Columns & Blogs

Bullpen continues outstanding start

I noticed a couple things from looking at Sunday night's box from Tri-City's 12-7 win over Spokane.

One of them is the line from starter Dan Perkins: four innings, five hits, six runs, three earned runs, one walk. Looks bad, doesn't it?

But what Dust Devils pitching coaches have taught their pitchers over the years is this: in this league especially, you pitch to contact. You keep the ball down, let the hitters slap groundballs all over the infield and let your defense do the work.

Which is EXACTLY what Perkins tried to do Sunday. Only problem is that the defense doesn't always do the work. The defense committed four infield errors Sunday, which led to three unearned runs, which led to Perkins' inflated run totals.

But here's another impressive thing — Perkins had a groundball to flyball ratio of 8-1. I guarantee you that pitching coach Darryl Scott is happy about that.

"I think everybody's gone out and done the job," Scott said last week. "When the ball is in your hand, you need to control the things you can control."

While Perkins may have gotten a raw deal from the defense in his second start, the bullpen has continued its incredible start in 2009.

Four pitchers came on in relief of Perkins. The result? One unearned run on three hits over the final six innings. Major props go out to Craig Bennigson (2 IP, 1 hit, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 0 runs), Rhett Ballard (2 IP, 1 hit, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 1 run), Kyle Walker (1 IP, 1 hit, 1 BB, 0 runs), and closer Charlie Ruiz (1 IP, 0 runs).

That effort has been typical of this year's bullpen. Through the first nine games, Tri-City starters have allowed 25 earned runs — 28 total — and 15 walks in 33 innings for an ERA of 6.82. In conrast, the bullpen has thrown 51 innings and allowed just 14 walks and 12 earned runs — 17 overall — for a 2.12 ERA.

For a group that typically doesn't get a lot of props, you've got to hand it to the relief corps so far in 2009.

They say pitching and defense wins championships. With Oregon ace Erik Stavert due to be folded into the starting rotation in the next 10 days, there's no reason Tri-City shouldn't contend for its second East Division title in three years.