Tidal Waves: Relief Pitching Stepping Up

Norfolk recently completed an impressive 10-game homestand in which they went 6-4 and embarked on yet another 10-game stretch, this time on the road traveling to Durham, Louisville and Indianapolis.

The Tides took two of three over the weekend in Durham, including a split of a doubleheader against the Bulls. Chris Tillman picked up win number three by pitching six innings of relief, allowing two earned runs and striking out two.

Jason Berken started the ballgame that was delayed nearly four hours because of rain. Zach Phillips picked up his second save in as many days (third overall) and the offense received two RBI’s apiece from Xavier Avery and Bill Hall.

In game two, weather again plagued the game, as Durham won 2-1 in seven rain-shortened innings. Oscar Villarreal took the loss, his first of the year as Bulls’ pitcher Lance Pendleton was better getting the victory, his first in five scoreless innings against the Tides.

What a relief

A major reason the Tides have gone 8-5 in their last 13 games has been the steady hand, or arms, of the Norfolk bullpen.

Since being moved up from Double-A Bowie, Stu Pomeranz has lit up the scoreboard with a fury of K’s. The 6’7″ right-hander has struck out 12 batters in just 5 2/3 innings and has yet to allow a hit or a run in his appearances.

Reliever Miguel Gonzalez has gotten himself into a nice rhythm, pitching himself to an 0.77 ERA in 11 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. More impressive is the fact he is holding batters to an .029 average while striking out 15 batters.

Zach Phillips is beginning to bounce back from a rough stretch as he has notched three saves in his last four appearances. In each of those apperances, Phillips did not allow an earned run.

Norfolk’s pitching staff as a whole has a 2.78 ERA in the first six games of May, second in the International League to only Rochester who has a 2.06 ERA in the month of May.

Offense sputtering

While the pitching has been getting stronger, the Tides offense has had a hard time getting things going consistently, ranking dead last in the IL with a .223 team batting average.

There are a couple bright spots to show potentially the offense could be getting going once the warm weather hits. Bill Hall has a nine-game hit streak for the Tides since joining the club, hitting .351 (13-for-37) with two home runs, seven RBI and eight runs scored.

Outfielder Jamie Hoffmann has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games. He’s only hitting .255 during that time, but has driven in five runs with 13 walks, giving him an OBP of .400. He’s also reached base safely in 23 of the 26 games he’s played in this season.

Walk this way

Norfolk batters have walked 132 times so far this season, second to only Toledo in the IL, who comes into the day with 139. The Tides have three players ranked in the Top 15 in the IL in walks.

Xavier Avery leads the club with 20 and tied for 4th in the IL, while both Matt Antonelli and Jamie Hoffman have 18 apiece, both tied for 8th. The team is showing good patience and an eye at the plate throughout the lineup, so it may only be a matter of time before the team begins to hit.

Other notes

The Orioles made two moves on Monday to help beef up a tired bullpen after two extra-inning games in Boston. The Orioles have recalled both Jason Berken and Stu Pomeranz, and optioned both Tommy Hunter and Ronny Paulino to Norfolk.

To make room for Pomeranz on the Orioles 40-man roster, the team has transferred LHP Tsuyoshi Wada to the 60-day disabled list.

Jason Berken has pitched 22 innings at Norfolk to the tune of a 1.23 ERA in five starts with the Tides. This is the second time Berken has been recalled by the Orioles this season.

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Matt Lund is a co-host of the BSR Podcast and regular contributor to BSR. A Towson University alum, Matt is a lifelong Baltimore sports fan and native of Charm City working in sports broadcasting.