On Thursday, June 30, the Wilmington Blue Rocks ended the month of June on a high note, defeating the Jersey Shore BlueClaws by a score of 7-4 to take a 2-1 lead in their six-game series.
The month of July would not kickstart with the same result, as the BlueClaws got revenge and took down the Blue Rocks, 3-1 on Friday night, evening up the series at two games a piece.
“Our approach with the fastball was good… We just had a hard time putting the barrel on it,” Manager Mario Lisson said following the loss.
The Blue Rock’s offense struggled to bring runs across the plate, but it wasn’t due to a lack of opportunities. Wilmington collected eight hits on the night, the same as Jersey Shore, but went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position while also leaving ten men on base.
“We took so many pitches in the strike zone, and then we had to chase and expand the zone,” Lisson said. “That was our tough part up at the plate today.”
Catcher Israel Pineda is one player that stepped up for the Blue Rocks tonight. Pineda, hitting in the fifth spot in the lineup, went 2-4 at the plate. This included being responsible for the only run of the night for Wilmington via an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, the 33rd RBI of the year for Pineda.
The Venezuelan product saw eye-to-eye with his coach about the team’s struggles connecting with the fastball.
“The whole team was really late a couple of times,” Pineda said. “But we continued to stay aggressive and attack the fastball.”
A good pitching matchup on paper lived up to expectations in this one, with the Phillies’ No. 2 overall prospect Mick Abel facing off against Blue Rocks starter Seth Shuman, who came into this game with a 3-1 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA.
In a game where every single run mattered, Lisson felt as though Shuman left some meat on the bone out on the mound.
“I don’t think he was as sharp as he usually is,” Lisson said. “But he definitely did a good job competing.”
The lack of execution on offense lay beyond just leaving runners on base. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Darren Baker made a crucial mistake, not running on contact with two outs in the inning, preventing him from scoring the Blue Rocks’ second run of the game and cutting the deficit down to just one.
“It was a mental mistake, not knowing the outs,” Lisson said. “He probably would have scored… And then the second baseman holds that runner on second and then that line drive by Antuna is probably a hit. So it was a mental mistake that we try to avoid as much as we can. It’s a learning experience.”
Even the pitching and defense had missed opportunities in this game. After the top of the sixth inning in which the Blue Rocks escaped a bases-loaded jam, they turned around in the bottom of the sixth and made it a one-run ballgame thanks to Pineda’s RBI single. That would not last long, however, with the BlueClaws getting that run right back in the top of the seventh to make it 3-1.
“We had the momentum going towards us, after that run,” Lisson said. “And then we gave it up right away in the seventh, giving them that extra run. It took the momentum away.”
With the series now all tied up at two games a piece, the Blue Rocks will be looking to get back on track and take the series advantage in game five on Saturday, July 2.
For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.