbus a 2-1 lead.  An ominous beginning, for sure – but for a left-hander who may have been the IL’s best pitcher in 2011, it seemed like simply a minor blemish.  That is, until Columbus put two runners on in the third inning for another former Yankee basher, Shelley Duncan.  With one out, Milone delivered a strike, and Duncan swung and crushed the ball.  It was a well-hit ball soaring down the left field line, headed well over the fence, but its result seemed – at least from the press box – relatively certain early on in the ball’s flight.

According to Wikipedia, foul lines in baseball extended indefinitely before 1920.  A batter was awarded a home run only if a fly ball over the fence landed in fair territory, or was fair “when last seen” by the umpire.  But the institution of the foul pole changed the game.  Even if a ball goes over the pole, an umpire can still tell almost every time a fly ball lands down the line whether it went to the left or the right of the pole.  In this case, Shelley Duncan’s fly ball went to the left.  At least, I thought so.  Jason thought so.  Tommy Milone thought so.  Randy Knorr thought so.  Home plate umpire – and crew chief – Fran Burke thought so.  Shelley Duncan probably thought so.  But Kelvin Bultron did not think so.

Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh took a shot in the dark after the foul ball and went out for a discussion with the three umpires.  Burke – the crew chief – then called his group together for a meeting.  And to everyone’s shock, that Shelley Duncan foul ball became a Shelley Duncan three-run home run.  Not because it was seen by Frank Burke, the home-plate umpire, who had the best view down the line.  Not because the decision was overruled by Fran Buke, the crew chief, who had the best view down the line.  But because Kelvin Bultron, the first base umpire, who had almost no angle whatsoever to this decision, decided he had seen a home run.

Randy Knorr, predictably, was less than thrilled.  He came out to argue while Duncan crossed the bases, and was ejected in fairly short order. This didn’t stop Randy from heading back into the clubhouse.  The man had a point to make.  He headed out toward the left field wall – with nobody quite sure what he was doing – and picked up two baseballs.  The former major league catcher reared back and threw one over the wall, to the left of the foul pole.  And then the player turned manager momentarily turned into an umpire – and pointed his arm to the left of the pole.  That’s foul, Randy seemed to be saying.  He cocked back again, and with the power of a Stephen Strasburg fastball, Randy hurled his second red-stitched, white orb over the fence to the right side of the pole.  And that, said Mr. Knorr to much fanfare from the crowd of 7, 109, is a fair ball.  (Editor’s Note: I may be leaving out a few words, such as *bleep* or *bleeping.*  Please forgive me.)

Oh, by the way, the soft-spoken Milone was thrown out of the game too.  Oh, by the way, the Chiefs rallied for four runs in the seventh and eighth innings for one of their best comeback wins of the year.

I take it we’ll hear more from this game at some point…

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Jason’s Number 6

Kev, the next holiday I’m celebrating is next Wednesday.  Since I’m not posting that day, let’s observe now.  Happy Diwali to everyone.

Along Came Polly, indeed, Michael.

#6 The Prodigal Righty Returns

On August 27th, just before noon, one man sat in the Chiefs’ players’ lounge.  He was fixated on a first-person shooter video game he was playing on the flat-screen television on the wall.  When greeted, he grunted a soft and short “hey.”  It was clear that his attention was on his game.  It wasn’t to be diverted.

Stephen Strasburg’s gaming is rather like his pitching:  Worthy of the entirety of his mind and not to be interrupted.

One night in June, though, in 2010, the prodigious former Aztec was struck by the notion that control, so often, is only an illusion.  A man-made structure with finite boundaries.  As he flicked a changeup to Philadelphia’s Domonic Brown on August 21st, Strasburg felt a foreign and unwelcome twinge in his forearm.  That twinge became just less than a year of rehabilitation.  Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery.

If I crafted a pie chart of questions I was asked this season about the Chiefs, roughly half would have a giant #37 emblazoned on it.  A significant amount of those questions came flowing in once Strasburg began his 30-day minor league assignment in Hagerstown on August 7th.  When would we see Strasburg?  Would he pitch here at all?  Can he sign my left eyebrow in A1 Steak Sauce?  It’d be a dream come true!

