With less than 30 games remaining in the regular season, the Syracuse Chiefs' 2010 pennant dreams are fading fast.
Having held first place for several weeks mid-season in the International League's North Division the team has slipped to third behind the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the second-place Buffalo Bisons. Now a daunting 9.5 games off the pace, the Chiefs only hope is the wildcard.
When the Chiefs left for an eight-game Southern swing on July 19, their wildcard lead was 3.5 games. Now, Syracuse is in third place in the wildcard standings, five games back of Louisville, two behind Buffalo.
Despite its big slip in the standings, Syracuse showed its determination to stay in the race by taking three of four games against Rochester last week, sweeping a two-game series at Frontier Field and splitting a two-game set Aug. 7-8 at Alliance Bank Stadium. The finale, a 7-4 comeback win Sunday against the Red Wings, was particularly encouraging.
On Aug. 8 at ABS, southpaw starter Matt Chico hung in there to earn the win after allowing three runs in the first inning. Relievers Atahualpa Severino and Josh Wilkie combined to nailed down the victory.
Rookie shortstop Danny Espinosa and right-fielder Leonard Davis each swatted two-run homers, and newly acquired left fielder Brian Bixler belted a triple for his first hit as a Chief, then scored when slugger Jason Botts doubled. Bixler and third baseman Pete Orr contributed two hits apiece.
"There's no quit in any of these guys," said Chiefs pitching coach Greg Booker, speaking of both his pitchers and the Chiefs' hitters.
Since the season opened in April, the Chiefs have fielded 26 different position players and 34 pitchers, for a total of 60 players to wear a Chiefs uniform through Aug. 9.
On July 27, the ball club lost two veterans, shortstop Pedro Lopez and first baseman-outfielder Chris Duncan.