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2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #7

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season.

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Before we get into today’s seventh-most memorable moment of the Chiefs’ year, a quick look in case you missed it – Syracuse announced an extension yesterday on its Player Development Contract with the Washington Nationals, ensuring the Chiefs will be affiliated with the Nationals until 2018. More information can be found on our website here. We’re all thrilled about the chance to continue the relationship, with the Nationals continuing to emerge as a premier major-league franchise. Now, to #7…

7. You’ll Get Nothing and Like It

The Chiefs’ hitting this season could best be described as a roller-coaster ride – a supremely hot start, an ice-cold month after that, and spurts of up and down and up down thereafter. The pitching, however, was more like a slide, or like the opposite of a Drake song – it started from the top before plummeting to the bottom, at least as far as ERA’s concerned.

Now we here.

Now we here.

Syracuse’s monthly ERA decreased in every full month the Chiefs played in, meaning the Chiefs simply got better as they went along – from a high-water mark of 5.10 in April to a beautiful 3.13 number in August. In late June, however, that monthly improvement was in doubt. April’s 5.10 staff ERA gave way to a 4.46 May mark, but the Chiefs were struggling through an 8-18 June with two games to do and a staff mark hovering closer to 5 than the team would have liked. Thankfully for Syracuse, two of their unlikely pitching mainstays were set to start over the weekend of June 29 and 30 – Tanner Roark and Caleb Clay.

We touched a bit on Roark in our last post, but his stunning success this past season bears a continual look. In 2012, Roark’s first Triple-A campaign, the right-hander was up and down, sporting a 4.39 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 28 games (26 starts). (He also led the league in losses with 17, for whatever that’s worth – which, considering he “lost” five consecutive quality starts, is worth nothing in this corner. But I digress.) 2013 threatened to be even rockier. Sure, Roark tossed six no-hit innings in his first start of the season at Lehigh Valley, but just two starts later, he posted the following line against Buffalo:

3.2 IP  12 H  10 R  10 ER  1 HR  1 HBP  1 BB  2 K  1 WP
(Suffice it to say, we’ll be talking about this game at some point in the near future.)

Roark was demoted to the bullpen immediately after that, where he initially struggled, allowing multiple runs in three of his first four games to jolt his ERA skyward to a staggering 8.49. But he soon settled down, putting up a 1.21 ERA in May and working through a near-scoreless June. Roark was rewarded with a spot start June 23 at Gwinnett, which he aced with five scoreless innings. Six days later, he took the hill against Rochester.

Roark dominated. In six innings, he held the Red Wings to a pair of scattered doubles and nothing more, twirling a pair of double plays after errors. Tyler Robertson (one inning) and Mike Broadway (two) did the rest, with Chris Rahl’s sacrifice fly providing the lone Syracuse run in a 1-0, 2-hour, 11-minute gem. As a team, Rochester went 3 for 30 in the game with one walk.

Post-mortem: Roark put up a 1.51 ERA in 53.2 Washington innings this year after an August promotion.

Post-mortem: Roark put up a 1.51 ERA in 53.2 Washington innings this year after an August promotion.

The next day, another one of the Chiefs’ unlikely success stories followed Roark to the mound for a Sunday matinee – Alabaman right-hander Caleb Clay. Clay, a 2006 first-round pick of the Red Sox, had toiled in Boston’s system for six years, never reaching Triple-A and finding himself in the bullpen for all but one start in 2012. The Nationals were eager to change that, and Clay put up a 3.46 ERA in 13 starts with Double-A Harrisburg before his mid-June promotion to Syracuse. He excelled in a pair of games before getting the Sunday start.

With just 14.1 innings of Triple-A experience under his belt, Clay went right at Rochester’s lineup, carving up Red Wings right and left. He matched Roark with six scoreless frames, allowing just six base runners in his start. This time, the bullpen’s names were different – Jeff Mandel, Xavier Cedeno and Mike Crotta – but the three-inning scoreless result was the same. The Chiefs scored in the third and fourth innings for a 2-0 win, taking care of the Wings in a tidy 2:23 this time.

These probably aren’t a pair of games that stick out in anyone else’s memories from this past season. But to me, they’re a relic of a bygone baseball era, when shorter, lower-scoring games were the norm. They were separate works of art – strike-throwing pitchers painting corner after corner, infielders turning slick double plays, hitters coming up with key situational whacks rather than blindly swinging for the fences. I’ll take ‘em over an 8-6 game any day of the week.

