Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 8

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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For some players, the tensest moment of a gameday might not come during the game itself. It might come at around 3:30 in the afternoon in the middle of the clubhouse hallway, when a simple piece of paper is pinned up to the bulletin board…

The lineup card.

Nats lineup

The sacred, unbreakable lineup. Nine individuals listed in order from one to nine – an order that means everything. In a game where so many outcomes and variables depend on randomness, this is as un-random as baseball gets. There are certain general outlines that a typical lineup follows: fast guy in the leadoff spot, contact hitter second, best hitter third, power hitters four through six, speedy “second-leadoff” type in the nine position. This is the way baseball has more or less worked for decades and decades and decades.

But is it the right way? Statistically, well…no.

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Yesterday, Nationals manager Matt Williams talked about his 2014 lineup, saying he likes Denard Span at the top of the card. That makes some sense: Span’s career on-base percentage of .351 is a well-above-average mark – however, his OBP over the last four seasons sits at just .332. So why not Jayson Werth, who hit leadoff toward the end of 2012? Werth sported a massive .398 OBP last year – a number that’s a combined .373 mark over the last four seasons.

The argument against Werth hitting leadoff? He’s a “run-producer” who’s expected to hit in the middle of the lineup, so he can have more opportunities to drive players in. But it sounds like Werth’s more likely to hit somewhere from the third to fifth spots. Now, consider this: per Baseball Between the Numbers, there’s a difference of about 18 plate appearances per season between each spot in the lineup. Let’s say you bat Werth fourth and Span first. Now, Span’s coming to bat about 54 times more than Werth during the season. Or, in mathematical terms, this guy:

.279/.327/.380, 28 2B, 11 3B, 4 HR in 153 games

…is batting 54 more times than this guy:

.318/.398/.532, 24 2B, 25 HR in 129 games

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What does this mean for the Chiefs this year? Well, in the past two seasons, speedy outfielder Eury Perez has largely taken a stranglehold on the leadoff spot, with Jeff Kobernus typically occupying the #2 position last year. But maybe it’s worth considering a flip? Kobernus posted a stellar .366 OBP last year, ahead of Perez’s .336 mark – and Kobernus proved to a better base-stealer. With that combination of speed and discipline, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kobernus get the lion’s share of plate appearances at the top of the order this year – should both players return to Syracuse.

Kobernus (Gaston)

Jeff Kobernus doing what he does – getting on base.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 7

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Let’s stop ignoring the big white elephant in the room – there’s snow all over the ground in Syracuse. The NBT Bank Stadium field is no exception.

Live look-in.

Live look-in.

And, in case you were hoping things were on an upswing…there’s now a storm warning in effect from Wednesday morning until Thursday morning. Insert whatever sound effect you feel is appropriate here. I choose to insert “blergh”.

But will that stop us from playing here in Syracuse? No! Baseball in snow’s been played before, and it will happen. How about the Brewers and Reds from Cincinnati in 2011?

Brewers in snow

Or Jay Gibbons, searching for an Ellis Burks single in 2003?

He didn't find it at first, if you can believe that.

He didn’t find it at first, if you can believe that.

We can even go all the way back to a Braves/Pirates game in 1954 – where a crowd of 12,000 showed up despite snow and freezing temperature!

Braves Pirates snow

And if all else fails – at least the Chiefs won’t need to worry about running out of baseballs…

Parnell snowball

Nice choice of footwear. Maybe the Chiefs have some of those lying around if the snow swallows their cleats.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 5

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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A shorter blog for the weekend leads us to a quick update from Nationals’ spring training…