As the rehab song reached its coda, it became clear that Strasburg 2011 would be a one0night engagement.  Because the Nationals wanted Strasburg to pitch only with affiliates who were at home, the schedule was the key.  The Chiefs were only home for one of Strasburg’s two starts at the tail end of his rehab.  So, one night was it.

And that night was truly remarkable.  With nearly 10,000 in the blue seats at Alliance Bank Stadium, Stephen Strasburg provided the wizardry.  The first batter was Brandon Roberts:

Strasburg struck seven batters out that night.  Twice, Chase Lambin was the victim:

There’s a chance Strasburg had a little extra brimstone in his belly for the former Chief, Chase Lambin,  The night before, Lambin texted Strasburg to ask how much sleep the pitcher had lost thinking about facing Lambin.  Chase, don’t poke the bear.

Strasburg didn’t allow a baserunner in the first five innings.  In the sixth, he was sent back out to the mound.  Strasburg didn’t want to go back out and risk injury and it showed.  He allowed back-to-back singles and left.  Because the first of those hitters, Aaron Bates, scored to tie the game at one, Strasburg wasn’t involved in the decision.

The Chiefs won, though, on a Steve Lombardozzi RBI single in the eighth.

Kev, did we match up again?  Is Strasburg 6 on your list?

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 7

Jason – Vander Woude might try to eat the shaving cream pie, mistaking it for Scranton press box food.  I have a feeling I’ve seen that out for dessert once or twice…

#7 – Baby, You’re A Firework (x2)

There’s just something about ___ and ___.

No, I’m not talking about the Ben Stiller/Cameron Diaz/Brett Favre movie, I’m talking about that saying that always pops up.  For instance, “there’s just something about football and snow.”  Or, “there’s just something about reading outside on a nice day.”  Or even, “there’s just something about LeBron James and promising eight championships and then losing in the NBA Finals.”  OK, maybe no one’s ever said that until now.  (Sorry, are we past the point of making fun of the Heat Launch party and The Decision yet?  Is there even an end point to making fun of this?)

Anyway, it’s totally cliche’, but there’s just…something…about baseball and the fourth of July.  It’s an American tradition of sorts – before or after you fire up the grill at home, head to your local park to watch some baseball with some postgame fireworks sure to follow.  And sometimes…you even get fireworks of sorts during the game.  (Foreshadowing Meter Activated.)

The nice thing about the International League schedule is that every team gets a Third of July game or a Fourth of July game, providing a spectacular fireworks show for the home crowd after.  The nice thing about this year’s schedule was an Independence Day date for Syracuse, as the Chiefs hosted Buffalo.  Syracuse came into the game rather toasty, having won three straight games, six out of eight, and nine out of 12 – and they’d already taken the first two from Buffalo at Coca-Cola Field.  The odds were in Syracuse’s favor for a happy Independence Day celebration.

True to their then-recent form, things started well for the Chiefs.  Jesus Valdez’ third-inning sacrifice fly put Syracuse ahead 1-0, and Jesus Flores’ sixth-innning sac fly stretched the lead to two runs.  With starter Yunesky Maya cruising through six shutout innings, the Chiefs seemed well on their way to another solid, though unspectacular, win.

But as a certain College GameDay analyst often says – not so fast, my friends!  After a Val Pascucci walk and two strikeouts, Bubba Bell doubled Pascucci to third base.  Mike Nickeas then walked to load the bases for Luis Hernandez.

There are certain players in the International League who scared you more than others at the plate this season – Dayan Viciedo, Yonder Alonso, Devin Mesoraco, and Desmond Jennings, to name a few.  Luis Hernandez should not belong in this list.  Luis Hernandez hit just .240 with 6 home runs and 54 RBI in 121 games.  But against the Chiefs, Luis Hernandez turned into Babe Ruth.  Here’s his line against Syracuse in 2011:

13 games, 14-43 (.326), 5 R, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, .333 OBP, .558 SLG

And that was after a few cold games at the end.  Hernandez was a Chief-killer for much of the season.  On the fourth, he obliged.  As a pinch-hitter for Pat Misch, Hernandez stroked a two-run single to center field, simultaneously putting Buffalo on the board for the first time and tying the game.

