On May 1, Seth Bynum dove for a ground ball at second base, missed it, and stayed on the ground. An awkward hit of the ground meant a broken thumb for Bynum, and a nearly two-month long stay on the disabled list. The corresponding roster move was a promotion for a 28-year-old infielder hitting .220 at Double-A: Adam Fox.
Fox got off to a slow start, hitting just .125 in his first seven games. But Fox reached as high as .279 and ended at a very respectable .241 with the Chiefs, making just two errors in his 29 games as well while playing mostly strong defense. And off the field, the Chiefs’ players and front office members were charmed by the dancing (see above) and hitting skills of Adam’s young son, Brayden. (Follow him at twitter.com/gunnarfox)
When Bynum came back on June 24, Fox was the odd man out and returned to Double-A. He stayed there until August 15, when Tug Hulett went on the paternity list. Fox returned for just three games, but it didn’t take long for his most memorable moment of the season.
On August 16th, the Chiefs were having their way with the Gwinnett Braves. Syracuse scored in each of the first four innings and took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth, before adding three runs to extend the lead 9-4. With the bases then loaded and two outs, Fox stepped up for his first Triple-A at-bat in nearly two months…
The home run was one of just six total for Fox between Harrisburg and Syracuse this season – and Syracuse’s only pinch-hit grand slam of the year, for good measure. Jason, you enjoyed this one from a different vantage point, didn’t you?
Kev, your #12 has made me realize that I am no better than the scouts who say Tommy Milone can’t make it in the major leagues. My list doesn’t include one Tommy-specific performance from the year. That’s depressing. Really depressing. Truly, madly, deeply depressing.
My #11 only incidentally includes Milone. Tommy was on the hill, but his presence is not at all material. On April 16th, the Chiefs played their first game of a two-game series with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Alliance Bank Stadium. It was a 40-degree Saturday during which the Chiefs never led. Milone allowed two second-inning solo home runs, one to Jeff Larish and one to Erik Kratz. The Chiefs trailed 4-1 after seven-and-a-half. Right-hander Eddie Bonine surrendered just four hits. He did not come out to the mound for the eighth. Instead,Ryne Sandberg turned to his bullpen and an entire suite rejoiced….for the moment.
#11: A real change of pace
In 1997, at the Major League Baseball Draft, Detroit selected pitcher Matt Anderson first overall. Second was J.D. Drew to St. Louis. Then came the Angels, who grabbed Troy Glaus. In the fourth spot, the San Francisco Giants took a right-handed pitcher out of Seton Hall by way of Syracuse, NY–Jason Grilli. In the 13 years following his selection, Grilli threw 238 times in Major League Baseball. All the while, his father Steve watched and beamed from his home in Baldwinsville, his watering hole on the North Side and from the television booth at the home of the Chiefs.
In 2010, Jason tore his right quadriceps muscle while in the Indians’ spring camp. The injury kept him out for the entirety of the season. After a long rehab effort, Jason signed with the Phillies and began this past season with the Triple-A IronPigs. In his first two outings, Jason Grilli didn’t allow an earned run. His third outing came in Syracuse, in back of Eddie Bonine, on April 16th of 2011, in front of a gaggle of Grillis at Alliance Bank Stadium.
Grilli’s first opponent was pinch-hitter Alex Valdez, a 26-year-old Triple-A rookie. Valdez began the day 0-for-17. Grilli threw Valdez two balls out of the zone. Valdez then fouled the 2-0 off. He swung through a 2-1 fastball. Then, something truly outrageous happened…
Wow. A home run for his first Triple-A hit. Talk about spraying the cake with a fire extinguisher. That was one of a dozen hits for Valdez in 27 games with the Chiefs. He finished the season with the Red Sox organization.
All turned out well, though, for the Grillis. After Valdez’s home run, Jason allowed just six other earned runs in 25 more outings with the IronPigs. He eventually made his way to the Pittsburgh Pirates in July. Steve made his way to the Pirates’ gift shop right around the same time.
Any family relations in your #11, KB?
I think I erased that entire day from my mind because of the postgame fiasco. Not sure if you’re going to get into this, but to sum it up – 13 innings and 4-plus hours + Sabres traffic + Buffalo to Allentown + fog + hotel fiasco = 5:30 AM bed time. Boy, was that fun.
It was tremendously difficult to narrow down a Top 12, and honorable mention goes out to Jeff Frazier’s 1.2 scoreless innings as a reliever. But I digress. As I worked through a near-final copy of the list, I realized I didn’t have any specifically Tommy Milone-related moments on there. How could that be possible? Milone was the Chiefs’ best pitcher by far this season – heck, you could probably make a case for him as the team’s MVP if you tried.