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #8

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season. Last week ended with our recap of the Chiefs’ wild suspended game at – and versus – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, found here. On to #8…

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8. Sweep Dreams in Indy

With degree of difficulty factored in, you could make a case that July 26 through July 29 was the best four-game stretch of the Chiefs’ season, with Syracuse traveling to I.L.-best Indianapolis. The Chiefs were 45-59 and 4-4 since the All-Star Break. The Indians were 63-44 and playoff locks. But one day after the season’s longest bus ride, Syracuse turned into I.L. juggernauts, with a combination of unforgettable moments throughout the four games.

Friday: Chiefs 5, Indians 2

Ryan Tatusko had never pitched a minor-league game this close to his home state of Noblesville, Indiana. He had practically an entire section of the ballpark devoted to his friends and family. Did it faze him? At first, it sure seemed that way – Tatusko surrendered a two-run blast to Andrew Lambo in the second inning, putting the Indians ahead 2-1. But from that point on, it was road, sweet home for the right-hander, who tossed six innings without any further damage. The offensive star? Third baseman Zach Walters, who finished a double shy of the cycle in a 4-4 performance that included this…

Saturday: Chiefs 7, Indians 5 (10 innings)

Left-hander and I.L. All-Star Kris Johnson shut down Syracuse’s offense for seven innings, with Indianapolis taking a 5-1 lead into the eighth inning. That’s when the wheels fell off…

Brown’s two-out, two-strike, three-run home run off of Ryan Reid (ERA after the long ball: 1.43) sliced the deficit to one run. In the ninth, Walters – pinch-hitting after feeling under the weather to start the day – doubled with one out. Two batters later, Jeff Kobernus snuck a two-out single through the middle, and Erik Davis escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extras. The final hero? Soon-to-be-Indian Kelly Shoppach, who drove in Brown in the 10th with the winning run – Shoppach’s final at-bat as a Chief before the Nationals released him and the Pirates signed him and assigned him to Indianapolis.

Sunday: Chiefs 2, Indians 1

The most pitches thrown by a Syracuse hurler in 2013? Tanner Roark, with 124 tosses in seven-and-two-thirds scoreless innings here, in a prelude to Roark’s late-season big-league success. We didn’t know why Roark was stretched so far out in the game – it made sense soon thereafter, with Roark throwing just one more start before a well-deserved promotion to Washington. Indy made it interesting in the ninth, putting across one run against Mike Crotta and getting Felix Pie to third base with two outs, but a force out preserved a third straight Syracuse win at Victory Field.

Monday: Chiefs 9, Indians 8

The Cliff Notes version: 3-0 Chiefs after three. 7-0 Chiefs after four. 7-3 Chiefs after six. 7-7 tie after seven. 9-8 after nine. 28 hits, five errors. The long read: Tyler Moore doubled, homered twice and drove in six runs – with this solo homer in the ninth giving the Chiefs the lead for good.

Zach Walters tripled and singled to cap off a 9 for 14 series. The Chiefs finished off their first four-game sweep of Indianapolis since…who knows? A beautiful series in a beautiful ballpark.

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #9

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season. Moment #10 can be found here. Today: the ninth-most memorable moment of last year’s rain-soaked campaign…

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9. The Stefon Game

When Bill Hader stepped down as one of the primary cast members on Saturday Night Live at the end of last season, it signaled the end of an era – not only of one of the show’s funniest and most versatile actors, but of one of the show’s most memorable characters ever – Stefon, a bizarrely flamboyant “New York City correspondent” who associates himself with the most bizarre phrases and people imaginable, such as Snoozin Lucci, DJ Baby Bok Choy, Jewish Dracula Sidney Applebaum and a bulldog who looks like Wilford Brimley. (And those are some of the tamer ones.)

That's Stefon on the left, with Weekend Update anchor and apple-of-Stefon's-eye Seth Meyers on the right.

That’s Stefon on the left, with Weekend Update anchor and apple-of-Stefon’s-eye Seth Meyers on the right.

Stefon’s appearances always featured a nonsensical listing of things featured in his preferred clubs, which followed the phrase “this place has everything”. In that way, I think of July 12, 2013 as the Chiefs’ version of a Stefon bit. For a 2013 Chiefs contest, this game had everything: rain, extra innings, late leads lost, games deep into the night…and they even played at two separate stadiums!