But it wouldn’t take long for the Chiefs to respond.  After a Jeff Frazier strikeout led off the bottom of the seventh, Corey Brown stepped up against Dale Thayer.  Thayer worked the count to 2-2 before firing a pitch that missed inside by a hair if it missed at all.  Home plate umpire Jeff Gosney called it a ball, bringing the count to 3-2.  And then, the payoff pitch:

But it wasn’t over…though Tim Teufel’s night was.  The enraged Buffalo manager soon found himself tossed out of the game after arguing the non-strike call.  Good thing Teufel didn’t stick around – because pinch-hitter Michael Aubrey did this.

Pretty good timing for your team’s first back-to-back homers of the season, eh?  Jeff Mandel and Zech Zinicola then closed the door on a 4-2 Fourth of July win.  It was a fireworks display before the actual fireworks display – and all done in a crisp 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Any happy holidays in your future, JB?

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Jason’s #7

 

 

Sorry about the delay, all of you pining for moment number seven.  I was abducted by one-legged giraffes.

 

#7 Do the Lombo Rock
On June 20th, the Chiefs succumbed to then 20-year-old Julio Teheran in an 8-2 loss at Gwinnett.  That dropped Syracuse to 27-40 for the season.  But, the buzz in the clubhouse was that a young man with notable baseball lineage was on the way to save the day.  Enter Steve Lombardozzi – or, as we came to know him, Lombo.

 

 

I will give you five minutes to stop your torso from quivering.  It’s catchy, ain’t it?

 

Steve Lombardozzi’s dad won a World Series with the Minnesota Twins in the ’80s.  Sometimes, in baseball, one hears a name and thinks, “boy, I wonder if he’s related to _____”  In this case, it was very obvious that Steve Jr. and Steve Sr. were kin.  First, they have the same name.  Major evidence.  Also, they’re both infielders.  And, I’ve heard they play the game rather like each other.  Hard.  Always.

 

When Steve Jr. got to the Chiefs, he was hitting .309 with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.  23 of his 81 hits were for extra bases.  It was conceivable that he would be an offensive savior.  It was also possible his numbers might fade.

 

Randy Knorr thrust Lombardozzi into the starting lineup the first day Lombo showed up.  Steve joined me on the pregame show from Georgia and told me he was “nervous.”  That night, as the leadoff man, he had the first at-bat of the game.  And he did this on an 0-2 count:

 

 

Lombardozzi hit in each of his first 11 games.  He finished the year at .310 in Syracuse with 19 extra-base hits out of 91 total.  Pretty darn consistent.

 

His only failing was an attempted pie to the face of Seth Bynum on TV one day.  Lombardozzi sprinted from behind Bynum with a burgundy towel covered in shaving cream while Bynum was chatting with Steve Grilli and me.  Lombardozzi smudged Bynum’s face with the towel, but upon looking back, realized that he used the wrong part of the towel and Bynum was clean.  Bad move, rookie.  Lombardozzi got creamed later.

 

After Lombardozzi’s arrival, the Chiefs went 39-34.

 

Kev, you up for shaving creaming visiting radio announcers when their teams win?  How would Vander Woude feel?

 

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 8

At some point?  You mean, at the same point?

#8 – The Neverending Story

If there’s a day you want to play a game lasting 4 hours, 8 minutes – and I’m not sure there is – it certainly isn’t the fourth-to-last day of the regular season.  But that’s what happened on September 2 at Frontier Field.  Yep, this game ended up feeling something like this.

Funny thing was, this one seemed like a routine victory in the making right off the bat.  The Chiefs scored one run in the first inning, two in the third, one in the fourth, and one in the fifth, carrying a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the frame.  In fact, starting pitcher Craig Stammen had allowed just two hits and one unearned run going into the inning.  Then, as they say, the proverbial floodgates opened.  Here’s how the play-by-play reads:

“Red Wings 5th (Red Wings 8, Chiefs 5) — B. Dinkelman singles to center field. A. Bates doubles down the left-field line, B. Dinkelman to 3rd. S. Holm singles through the hole at shortstop, B. Dinkelman scores; A. Bates to 3rd. B. Roberts triples to right field, A. Bates scores; S. Holm scores. With M. Tolbert batting, passed ball by J. Solano, B. Roberts scores. M. Tolbert walks. R. Chang flies out to C. Curran. With J. Bailey batting, M. Tolbert steals 2nd base. J. Bailey doubles down the left-field line, M. Tolbert scores. Pitcher Change: J. Mandel replaces C. Stammen. D. Martin triples down the left-field line, J. Bailey scores. C. Lambin singles to center field, D. Martin scores. B. Dinkelman strikes out swinging. A. Bates singles to right-center field, C. Lambin to 3rd. S. Holm strikes out swinging.”