#12 – Tommy twirls a gem
On June 27, the Chiefs closed out a four-game series against Rochester. After a 9-2 win the day before, Syracuse sent Milone out to the mound against left-hander Scott Diamond. And the Chiefs staked him with about five games’ worth of runs.
Syracuse banged out 11 runs on 19 hits, with eight of the nine players in the lineup collecting multi-hit games. (Only the soon-to-be-promoted Jesus Flores was held hitless.) Steve Lombardozzi went 3 for 6, upping his average to .441, and Corey Brown drove in four runs, with three coming on a fourth-inning home run to blow the scoring open.
But the story of the game was Milone. He cruised through a relatively weak Rochester lineup throughout the first three innings. He went 1-2-3 in the fourth. He went 1-2-3- in the fifth. It was as virtuoso as virtuoso performances get. Milone then retired Toby Gardenhire and Steve Singleton in the sixth. 17 up and 17 down, before ninth-place hitter Danny Lehmann stepped to the plate. The catcher hit the weakest ball all day off of Milone – a little dribbler down the third base line. But the ball was hit too softly for third baseman Tug Hulett to make any kind of play on it, and Lehmann broke up Milone’s perfect game bid.
Should 5.2 innings of perfection in a 9-inning game seem that memorable? Perhaps not. But I truly felt at times on that night that Milone was never going to give up a hit. Aaron Bates did double in the seventh – but by then, the mindset of throwing a hitless performance was gone. If Lehmann doesn’t get a hit on a ball that rolled about 30 feet, Milone may still be pitching without a hit allowed in the game. He was that good on that night.
That game against Rochester kick-started a string of four consecutive starts for Milone with zero or one runs allowed. The four-game tally: 28.2 innings, 16 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 25 strikeouts. Nothing new in a line of surgical performances for the Chiefs’ most valuable pitcher.
Number 11, Jason?
Over the last several days, Kevin and I have been holed up in isolation chambers, deprived of food, drink and sleep, and subjected to only reruns of Arsenio on the one TV monitor facing us. Our project: To decide on the top 12 most memorable on-field moments in the 2011 season for the Syracuse Chiefs.
Memorable, in this case, means whatever it does to the two of us individually. Our lists were compiled without discussing with each other what should be included. We may have the same thoughts. We may not. We will learn what the other believes as the list is revealed.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we are incorrect, corrupt, despicable or simply lovely.
Some of these were easy choices. Others weren’t. A few got left on the cutting room tile. Yes, tile. Our cutting room is ritzy.
Here is my 12th most memorable moment of the 2011 Chiefs season:
#12 A Herd-binger of games to come
On April 8th–day two of the season–the Chiefs and Bisons went into the 8th inning with just one run on the board. Buffalo scored in the third on an RBI single from Jason Pridie. The Chiefs, though, scored a pair of runs in the eighth on Chris Marrero’s second Triple-A hit (his first came in the fourth). The Chiefs, though, had the lead for all of a few fleeting minutes. In the bottom of the inning, Val Pascucci doubled home Pridie with two out to tie the game. That sent the game into extra innings. The Chiefs placed a pair of runners on base in the 11th and 12th and loaded the bases in the 13th but couldn’t score. In the bottom of the 13th, Jason Pridie led off with a single against Matt Chico, the sixth Syracuse pitcher of the night. Chico replaced J.D. Martin who, in his first outing of the year, went four innings and allowed just two baserunners. Justin Turner then singled. After a Fernando Martinez sacrifice bunt, the Chiefs intentionally walked Pascucci leaving the game in the hands of Zach Lutz.
Matt Chico took the loss and Jose de la Torre got the win. 13 pitchers entered. That, in all its 4 hour and 26 minute glory, was the first of five extra inning games between the Bisons and Chiefs last season. It also left the Chiefs in the middle of gridlock en route to the next destination, Allentown, PA.
See, that night the Sabres had defeated the Flyers in overtime about a mile away at HSBC Arena to guarantee a playoff berth. So, thanks to Thomas Vanek’s game winner 1:16 into overtime, Kevin and I were in the midst of hundreds of Sabres fans rhythmically sounding “Let’s Go Buffalo” on their car horns. Our arrival in Allentown is saved for a future Top 12 list.
Kev, what do you have for #12?
Tell us what moments you remember most in Chiefs baseball 2011. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com.
Summer has become autumn rather quickly in these parts. I’ve had to search in my closet for a pair of gloves. That was an unexpected dig.
We hope you’ll brave this transitional weather time with us right here on the blog. Starting Wednesday (and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday), Kevin and I will be chronicling what we see as the 12 most memorable moments of this past year in Chiefs baseball. We will debate our choices right here on the blog. We invite you to chime in with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
What was memorable to you on the field this season? Let us know.
Talk to you Wednesday.