July 12th was the start of the game, at least, with the Chiefs wrapping up their season series at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ PNC Field. Early on, it didn’t seem like we were headed for an out-of-the-ordinary finish, with Syracuse staking its claim to a big offensive lead, thanks in part to a fifth-inning explosion…

…but a win wouldn’t be that easy. The RailRiders shaved the deficit to one after a four-run sixth and evened the score one inning later, thanks to Fernando Martinez…

With 12 runs through the first seven innings, a betting man might figure the Chiefs and RailRiders weren’t long for at least one more score.  Reason #147 you should never gamble. 6-6 we stayed into the eighth, and 6-6 we remained through a tense but scoreless ninth, with Erik Davis stranding a pair of RailRiders. A long-foreshadowed rain made its presence known at the beginning of a soon-to-be-scoreless 10th, with a soggy 11th also wielding no runs.

(Perhaps the luckiest guy during all this weather? Infielder Zach Walters, ejected by home-plate umpire A.J. Johnson in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes and promptly got to have a roof over his head for the remainder of the night. Just call him the Oracle.)

That's Zach on the left.

That’s Zach on the left.

After the scoreless 11th, PNC Field resembled the Everglades, with trees and alligators replaced by a mountain and a giant moose mascot. The infield mud could take no more, and the game was suspended after 11 innings with no victor. Of course, this being the Chiefs’ final game at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2013, the teams were forced to partake in a familiar scenario from 2012 – a RailRiders home game completed in Syracuse. Yes, one year after the nomadic Scranton campaign, the Triple-A Yankees would bat in the home position, for at least a pair of innings.

On August 6th, with five new position players in their lineup, the RailRiders took the field and took the win on an eventual 13th-inning walkoff single by Alberto Gonzalez (not on the July 12th roster) to score Melky Mesa (not on the July 12th active roster)  at NBT Bank Stadium (not the July 12th game site). 7-6, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was all she wrote – “she”, of course, being narcoleptic club owner Snoozin Lucci.

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Kevin Brown
kbrown@syracusechiefs.com
@ChiefsRadio

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #10

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season. You can find the first two posts here and here. Now for #10…

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10. Hit Me Two Times

Jim Morrison's rejected song title.

Jim Morrison’s rejected song title.

If you followed the Chiefs at all last year, you knew not to make any late-night plans – or at least to tell your friends they’d probably have to postpone any plans they might originally have. Syracuse tied for second in the International League with 21 extra-inning games in 2013, with the Chiefs actually leading all of professional baseball in extra-inning contests for a good chunk of the season before moving a little quicker toward year’s end. In that respect, May 31 through June 3 in Pawtucket was a typical Syracuse series, with bonus baseball bookending the four-game set.

(Quick author’s tangent: I felt like the Chiefs truly had it out for me in this series, as I was scheduled to miss the middle two games for my sister’s graduation. My goal was to scoot out of the park after game one and make the three-hour-plus drive to Baldwin, New York as quickly as possible – but Syracuse lost the lead, gained it back, and lost it again in a span of one-and-0ne-half innings before finally succumbing in 12 innings at 11:28 PM EST – four hours and 2o minutes after first pitch. I ended up with about three hours of sleep on Friday night, missed a pair of nine-inning games, and headed back Monday for the extravagance you’ll soon hear about.)

On Monday, June 3rd, the Chiefs were hoping to avoid a sweep at the hands of former Yankee Alfredo Aceves and the PawSox. They’d start strongly enough with a three-run second inning, thanks to a pair of left-handed long balls – a solo home run from Corey Brown, his eighth of the year, and a two-run shot from Mike Costanzo, his seventh.

The 3-0 lead wouldn’t last long, though, as Pawtucket struck for four runs in the next three innings, taking a lead into the seventh – when Costanzo struck again. Syracuse’s DH for the night punctuated his best game as a Chief by cracking another home run, his second of the game, to level the score at three. Pawtucket, however, would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Brandon Snyder, and after a scoreless eighth, the Chiefs moved into the ninth inning down a run.

Heading into the game, Syracuse was 0-26 when trailing after eight innings. The Chiefs finished the year a mere 2-55 when trailing after eight. This would be one of the two. Brown started the ninth inning with a home run tucked barely inside the left-field foul pole, good for his second homer of the game – and a 5-5 tie.

Brown, captured after a Syracuse smash.

Brown, captured after a Syracuse smash.

How rare was the multi-multi-homer show? The game marked the first time two Syracuse players homered twice on the same day since July 28, 2005, when Kevin Barker and Justin Singleton each hit two in a 16-3 win over Indianapolis – a game with a bit of a different tone than this particular affair at Pawtucket. This game was about as far from a 13-run affair as could be, heading into the 11th inning still tied when Chris Marrero drove in Will Rhymes with – gasp! – an RBI single, putting the Chiefs in front, 6-5.