That’s seven runs on eight hits, four of them for extra bases.  There was also a passed ball, a walk, and a stolen base.  It was a bizarre turnaround – especially considering Syracuse had given up seven runs in a game against Rochester just twice in 14 previous tries.  Down 8-5, the Chiefs seemed all but finished when All-Star Red Wings left-hander Chuck James entered the game in the eighth inning.  But after a Steve Lombardozzi ground out, Seth Bynum walked and Tug Hulett singled.  Down three runs with five outs to go – enter Jesus Valdez.

The game would head to extra innings, somehow, after both teams left a pair of runners on base in their respective halves of the ninth.  The time of the game at that point was longer than 3:39 – meaning it would have been the longest nine-inning game of the Chiefs’ season.  What it actually was is now just a hazy memory in a game full of insanity.

Syracuse took the lead in the tenth on Corey Brown’s clutch two-out, two-run single.  They would need both.  Rochester got one run back on a Dustin Martin RBI single off of Josh Wilkie – but with Ray Chang on second base and Martin to first, Chase Lambin popped out to shortstop to end the game.

And one more note from this game: Chris Curran, an outfielder who hit a combined .253 between Potomac, Hagerstown, and the GCL Nationals was called up at the end of the season to take Chris Marrero’s roster spot, after the first baseman’s promotion to the big leagues.  Curran struck out in his first two Triple-A at-bats and was 0-for-3 coming into the game.  In his first at-bat of the night – his first Triple-A start – he tripled off the top of the wall.  Curran ended up going 3-for-5, and as a left-handed hitter, was 3-3 against lefties and 0-2 against righties in the game.  Go figure.

Oh, and one more reminder, I was solo in the booth for all 4:08 of the extravaganza.  Feel my pain, JB.

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Jason’s #8

If they were all alive today, which Beatle would be most likely to date Rebecca Black?

#8:  Time is on my side.

In the ’90s, Denzel Washington made a movie called “Fallen” with John Goodman.  In it, a demon took over the bodies of humans.  It was transferred by contact.  When it took over a body, we, the viewers, could tell because the person started to act strangely.  In one scene, this spirit gets passed around from person to person, and the one with the curse sings a few bars of The Rolling Stones’  “Time is on My Side.”  Here, watch:

This creeped me out for at least a year of my childhood.  I distinctly remember being at Epcot Center with my family and losing my mind when someone bumped into me.  I immediately found someone else to touch to get the spirit out of me.  If you no longer are interested in listening to Chiefs games, I understand.

Four days before the end of the season, the Chiefs went to Rochester for the first of a two-game series with the Wings.  Kevin went to do the first game without me because of a football obligation.  Boy did I miss a doozy.  I’m gonna guess that Kev’s gonna tell you about it somewhere on his list, but I got in the car after our Time Warner football game that night and heard Kev say something about being on pace for the longest game of the season.  I then went out to dinner with a friend, checking the score on my phone.  The Chiefs beat the Wings in 10 innings in a robust 4:08.

It still might be going on if not for this:

The game was bogged down, I hear, by a seven-run fifth for Rochester. Listening to the postgame show, it sounded like Kevin had just crawled through a car wash while simultaneously being forced to do geometry proofs.  Nothing would have been surprising after what just happened.

What I neglected to realize, though, as I followed the game was a transportation error on my part.  Kevin and I drove together to the previous stop on the trip, Buffalo.  We drove to Rochester postgame Friday and both spent the night there.  In the morning, I drove to Syracuse.

Leaving Kevin with no car at the stadium.  So, when we talked postgame, he let me know that I needed to pick him up after he took the bus to the ballpark.  Proving once again that four hour, eight minute baseball games having wide-ranging sleep repercussions.

I’m sure you’ll actually hear about the game from KB at some point on this journey.

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 9

You’re about a month off, Jason, as I hadn’t started my undying loyalty to Dunkin’ Donuts until later on in the season.  I likely kept the franchise in business for the last few months of the season, however.

Time for Number 9, number 9…

Er, sorry, where was I?