  • Possible Washington 5th starter/Syracuse 1st starter Taylor Jordan continued a strong spring this afternoon, striking out six in three innings of three-hit ball. Per The Washington Post‘s James Wagner, Jordan feels he’s improved his changeup and slider. Terrifying news for opposing hitters: Jordan is 25 and, until last year, hadn’t pitched above Low-A Hagerstown. The Chiefs may only have him because of a numbers game with Washington’s rotation – and what a get that would be.
  • Former Chief Yunesky Maya, currently with the Braves, tossed against Washington in spring training today. The results? Home runs from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. Yikes.
  • More from James Wagner: Danny Espinosa, who spent most of last year with the Chiefs, is trying to relax at the plate.
  • Another 2013 Chief, starting pitcher Tanner Roark, chatted with Federal Baseball about his solid spring to date…

The big questions right now for Washington: who gets the rotation’s fifth spot? (Likely Ross Detwiler, with Roark, Jordan and Ross Ohlendorf in contention.) And who fills out the bullpen? Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Jerry Blevins are the likely first five. After that? Roark, Jordan, Ohlendorf, Ryan Mattheus, Christian Garcia, Luis Ayala, Josh Roenicke, Mike Gonzalez, Xavier Cedeno, Clay Hensley and Manny Delcarmen may all have a shot…which means the Chiefs are likely to send one heck of a bullpen out on Opening Day.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 4

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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I had a brief conversation with Chiefs President Bill Dutch yesterday about Tommy John. The conversation started, bizarrely enough, because Bill was curious if the line of Tommy John underwear he saw in a store the other day was from the same Tommy John. It wasn’t, we discovered. (Though how great would that be?) But the conversation then turned to how strange it was that Tommy John’s not typically remembered for his 288 career wins – the seventh-highest total among left-handers in major-league history – but for the surgery bearing his name.

That surgery, however wasn’t performed by John – just on him. Today, sadly, we remember the man who did perform the revolutionary operation – Dr. Frank Jobe – who passed away just yesterday morning at the age of 88.

That's Jobe on the right, being honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, with John on the left.

That’s Jobe on the right, being honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, with John on the left.

We take Tommy John surgery for granted now, but Jobe’s technique was unheard of at the time. He transplanted a tendon from John’s right wrist into his left elbow, and John pitched another 14 seasons, winning 164 more games after surgery. The torn elbow ligament that John suffered might have otherwise ended his career. And the list of players that have undergone and successfully recovered from Tommy John surgery could fill up an All-Star staff: Jamie Moyer, John Lackey, Chris Carpenter, A.J. Burnett, Adam Wainwright, Brian Wilson and Kerry Wood, among others.

Several Nationals and former Chiefs have also been connected to Tommy John surgery. Nats ace Jordan Zimmermann underwent Tommy John late in the 2009 season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in his rookie season. Zimmermann’s rehab took him through Syracuse in 2010, where he allowed just one run in 17 innings over four starts.

The following year, another hard-throwing Nationals right-hander by the name of Stephen Strasburg (you may have heard of him) made a return trip to the Chiefs on his return from Tommy John. Strasburg turned in a dominant performance against Rochester, retiring the game’s first 15 batters in order on seven strikeouts, seven groundouts and one fly out on an August 27th night in Syracuse, before exiting in the sixth. Since the surgery, Strasburg’s pitched largely without injury, compiling a 2.97 ERA in 63 major-league starts.

And another both former and potential future Chief – reliever Christian Garcia – has done those two one better. Garcia’s undergone not one but two Tommy John surgeries – one of a select few pitchers to do so – and made his big-league debut in 2012 as a hard-throwing, sinking reliever. That season with the Chiefs, Garcia sported a microscopic 0.56 ERA in 27 games, allowing just 18 hits and 11 walks in 32.1 innings of 38-strikeout ball. I’ve not seen a more dominant reliever in my three years of covering Triple-A baseball to date.