They’d need one more bit of heroics, however, from Brown. With two outs and Snyder at first in the bottom of the inning, Bryce Brentz drove a ball to the gap in left-center field, with Snyder scurrying toward home in an attempt to even the score once more. But Brown cleanly back-handed the ball and fired a dart to Zach Walters, whose throw home nailed Snyder by a couple of steps – giving the Chiefs the win on a walkoff 7-6-2 putout.

11 innings, two players with two homers, 3 hours and 28 minutes and a bizarre walkoff – just about your run-of-the-mill 2013 Chiefs game. The only thing it was missing was rain – which our next entry on Friday won’t be missing. See you then.

Kevin Brown
kbrown@syracusechiefs.com
@ChiefsRadio

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #11

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season. Today’s selection, strangely enough, has nothing to do with what happened on the field…unless you count the falling of rain drops onto the thick white tarp.

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#11: Prayers Answered

The 1948 Boston Braves featured a terrific one-two punch at the top of their rotation – Hall of Famer Warren Spahn (15-12, 3.71 ERA) and league wins leader Johnny Sain (24-15, 2.60). They’re not much known for those particular numbers, though – they’re known in baseball lore by a famous poem, written by Boston Post sports editor Gerald V. Hern:

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

That’s Spahn on the left, with Sain on the right.

The poem (which, by the way, completely neglected the contributions of Bill Voiselle [13-13, 3.63] and Vern Bickford [11-5, 3.27]) has been condensed throughout the ages to “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”, which is the format in which most of us have heard it. And if you’re a believer in delayed gratification, those prayers from 1948 Boston Braves fans were answered in the 2013 International League. And the 2013 Syracuse Chiefs may not consider themselves fans of delayed gratification.

As detailed on Thursday, the Chiefs’ bats raced out to a scorching start with an 11-2 win at Lehigh Valley. And the high scores kept piling in. 11-0. 8-6. 8-1. 8-2 (in five innings). Syracuse was pacing the International League – and just about all of baseball – with a whopping 50 runs in its first six games of the season – an average of more than eight runs per contest. The Chiefs’ offense was white-hot, a fire seemingly too voluminous to contain for any I.L. pitcher.

And then the rains came.

Luckily, most of us were ready.

Tuesday, April 9th – rain-shortened after five innings. Wednesday, April 10th – rained out at Buffalo. Thursday, April 11th – a scheduled off day (it rained anyway). Friday, April 12th – rained out vs. Lehigh Valley.

By the time the Chiefs got back on the field – Saturday, April 13th, vs. Lehigh Valley – they hadn’t stood in against live pitching in just over 90 hours. They were promptly shut out by the IronPigs, scored three runs or fewer in five consecutive games and went just 4-18 over the 22 games immediately following the three-and-a-half days off.

Is it too much of a drastic leap to associate the Chiefs’ failure to score runs with the rain? Perhaps – after all, other I.L. North teams missed equal time thanks to the drab and gloomy weather. But it’s one of the great “what if” moments in a season with “what ifs” aplenty. In our final interview with Tony Beasley, Syracuse’s manager didn’t dismiss the possibility, noting the difficulty of staying fresh without live pitching. Would we be talking about the I.L.-champion Chiefs with a sunnier season? Probably not – but I can’t help but wonder how April would have ended up with a little more Spahn and Sain.

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Weather permitting, we’ll have #10 on the countdown tomorrow. Until then, tell us your favorite moments in the comments below, or drop an email to kbrown@syracusechiefs.com, and maybe they’ll pop up…

2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #12

Greetings, Chiefs fans, and welcome to the Third Annual “(Insert Year Here): A Chiefs Odyssey” Offseason Series! (Please hold your applause until the end.) In this series, we’ll count down the 12 most memorable moments from last year’s Chiefs campaign, as selected by our committee of one, with a new post every other weekday.

2013 was a little bit tricky compared to previous years, with only two moments jumping out off the top of my head…both of which you’ll find in the top two. A good chunk of the season has already blurred together in my mind, thanks to rainouts and extra-inning games and shutouts and whozits and whatzits galore. Our first game on the countdown, however, features precisely none of those things. Let’s begin…well, at the beginning…

Come to think of it, “Ironic Guy Fawkes”, or maybe “Not-At-All-Self-Aware Guy Fawkes”, or “Guy Fawkes Holding Up The Wrong Sign” could be a great Halloween costume, no?

#12: Eleventh Heaven

There were reasons to believe the Syracuse Chiefs could be a good offensive team in 2013. The Opening Day lineup featured five former major leaguers out of eight position players, a player claimed in the offseason’s Rule V Draft, the Chiefs’ offensive M.V.P. from 2012, two former first-round picks, an offseason World Baseball Classic champion and a pair of International League All-Stars from the previous season – with three former big-league hitters on the bench.