#9 – The House Is Rockin’

August 12 was a seemingly innocuous Friday night at Alliance Bank Stadium.  The Chiefs were home to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the first game of a four-game series (that would turn out to be a two-game series because of rain).  Syracuse was essentially out of the playoff race, while the Yankees were hanging on in the standings by the skin of their teeth at 62-57.  But a funny thing happened on the way to an essentially meaningless game in the standings – the biggest crowd of the year showed up in the Salt City.  12,716 people were in attendance – the Chiefs’ seventh-largest home crowd since 1961, and their fourth-largest that didn’t involve a guy named “Strasburg.”

(Side note: A Google search for “Strasburg” first brings you to this website – http://www.strasburgchildren.com/.  The website is currently under construction – how is this ahead of baseball’s top pitching phenom?  Though I suppose you could say Stephen Strasburg is “still under construction” of sorts, too.)

Anyway, I’d guess there are a number of reasons for the large crowd.  In no particular order, some of these are:

- Lockheed Martin night…apparently there are a large number of employees and a large number of baseball fans at this company.  Who knew?

- It was a Friday night game.  Weekend games, obviously, tend to draw better.  Plus, you gotta get down on Friday.

- 81 degrees and no threat of inclement weather.  Yes, believe it or not, there were Chiefs games without rain this year.

- The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Baby Bombers, as our main in-studio host and producer Ty Doyle calls them) were in town.  This tends to bump up attendance numbers, as the Yankees are likely the most popular major league team in Syracuse.

- Finally, the pitching matchup, and the reason I’d anticipated this game so much in the first place: Brad Peacock against Manny Banuelos.  It was a matchup of two of Baseball America’s Top 50 midseason pitching prospects – Peacock at #42, Banuelos at #13.  And while Banuelos struggled a bit, the Chiefs’ right-hander delivered.

Syracuse took an early lead on a bevy of extra-base hits.  Steve Lombardozzi led off the game with a triple, Chris Marrero doubled him home, and one more extra-base hit gave the Chiefs a second score.

It looked like the Chiefs would need no more than two runs with Peacock’s stellar performance.  He struck out two hitters in the first, all three in the third, and nine total in 5.2 innings.  He exited with a 3-1 lead, after Jesus Montero blasted a solo home run in the sixth.

But it soon seemed that Peacock’s work would be all for naught.  Scranton loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning against J.D. Martin.  But a Jorge Vazquez double play and Terry Tiffee strikeout ended the frame with the Chiefs ahead by one run.  Syracuse then tacked on some insurance in the 8th.

A Jeff Frazier sacrifice fly and Corey Brown two-run single extended the lead in a game the Chiefs won 7-4.

Was the game itself worth of Top 12-dom?  Probably not, though it was an exciting contest on the field.  But the matchup of two hot prospects so thoroughly dominated by the Chiefs and the season’s largest crowd combined for an electrifying night.  Besides, 12,716 new Brad Peacock fans can’t be wrong.

I have to say, Jason…I don’t anticipate this post being the last time we see Mr. Peacock on this countdown.

2011: A Chiefs Oddyssey – Jason’s #9

 

It’s outlandish how many of those natural disasters happened to us this season, Kev.  Early in the year, folks were canoeing on SU’s campus.  Then, the earthquake in Pawtucket.  And our hurricane in Allentown.  Somehow, we went tornado-free.  We replaced the cyclone with May 7th in Durham.

#9:  Ain’t it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind?

It was either that or “a silver tear appearing now.”  They’re both appropriate for what happened in North Carolina–in my mind and yours–on the first Saturday of the fifth month of 2011.

After six Chiefs turns at bat, the score was 0-0.  Yunesky Maya and Alex Torres wouldn’t budge on the mound.  Six total hits were on the board after the top of the sixth.  Durham, though, got a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning as Justin Ruggiano doubled home Desmond Jennings.  Russ Canzler brought Ruggiano home with a single to right-center field.  With the Chiefs’ batting average last in pro baseball at that time, the idea of two runs before nine outs seemed rather loopy.

With Boomer Whiting at first with one out in the eighth, though, Alex Valdez bashed a two-run homer to tie the game (and continue to shoehorn himself onto this Top 12).  That’s where the score stood into the 11th inning.  For a Chiefs team which had won just two of its last 11 games, the sheer prospect of a comeback win contained restorative nutrients.