Garcia tossing in a rehab assignment last year. (Credit: Gary Walts/Syracuse.com)

Garcia tossing in a rehab assignment last year. (Credit: Gary Walts/Syracuse.com)

You don’t need to swing a bat or throw a ball to make an impact on major-league baseball. Dr. Frank Jobe didn’t come close to doing either – and yet, his impact on the game may dwarf the impact of any player or coach we see today. Rest in Peace, Dr. Frank – generations upon generations of arms will always owe you a debt of gratitude.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 3

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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Three. Is there a better number in baseball than three? I think not. It’s the number of strikes in an out. It’s the number of outs in a half-inning. It’s the number of games in most major league series – often leading to the all-important “rubber match” in game three. It’s the number of divisions in the American League, the National League and the International League. It’s the jersey number of the greatest player in the history of baseball – one George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

The once and future king.

The once and future king.

And it’s the number of bases needed in baseball’s most exciting play. Did I say baseball? Scratch that – in sports’ most exciting play…

The triple.

A wonderful 2003 Sports Illustrated article by Roy Blount, Jr. illustrates why the triple makes up the most exciting 12 seconds in all of sports. His first of 12 reasons begins with an ode to its rarity:

It is like…service at a service station, a soda fountain in a drugstore, a free-range neighborhood dog. In on-base percentage a triple counts the same as a walk, although only an idiot would love a walk more than Angela Whittling Trust. In slugging percentage a triple counts 25% less than a home run, although it is 560% rarer. That’s like valuing all minerals solely by weight. In the early days of baseball, when the game was played almost exclusively on the field as opposed to over the fences, a home run was appropriately the rarest hit, the triple next rarest, and so on. Today triples represent only 2.1% of hits, home runs 11.8%.

Last year, the Chiefs tripled a bit more frequently than the usual Syracuse squad, picking up 33 three-baggers – the most Syracuse triples in 12 years, since the 2001 SkyChiefs hit a staggering 51 (fifty-one!). Four Chiefs got in on the team-leading fun, with Zach Walters, Will Rhymes, Eury Perez and Chris Rahl smashing five triples apiece.

And yet, all the same, the most Syracuse occurrences of “the most exciting 12 seconds” in a full 12 years barely amount to a scratch on the surface that was the Chiefs’ offensive outburst in 2013. Those 33 triples – good for fifth place in the 14-team International League, by the way – came together over the course of 5,371 plate appearances. That’s one triple every 162.8 plate appearances. What else, on average, happened in those 162.8 plate appearances?

  • 7.3 doubles
  • 3.5 home runs
  • 1.3 sacrifice flies
  • 1.5 batters hit by pitch
  • 1.8 sacrifice bunts

Sacrifice bunts! In what universe should perhaps the least exciting play in baseball occur nearly twice as frequently as the most exciting play in baseball? It’s absolute baseball sacrilege.

Is there hope for us triple traditionalists? Well, in short – no. Per Fangraphs‘ Jeff Sullivan, triples declined by an 18% rate from 2012 to 2013 – the largest decline since a 20% drop from 1901 to 1902. With more analysis geared toward defensive positioning, fewer balls put in play and more conservative coaches, triples are getting rarer and rarer by the day. They’ve become an unfortunately endangered species. But the next time we see a player rounding second on a smash to the gap, with the cutoff man gearing up for the throw to third – perhaps we’ll appreciate the feat a little bit more.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 2

We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…

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It’s Day 2 of our countdown, and I’m thinking about that number today – the number 2, not the letter 2 (see the 6:07 mark) – and how it pertains to baseball. The first thing that comes to mind? Retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whose pinstriped #2 will soon hang in Monument Park for baseball eternity. He, however, didn’t play for the Chiefs, so I’m not sure there’s value here.

He did, however, suit up for a Syracuse opponent last year - and left for the Bronx the same day the Chiefs arrived at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

He did, however, suit up for a Syracuse opponent last year – and left for the Bronx the same day the Chiefs arrived at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

My second thought – perhaps more appropriate, considering the number – is what “2” signifies on a baseball field – the catcher. And in 2013, catcher was perhaps the Chiefs’ most fluctuating position. Here are last year’s Syracuse leaders in games per position:

  • First Base: Chris Marrero, 97
  • Second Base: Will Rhymes, 82
  • Shortstop: Zach Walters, 104
  • Third Base: Carlos Rivero, 42
  • Outfield: Corey Brown, 99 + Chris Rahl, 95 + Eury Perez, 92
  • Catcher: Kris Watts, 40

Outside of third base, there wasn’t a position that had nearly the inconsistency of catcher last year. The other problem? The Chiefs didn’t get much offense out of their backstops…

  • Kris Watts (40 games): .211 average/.342 OBP/.328 slugging
  • Jhonatan Solano (38): .214/.245/.279
  • Brian Jeroloman (30): .221/.318/.263
  • Carlos Maldonado (14): .098/.159/.098
  • Jeff Howell (13): .217/.234/.348
  • Kelly Shoppach (10): .219/.359/.219
  • Sam Palace (1): .000/.000/.000

Last year’s pitching staff frequently raved about the team’s catchers as game-callers and defenders. It’s tricky to measure that with the data we have available for the minor leagues, but there’s no reason to doubt that. However, there’s no question Syracuse’s catchers have room to improve offensively in 2014.

So what can we expect? With the trade of Jose Lobaton to the Nationals, Solano likely slides in as the unquestioned starter in Syracuse. After two years full of injuries and trips back and forth between Syracuse and Washington, you could reasonably expect a performance closer to 2011’s .275/.325/.388 line for the Chiefs, given consistent playing time. Chris Snyder – a career .484 slugger in 76 Triple-A games and veteran of 715 major-league games – is also in camp with the Nationals, along with Jeroloman (career .368 minor-league OBP) and Howell.

The big question mark, of course, is Wilson Ramos. Can the Nationals’ unquestioned leader behind the plate stay healthy this year? If so, the Chiefs won’t need to be robbed of their catchers – which could lead to an A-1 performance from the “2”s.

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 1

If you looked at the title of this post and did a double take, I don’t blame you. How can baseball be 30 days away when it’s not even close to 30 degrees outside? For the love of Hank Sauer, it’s closer to -15 degrees than it is to 30. Negative 15!

And yet here we are just the same, with the good folks here in the offices of NBT Bank Stadium plugging away as we prepare for 2014 baseball in Syracuse. Every day from now until Wednesday, April 2nd, we’ll post here about something relating to the Chiefs’ upcoming season and the return of baseball in Syracuse. There’s no rhyme or reason for our selection of topics outside of “Chiefs” and “baseball”, so things might get a little wacky around here.

Today, Day 1, we’ll take a look at the new man in charge on the NBT Bank Stadium diamond…Chiefs manager Billy Gardner, Jr.

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After two seasons of Tony Beasley, Chiefs fans will soon learn to know a new managerial style. Billy Gardner joins the Chiefs after seven years at the helm of the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. For more on that managerial style, and the new skipper’s background, I sat down with Billy at the team’s annual Hot Stove Dinner a few weeks ago…

Syracuse will be the 11th stop as manager for the well-traveled Gardner. The previous 10, in order:

  • Butte, Montana
  • Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Battle Creek, Michigan
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Trenton, New Jersey
  • Sarasota, Florida
  • Wilmington, Delaware
  • Adelanto, California
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Montgomery, Alabama

I’ve attempted to crudely link together those stops on one picture, thanks to my brilliant MS Paint skills. Behold!

Gardner travelsThe life of a minor-league manager, folks.

Tune in for Day 2 tomorrow on 30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day. What’s next? Who knows? (Seriously, though. I actually have no idea what’s next. Your guess is as good as mine.)

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Have something you want to see or talk about on the blog? Hit us up on Twitter @ChiefsRadio – or shoot me a message at kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

Kevin Brown

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #1

1. Bison Meat

I am NOT a negative person.

I feel the need to start off this final post of our “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” series with this sentence, because of what I am about to do. I am about to pick a game where the Chiefs lost by 18 runs (eighteen runs!!!) as my most memorable Syracuse Chiefs moment of 2013. I am also, as astute readers may note, about to pick a Chiefs loss in my top three for the third straight year of this exercise. (In fairness to me, #1 in 2011 was a perfect game, and #2 last year was the turning point of the season and a 14-inning, seven-run-come-from-behind game in which Tanner Roark played left field.)

