Greetings all you Philly fans from your northern neighbor. I’m Doug Bird and this year I will be covering your Triple A affiliate- the Ottawa Lynx. Last season I reported the baseball comings and goings of the Ottawa Lynx as a daily contributor to Orioles Hangout. Our major league affiliations have ranged from the now sadly defunct Montreal Expos to the Baltimore Orioles and this season, a team which should be a strong contender in the National League East, the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Major League franchise Triple A affiliation changes this past winter, Ottawa is now home to the Northern division winner from the 2006 season. The Lynx last season finished with a 74-69 last season, but were 10.5 games out of first at the end and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Opening on the road this season with games in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, the Lynx will begin their home schedule April 17th vs. the Charlotte Knights. I’ll be making weekly reports on the goings on with the Lynx this season, and touching on the rest of the International League. Hopes are high for a successful run at a playoff spot this season with veteran signings such as Lou Collier and Pedro Swan and the return of top prospects such as Michael Bourn, (now with Philadelphia). Manager of the Year for 2006 John Russell returns for another season, (his tenth season as a minor league field manager), along with his pitching coach of last year, Rod Nichols, (his fourth season at Philadelphia’s highest minor league affiliate), and field coach Sal Rende, (his fourth season).
Neither the weather nor the opposition were kind to Ottawa in this, the first week of the regular season. In a week of all offense and no pitching, or all pitching and no offence, the Lynx managed only two victories in seven games. After the scheduled April 6th opener was cancelled due to snow and cold, both teams were able to finally begin the 2007 season the following day. In this one, Ottawa rallied for seven runs in the ninth to take an 11-9 lead only to have the bullpen allow three in the Rochester half of the ninth, the winning run scoring on a base loaded walk issued to Tommy Watkins by Justin Miller. Lynx starter Brian Mazone lasted only four innings, allowing four unearned runs on five hits as Rochester won 12-11.
An off day for travel saw Ottawa in Buffalo to play the Bisons who had been unable to play any of four scheduled games against the Richmond Braves due to bad weather. Ottawa fared no better in this, their second game of the season, losing to Buffalo 8-3. Ottawa starter Matt Childers surrendered four first inning runs, all top Cleveland pitching prospect Adam Miller would need as he went six innings for the win. The Buffalo pen shut down the Lynx offense over the final three innings giving Ottawa an 0-2 start to the 2007 season.
The Lynx record fell to 0-3 the next day as Buffalo once again defeated them, this time by a score of 5-3. Ottawa starter J.A. Happ in only his second Triple A start of his career, was outstanding, pitching five innings and allowing no hits. After counting 87 pitches in his five innings of work, Happ was replaced, leaving with a 2-0 lead. Again, the bullpen was unable to hold the lead as Buffalo, trailing 3-0, rallied against recently assigned Joe Besinius for three runs. Eude Britto replaced Besinius but fared no better, giving up a two run double to Keith Ginter, breaking the tie and putting Buffalo in the lead for good.
Ottawa finally got in the win column the next day, defeating Buffalo 13-7, getting 15 hits total. Lou Collier continued his hot start to the season, going 4-5 with two runs batted in and raising his average to .526. Eight different Lynx players drove in a run and three Lynx relievers followed starter Jim Crowell, reliever Fabio Castro earning the first Lynx win of the season.
The final game of this series against Buffalo was a tight pitching dual between Lynx starter Brian Mazzone and the Bisons Jeff Harris. Keith Ginter once again hurt the Lynx, this time with a solo home run in the second inning. Ryan Muthern broke up a 1-1 tie with a solo home run of his own in the Buffalo half of the fifth inning. Three Buffalo relievers shut down Ottawa the rest of the way giving Buffalo a 2-1 victory and dropping the Lynx to 1-4 on the season.
After an off day on Friday, Ottawa spent the weekend of April 14th in Syracuse against the Sky Chiefs. Impending bad weather once again played havoc with the scheduling and what was scheduled to be a single game Saturday, a double header Sunday and a single game Monday, was reworked into a doubleheader Saturday and a postponement of the games on Sunday and Monday’s game, both games rescheduled for August.
With all of this rescheduling, Ottawa managed a split of the Saturday double header, dropping the first game 4-0 but coming back to win game two, 4-3. Lynx starter Zach Segovia went the distance in game one but gave up a two run homer run to John-Ford Griffith in the fourth inning and a two run home run to Mike Vento in the fifth. The Lynx could do little against Syracuse starter Ty Taubenheim who worked six innings for the win. Game two saw the Lynx jump out to a 2-0 first inning lead on a two out double by Chris Coste, a lead they never relinquished. Ottawa starter Matt Childers allowed only one run through five innings and the bullpen, with a key defensive play in the sixth inning by Ottawa center fielder Chris Roberson, managed to hold off a sixth inning Syracuse rally giving Ottawa their second win of the season.
The Lynx, 2-5 and in last place in the Northern division three games behind Buffalo, rank third in the IL in team batting, (.280), and twelfth in team pitching, (5.63). Lou Collier leads the team with a .379 average and Chris Roberson has 8 runs batted in. The Lynx have yet to hit a home run. Brian Mazzone leads the team with a 1.64 ERA but has an 0-1 record in two starts. Fabio Castro and Matt Childers have the lone Ottawa wins and Brian Sanches has the only Lynx save. The team is off today, (Sunday) and tomorrow. Pitcher Kane Davis has been placed on the disabled list.