In the top of the second extra inning, the Chiefs unloaded.  With Carlos Maldonado at first, Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo replaced Ryan Reid with soft-throwing R.J. Swindle, a veteran of the International League whose offspeed pitch was known to travel slower than the average Edsel.  Corey Brown, reputedly a fastball hitter, was the opponent.  After a first-pitch strike, Brown mauled an offspeed pitch to right field for a two-run homer.  Later in the inning, Jhonatan Solano’s double scored Tug Hulett and the Chiefs’ 11th-inning lead bulged to three.

But.  Durham got one last chance.  One green-double-zero-times-royal-flush-times-Clippers-win-the-finals chance.

To paraphrase an old musical, a funny thing happened on the way to the win column.

I choose to listen to Zero Mostel sing as a Roman slave than to dwell on this game.  I hope you will do the same.

Up three, J.D. Martin came in for Josh Wilkie.  The first batter Martin faced, Chris Carter, did this:

Evidently I felt extra foreboding that day.  I didn’t know it then.  Robinson Chirinos struck out.  Whew.  Russ Canzler walked.  Randy Knorr brought Adam Carr in.  Leslie Anderson singled.  Omar Luna struck out.  Double whew.  Then Ray Olmedo walked.  Bases loaded.  Desmond Jennings walked.  5-4.  Then, this:

For those of you who like intense jubilation in an informed, yet spiteful package, here’s how my friend Neil Solondz called it in Durham:

Can’t you imagine Neil wagging his finger at me as he says “How about that?”  Dr. Claw has nothing on Solondz.

Kev, as I recall, you were accepting an award that night.  Seems to me that it was for “Most loyal coolatta drinker in Central New York.”  Am I remembering correctly?

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 10.

Funny you should mention Garrett Mock’s Jeff Frazier impersonation, JB, as it happened just a day before the next event on this list.  (And for the record, I think Frazier would be none too pleased.)

#10 Swept Away

Sometimes, the weather does crazy things.  There are tornadoes and thunderstorms and earthquakes and sometimes even hurricanes.  Yes, hurricanes.  We had one of those hurricanes this year – a particularly nasty one named Irene.  And just before the weekend of August 27 and 28, Irene was ready to unleash a nasty barrage of wind and rain on the East Coast.  This led to plenty of East Coast teams postponing, or, in the words of Pawtucket Red Sox broadcaster Steve Hyder, “pre-poning” their games.  The Mets and Yankees did so.  The Phillies and Red Sox followed suit.  So did the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.  But in the eye of the storm, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, stood pat, resilient in the face of Mother Nature.

And it wasn’t until the Chiefs were two hours into a three-hour plus bus ride on Sunday the 28th that the team found out – wait for it – that Sunday’s game had been, yes, postponed.  The power outages and fallen trees in the area had restricted travel, and as the old saying goes, “safety first.”  Of course, as you can imagine, the Chiefs were none too pleased about traveling on a bus on into a hurricane on what would otherwise have been a day off at home.  So Syracuse, ten games under .500, took its frustrations out on the ball field.

While the Chiefs had nothing to play before in terms of a postseason spot, the IronPigs certainly did.  Lehigh Valley led Gwinnett in the wild card by 1.5 games going into a Monday doubleheader between the Chiefs and IronPigs.  The worst case scenario for the swine?  Losing both games and having Gwinnett win one.  The G-Braves held up their end of the bargain with a 2-1 win over Durham.  And the Chiefs followed suit in impressive fashion.

In Game One, Tommy Milone closed out his season in the same place it began, and with similar results.  Milone didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth, and was backed by some early offense from Roger Bernadina.

Bernadina solo homer in 3rd (2-0 Chiefs)

Matt Antonelli would slam a two-run bomb in the fifth inning, putting Syracuse on top 4-0.  Milone then escaped a bases-loaded jam, and Atahualpa Severino did the rest with two shutout innings, securing a Syracuse Game One victory.  Lehigh Valley’s lead, after Gwinnett finished off a win, was just a perilous half-game.

It got worse for the IronPigs in the nightcap.  Bernadina led off the game with a lazy fly to left field, where Domonic Brown jogged in, stopped, camped underneath the baseball, and…oh…dropped it.  After a Steve Lombardozzi single, Bass tried to pick off Lombardozzi and…oh…threw it away.  The Chiefs led 1-0 on the second error of the inning.  With two outs, an RBI single from Tug Hulett and two-run double from Corey Brown put Syracuse ahead 4-0.