But, much like winning Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” does not mean you have to be a a good person, being selected as the most memorable moment of the Syracuse Chiefs’ 2013 does not mean that moment has to be a win. It’s most memorable, not most uplifting. And was anything more memorable than a game in which 36 runs were scored and where Buffalo had more hits and runs in a single game than any game in the previous 40+ years of International League baseball? Absolutely not.

Here are some of the things that happened during a wildly wind-aided game on April 18th, 2013:

  • Buffalo led 5-0 after one. Syracuse cut the lead to 5-4 after three. Buffalo led 10-4 after three-and-a-half. Syracuse cut it to 10-7 after five. Buffalo extended the lead to 13-9 after six. Then the Bisons scored 10 runs in the seventh. And, because why the heck not, four in the ninth.
  • Jim Negrych (2012 Chiefs All-Star) hit for the cycle. By the sixth inning.
  • Moises Sierra was 6 for 6, scored five runs and fell a home run short of the cycle.
  • Luis Jimenez drove in EIGHT runs.
  • Two of the first three Buffalo batters in the game tripled.
  • Ryan Langerhans scored five runs, homered twice and drove in six runs.
  • Josh Thole had four hits and four RBIs. As a reminder, all of these happened in the same game.
  • Andy LaRoche homered, scored three times and drove in three runs.
  • Every Chiefs player had a hit. Mike Costanzo and Chris Marrero homered.
  • The Chiefs didn’t use a position player, somehow, in a game where they allowed 27 runs.
  • Syracuse had a .390 on-base percentage and four extra-base hits in a game in which they lost by 18 runs.
  • Tanner Roark allowed 12 hits, one walk and 10 runs in 3.2 innings. He was removed from the starting rotation in the next go-around. His ERA jumped to 8.59, even though in one out of his previous two starts he threw six no-hit innings. From that point forward, he was arguably the best pitcher in the International League. I just don’t know how to explain any of this paragraph.
  • …oh, the wind was 19 mph out to left field. That might start to explain it. (The game definitely got windier and weirder as it went along.)

Once again: there were more hits and more runs for Buffalo in this game than for any team in the history of the International League over at least the last 40 years. I’ll never forget this game. It has to be #1 on this list, as the entirety of the day was a supreme odyssey.

And to close out the countdown, in case you’ve forgotten this game or want to re-relive it – here’s the glorious highlight reel. (Oh, also, the game was televised, so I was on the air by myself for all 36 runs, 43 hits and 3:41 of nine-inning baseball. Sorry in advance.)

That’s it and that’s all for our countdown of the 12 most memorable moments in 2013 Chiefs baseball. Enough for reminiscing – now it’s time to get ready for the 2014 year. More to come…

KB

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #2

2. Wal-koff

The Chiefs, as previously detailed, had a few memorable game-ending moments this year. There were Jimmy Van Ostrand’s walkoff hits in back-to-back home wins. There was Francisco Soriano’s shocking 14th-inning double to beat Columbus. There was even a walkoff relay to home plate in Pawtucket.

Were they all unforgettable endings? No doubt. But there’s nothing in baseball quite like a walkoff home run. The loud crack of the bat. The moment where the batter’s follow-through has finished and the entire stadium stands frozen in wait. The majesty of a baseball being shot higher and higher into the air, practically scraping the base of a cloud as if feverishly launched from a cannon. The tension of an outfielder pausing at the wall and determining whether or not he’ll make a leaping attempt. There’s something beautiful about the whole endeavor that transcends pure sport.

This type of poetic moment, however, had only occured once at NBT Bank Stadium since August 12, 2010, when Seth Bynum blasted off a game-winner in the 13th inning to nudge Columbus. And believe it or not, the one time it happened between that date in August 2010 and August 20, 2013 – the one time somebody ended a game in NBT Bank Stadium with a home run – it wasn’t by the Chiefs. It was against them. Remember this?

