Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two outs away, Burgos fails Humber

The New Orleans Zephyrs blew it yesterday. Not the game, but the way the team's manager and pitching coach managed it.

Starter Philip Humber was pitching his best game in a long time and appeared to finally be notching his 11th win, something he's been unable to do since July 16. Entering the ninth, he'd held Iowa hitless. He'd struck out 10 while walking only one.

In the ninth with the Zephyrs ahead 3-0, he got the first batter to pop out. But after the next batter, John Nelson, ended the no-hitter by singling, Oberkfell pulled Humber from the game, replacing him with a pitcher whom I wish the Mets never traded for: Ambiorix Burgos.

All Burgos, owner of a high nineties fastball, had to do was to get two batters out. He did that, but at a high cost.

The first batter Burgos faced, Eric Patterson, doubled, scoring Nelson. 3-1. The second batter grounded out. Bucks Coat stepped to the plate. Burgos threw a wild pitch, advancing Patterson to third. Does Burgos bear down and blow the ball past Coats? No. Coats doubled to left, scoring Patterson. 3-2. Oberkfell left Burgos in the game. The next batter, Geovany Soto, singled. Coats scores. 3-3. Josh Kroeger struck out.

Compare Burgos' performance yesterday with this one, the paragraph taken from a Chicago Tribune article written about the Royals game on September 1, 2006:
In the eighth, the first three [White] Sox batters reached base safely, but Jim Thome struck out. Ambiorix Burgos relieved Jimmy Gobble, but Burgos hit Paul Konerko to force in a run, and A.J. Pierzynski and Ross Gload had RBI singles before Joel Peralta retired Cintron on a fly to end the inning and the Sox's best chance.
Sound familiar? Some things never change.

But Humber's failure to gain the win is just part of the problem.

Humber's performance yesterday ended a streak of average to below average performances by Zephyr starters. If just one or two of the Zephyr starters still considered prospects were showing noticeable improvement this season, I'd think they would have to bear the bulk of the responsibility for their performance; however, when four of them haven't shown noticeable improvement I'm tempted to look elsewhere. I hinted at that in my column this week. But after what happened last night, my suspicions are getting stronger.

The Zephyrs allowed Humber to pitch into the ninth because he had been tossing a no-hitter, which ended with the second batter he faced in the inning. He was then removed from the game. At that point, Humber had thrown 123 pitches. That's a lot of pitches to throw in 90-something degree heat, especially for a pitcher who had undergone Tommy John surgery in June 2005 and then spent almost 12 months rehabbing.

Sure, it's nice to have a no-hitter on your record, but this is Triple-A. I'd think it's more important to protect a pitcher's arm than to have him try to get onto the record books.

My question is why the Zephyrs' pitching coach, Mark Brewer, allowed Humber to throw that many pitches. I've questioned his judgment before, but now I'm really questioning it.

The Mets have burned out too many young pitchers in the past (Wilson, Pulsipher, and almost Isringhausen) to risk ruining another good arm.

Speaking of good arms, the Cyclones appear to have one in Dillon Gee. Last night, in four innings Gee limited Oneonta to two hits and one run (a home run) while striking out four and walking one. His ERA's now 2.58. But he's not the only Cyclone with a low ERA. Of the six who pitched in yesterday's 4-2 win, two had ERA's below 2.00 and only one had an ERA above 2.68: Eddie Kunz. And his ERA's bloated because of one outing in which he gave up three runs. In his other six appearances since joining Brooklyn he's held the opponent scoreless. And he already has the second most saves on the team behind Stephen Clyne.

Finally, when I first viewed's homepage today and saw that Texas beat Baltimore 30-3, I thought they were referring to a football game. They weren't. You can read all about it here.


Besides Burgos, another Mets organization reliever had a bad outing. The New York Mets lost as Guillermo Mota succeeded again in elevating his ERA, surrendering three runs in two innings. It's now 6.28 and rising.

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