The score would stay right there.  Right-hander Brad Peacock tossed five sterling shutout innings, allowing just five hits and one walk while striking out seven, and the Chiefs claimed their second 4-0 victory of the day.  Syracuse – with nothing to play for – had swept the IronPigs and knocked Lehigh Valley into a tie for the wild card.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, the doubleheader also marked the final pitching performances in Syracuse for both Milone and Peacock.  They’ve since each earned their first major league wins with the Nationals.

Jason, take us to Revolution #9…

2011: A Chiefs Odyssey: Jason’s Number 10

Kev, I definitely did not get to celebrate Adam Fox’s grand slam nearly as much as you did.  I was in the Gwinnett radio booth, filling in for our pal Tony Schiavone.  Tony had a work conflict and asked me to sub for him that day.  As Tony spent his earlier years as a wrestling announcer, I watched clips like this over and over in order to prepare:

 

 

No truth to the nasty rumor that I learned how to throw a chair to be an authentic Schiavone stand-in.

 

#10 The Toms River Revue

It is a fact of life in most baseball clubhouses that, generally, hitters want to be pitchers and pitchers want to be hitters.  Frankly, most of us non-players want to be something we’re not.  Just ask Rodney Dangerfield.

As an aside, it’s very unlikely “Ladybugs” would ever be made again.  Child dresses up as woman to play soccer for stepfather isn’t exactly box office gold.

The point is, players like to do other things on the diamond.  A few, like Rick Ankiel and Tony Pena Jr., sling and swing for an extended period.  Most only get to see both sides of the home plate matchup in odd scenarios.  Yunesky Maya pinch ran this year in the case of a short bench.  A handful of pitchers pinch-hit late in games.  But the most notable miscast performance came from the pride of New Jersey, Jeff Frazier.

To fully comprehend this story of Jeff Frazier–a 2011 Chiefs outfielder–you must know his persona.  Frazier’s Jersey twang–especially noticeable in what amounts to his catchphrase, “How you doin?'”– makes him a perfect extra for a remake of A Bronx Tale.  His passion for the game is strong.  His passion for competition is even stronger.  His passion for entertainment is yet stronger (in the midst of the Chiefs pre-Hurricane Irene planning for a trip to Allentown, Frazier called the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and asked if their gift shop sold snorkels and flippers.  Frazier wasn’t terribly pleased to be traveling through a possible disaster area.)

Jeff’s Tri-State zeal is likely what even placed him in a position to be #10 on this list.  On April 21st, on a blustery Spring afternoon in Rhode Island, Pawtucket scored nine runs in the third inning and led 14 to zero.  Randy Knorr used Lee Hyde, Adam Carr and Josh Wilkie to sop up five innings of mostly successful, yet rather painful, relief.  After that three-part harmony, Knorr decided that he didn’t want to deploy any other of his bullpen arms.  So, he told Jeff Frazier to get warm.  We were told later that Frazier’s idea of a warmup was exactly zero pitches.  He was born ready.  Frazier, though, was coerced into tossing at least a few times to oblige pitching coach Greg Booker.

The first batter Frazier faced, Yamaico Navarro, popped out.  As Frazier threw only a sparing amount of breaking pitches (see also: one), this conversation (and 2-2 pitch) ensued.

Frazier punches out Reddick

Frazier allowed a hit to Drew Sutton, but no runs.  A single appearance, though, wasn’t all for the Toms River Twirler.  In what likely was the Chiefs’ last game in Scranton until 2013, Frazier jogged out of the bullpen to relieve Collin Balester down 14 again.  Opponent number one, Jesus Montero, had homered earlier in the night.  Frazier walked him on four pitches.  After a sacrifice fly from Mike Lamb, Frazier walked Jorge Vazquez, who also homered earlier.  Frazier sidestepped–but also meaningfully threw inside on–both batters.  The last hitter, Jordan Parraz, popped out and ended the inning.  Two outings, no runs.  And a smile on Frazier’s face afterward both nights.

Kev, I am appalled that Jeff Frazier didn’t make it onto your list.  How do you think he’d feel about being left off?

Perhaps the real question is, how would Garrett Mock’s Jeff Frazier impersonation feel about being left off?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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