There were reasons to believe the Syracuse Chiefs would not be a good offensive team in 2013. The roster featured a plethora of free swingers, a cleanup hitter who missed the vast majority of 2012, a number-five hitter in his first season as a full-time position player, a number-two hitter in his Triple-A rookie campaign and a number-six hitter who struggled mightily in his only month with the team last year.

The offensive pendulum would swing in both directions throughout the course of the season, with the Chiefs ultimately finishing eighth in the 14-team International League in runs scored. After one week, though, the glass-half-full folks were sitting mighty pretty – not to mention after just one day.

The Chiefs’ 2013 season began at 7:08 PM on April 4th, with a first-pitch ball from reigning I.L. Pitcher of the Year Tyler Cloyd to Syracuse center fielder Eury Perez. The second pitch was lined into center field for a single, and the Chiefs didn’t stop hitting after that. Micah Owings drove in Perez with a first-inning single, Corey Brown doubled in Jeff Kobernus in the third, and two batters later, Owings displayed the rawest of raw power…

5-0 after 14 batters is a fun way to start the season. You know what else is fun? 6-0 after 15 batters.

In 2012, the Chiefs’ second home run didn’t come until the fifth game. In 2013, it came before game one’s fifth inning. The Chiefs would grab another five runs for an 11-2 Opening Day win, backed by six shutout innings from Ross Ohlendorf. That second-hitting rookie and struggling sixth-hitter, by the way? Those were Kobernus and Walters, arguably the Chiefs’ two best players last year – both of whom made their MLB debuts by season’s end. It’s good to see the glass half-full.

Monday, we’ll have #11 on the countdown. Until then, tell us your favorite moments in the comments below, or drop an email to kbrown@syracusechiefs.com, and maybe they’ll pop up…

Card Notes – August 17th

Syracuse and Indianapolis hook up in game one of a four game set and NBT Bank Stadium tonight at 7:00 PM. Here’s how the Chiefs stack up.

1) Eury Perez CF

2) Jeff Kobernus LF

3) Danny Espinosa 2B

4) Chris Marrero 1B

5) Corey Brown RF

6) Zach Walters SS

7) Will Rhymes 3B

8) Kris Watts C

9) Danny Rosenbaum P

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Jeff Kobernus has a 13 game winning streak

Syracuse ranks fourth in the league in batting average.

Danny Rosenbaum has a 3.94 ERA this season.

Card Notes – August 7th

Syracuse takes on Scranton/Wilkes-Barrie for the final time tonight at 7:00. Here”s how the Chiefs stack up.

1. Eury Perez RF

2. Jeff Kobernus LF

3. Danny Espinosa 2B

4. Tyler Moore DH

5. Corey Brown CF

6. Chris Marrero 1B

7. Zach Walters SS

8. Jhonatan Solano C

9. Will Rhymes 3B

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-Tyler Moore is batting .333 with eight hits including five doubles and 11 RBIs with runners in scoring-position and two outs.

-Last time out, Danny Rosenbaum pitch 6.2 scoreless innings and struck out six against Louisville.

-Jhonatan Solano is hitting .393 with 11 hits and four RBIs in his last nine games.

Card Notes – July 20

Here’s how the Chiefs will look tonight against the Red Wings…

1. Will Rhymes 3B

2. Chris Rahl RF

3. Danny Espinosa 2B

4. Tyler Moore 1B

5. Corey Brown CF

6. Chris Marrero DH

7. Zach Walters SS

8. Kelly Shoppach

9. Josh Johnson

Yunesky Maya P

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-Chris Rahl is currently riding a team-high eight game hit streak. Over the course of that span, Rahl’s gone 16 for 30 (.533) with an .867 slugging percentage.

-Tyler Moore picked up a pair of hits yesterday – his fifth two-hit game in the past six. Since being optioned from Washington on July 10, Moore’s picked up a hit in all seven games he’s played with the Chiefs over that span.

-Yesterday served as Syracuse’s 18th rain-delayed game of the season. Those 18 delayed games serve as the most in the International League. The Chiefs had a total of 10 games delayed by rain throughout all of 2012.

 

Stuff You’ll Like – July 10th

Syracuse takes on Buffalo tonight at 7:00 PM at NBT Bank Stadium. Until then, check this out.

-Tanner Roark is on the hill for the Chiefs tonight, wish him luck!

-Vote #DesiIn13

-Back in 1934, the second MLB All-Star Game was played.

Tonights game is available on the Syracuse Chiefs Baseball Network as well as Time Warner Cable Sports Channel.

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