Yes, way back when in the good old days of 2012, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailR…no, sorry, they were still the Yankees…didn’t have a standing stadium and had to play all their games against Syracuse at NBT…no, wait, it was still Alliance Bank Stadium back then…and as such, had the final turn at bat in half of those games. So when Russell Branyan launched a ball halfway to Oswego, it meant the Chiefs were walked off upon in their own building.

But on August 20th of this past year, the Chiefs were the home team in their own park. That meant they got to bat in the bottom of the eighth, trailing Indianapolis 2-0 against former Yankees setup man Kyle Farnsworth. And that set the stage for this, from Danny Espinosa…

And this, from Chris Marrero…

Vic Black would retire Will Rhymes to end the threat and send the game to the ninth in a 2-2 tie. After former Indian Mike Crotta tossed a scoreless top of the inning, the Chiefs had a chance to win it with one swing. And who better to do that than the International League’s co-home run leader in 2013…Mr. Zach Walters?

Walters wouldn’t hit another home run in 2013. He certainly went out with a bang. I talked about the night a bit more in my postgame wrap-up afterward:

It was a truly magical night by baseball standards – the most magical of the Chiefs’ season in 2013…but it wasn’t the most memorable Syracuse baseball moment of 2013. Why not?

Find out on Monday. We’ll see you then.

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #3

3. Won on the Fourth of July

2013 was an odd season for Danny Espinosa. There are probably a few other words that can be thrown into that spot between “as” and “season”, but “odd” makes plenty of sense, as Espinosa’s 2013 deviated sharply from the baseline level the Nationals had come to expect. After posting near-league-average offensive numbers in his first two-plus major-league seasons, Espinosa got out to a difficult offensive start in 2013, posting a .158 average and 27 OPS+ in 44 games with Washington, hampered in part by a few injuries.

The Nationals optioned Espinosa to Syracuse in early June, and he stayed with the Chiefs the rest of the year. His first 20 games were a tough adjustment, with Espinosa posting an .088 average and 34 strikeouts while trying to get over a fractured right wrist. But in a Fourth of July doubleheader, he sprung to life. In the opener, Espinosa singled and walked in a 7-4 win. But it was the nightcap where the second baseman shot forth with what would be the highlight of his season with the Chiefs.

In front of nearly 9,000 fans, the Chiefs took the field for a 7:55 first pitch in Game Two on Independence Day. They found themselves down two runs at the end of a half-inning, but the deficit wouldn’t last long. Espinosa’s bunt single after a Jeff Kobernus hit-by-pitch and steal helped spark a two-run rally, evening the score. He’d help bring the next run home, as well – down 5-2 in the sixth of a seven-inning game, Espinosa slammed a leadoff double against former Chief Mike MacDougal and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Syracuse, though, still trailed by two runs heading into the final frame, with IronPigs right-hander Justin Friend on the mound. What followed would mark one of three Syracuse wins on the year in which the Chiefs trailed heading into their final turn at bat.

Mike Costanzo – the phormer Phillies pharmhand – greeted Friend with a solo home run to right field. 5-4. Kris Watts singled, Josh Johnson bunted him over. Tying run at second. Chris Rahl came in to pinch-run. Will Rhymes stepped up to pinch-hit. Friend walked him. First and second. Jeff Kobernus walked. Bases loaded, one out, one-run game, Espinosa at the plate…and…

That one didn’t require Danny to do anything but stand there. The next pitch, however, did.

Fireworks before the fireworks. Espinosa would follow with a two-hit game and a three-hit game immediately after in what became an up-and-down year in Syracuse. He’s expected to have a good chance to win an infield role for the Nationals in 2014 if healthy and may never come to Syracuse again. But we’ll always have the Fourth of July 2013 – a day where Espinosa’s swing was rewarded with some much-needed freedom.

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