- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
By the end of Sunday’s series finale in Lancaster, things had gone from bad to worse for the struggling Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
The Blue Crabs were swept in the three-game set by Lancaster in losses of 9-1 Friday and 8-2 Saturday — by far, their worst setbacks of the season and the first time they were thoroughly beaten after their previous defeats could have been victories with closing issues in most of them.
Then Sunday, the Blue Crabs found themselves in an extra-innings affair for the fifth time in eight games. And a common theme prevailed as they lost a fourth straight extra-innings game in a 3-2 shortcoming to Lancaster, which pulled out the tight affair with two outs in the 10th inning on a two-out Ryan Harvey single that plated former Blue Crabs leadoff hitter Adam Godwin from third.
Preceding the frustration in Lancaster was Thursday’s 15-11 wild, heartbreaking loss at home to Bridgeport for the Blue Crabs, who pulled off an improbable eight-run eighth — scoring six with two down — to rally from 9-2 down and take a 10-9 lead into the ninth.
The closing issues that have haunted the Blue Crabs this season reemerged as then-new bullpen stopper Chris Mobley blew the team’s fifth save in a 14-game span, allowing two runs in the ninth that created another comeback situation in the bottom of the frame.
The Blue Crabs ran out of rallies by the 11th when the depleted bullpen allowed the deciding four runs, forcing outfielder Richard Giannotti to get the final two outs of the inning on the mound for his second pitching appearance of the week.
Following Monday’s off day, the Blue Crabs began a six-game homestand Tuesday at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium against York for three contests followed by Camden coming to town this weekend. The Blue Crabs (7-10) were looking to snap a four-game skid Tuesday against York (6-10) that finished too late for inclusion into this edition.
Despite the records of York and Camden (7-10) being no better entering Tuesday’s action, no team was colder in the Atlantic League than the Blue Crabs with losses in six of seven games while going 2-8 in their previous 10 contests — completely spoiling their promising 5-2 start to the season. They were five games behind first-place Bridgeport (12-5) in the Liberty Division entering Tuesday.
“We’re not in a mess,” Blue Crabs player-coach Jeremy Owens said Monday. “We’re going through a patch where we’re beat up. I’m a bit concerned with our health a little. When guys are going through the grind [of playing 13 straight days], guys are going to get beat up a little more.
“We’re not going to go out and buy a brand new ball team. We may get somebody that can help.”
With the Blue Crabs never more in need of an off day on the schedule like they received Monday, he added, “As a whole team, this off day is going to be cherished. Nobody is allowed in the clubhouse today.”
Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn got a head start on getting away from the grind this early season that saw suddenly saw his championship-hopeful club plummet into a last-place tie in the division with Camden entering Tuesday.
Osborn attended his younger sister’s wedding in California causing him to miss the entire series in Lancaster. Owens and pitching coach Reggie Harris took the reins of the team as co-managers for the three losses.
“Maybe it was good for me to get away and get recharged,” Osborn said. “Hopefully when I get back into the clubhouse, I can put a smile on everybody’s faces.”
Disturbing numbersThe Blue Crabs inconsistent offense mustered just five runs and 16 hits for the entire series while fanning 26 times, including 11 strikeouts in Sunday’s game. That ineptness came on the heels of a breakout performance offensively Thursday that saw the Blue Crabs explode for 11 runs on 22 hits in one game alone, which still resulted in another loss.
Too streaky an offense has been the Blue Crabs’ Achilles’ heel basically since their inception in 2008, and this season the theme has mostly played out on the cold side with the team being next to last in the league with a sub-par .248 average entering Tuesday.
Even more concerning than the low average is the Blue Crabs lack of power throughout the season with a league-low eight homers entering Tuesday, the only club in the eight-team circuit with less than 12 long balls, while fanning 122 times — the second most in the league.
Slugger Travis Garcia’s injury woes this season, only playing in five games and being out at least through the opening week of June with a bone spur in his elbow, has only exacerbated the problem.
On top of that, the Blue Crab’s most prolific bat this season in Casey Benjamin departed last week to play for the bigger payday in Mexico.
“As the hitting coach, I’m trying to get the bats rolling,” Owens said. “I’m not doubting any of our ballplayers. The majority of the time, [our offensive issues are the result of] our approach [at the plate] what we’re thinking. It’s very rare that it’s a mechanics thing because we’ve been playing so long. It’s my job to make sure our guys are making adjustments or at least attempting adjustments.”
Osborn added, “We’re definitely in a little bit of a rut. We’re beat up, definitely in the bullpen. But we’re battling and playing hard. Hopefully this is as hard as it gets. I don’t foresee another challenge this big. We’ve just got to get through it. If there’s another challenge this big [the rest of the season], it would surprise me.”
The offensive woes were one thing in Lancaster.
Much more surprising was how much the Blue Crabs elite arms in the starting rotation were knocked around Friday and Saturday.
Nick Green, who had been as impressive as any hurler in the league with a 1.53 ERA going into Lancaster, was tagged for seven runs — six of them earned — in five innings Friday while suffering his first bad outing and loss of the season in four appearances.
The same went for Matthew Vasquez on Saturday against Lancaster as he was unable to continue his shutdown pitching that had lead to a 2.57 ERA in his three previous outings.
Vasquez suffered his first blemish by yielding eight earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings. He had easily gone eight innings in each of his previous two appearances.
“These guys are not perfect, they’re not robots,” Osborn said of his starting pitchers. “They’re going to have bad outings, but they’re going to give us a lot more good outings. This game is about percentages.”
The Blue Crabs slipped from being the top pitching staff in the league by a wide margin midway through last week to having the second-best team ERA at 3.71, behind frontrunner Lancaster’s 3.65, entering Tuesday.
With everything going against the Blue Crabs, Osborn and Owens have lost no optimism about the team making a run at division title in this first half.
“You definitely want to win the first half,” the Blue Crabs skipper said. “It’s very early, a lot can happen. Maybe it’s a blessing that we’re going through [the struggles] now so that we’ll play better down the stretch. We’re going to be fine.”
The first half of the season ends on July 8.
“We’re going to be there when it comes down to the end of [the first half],” Owens added. “We’re not out of this first half by any means.”
Atlantic League standings
(Standings as of Monday)
Liberty Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10
Bridgeport 12 5 .706 ---- W-2 7-3
Long Island 11 5 .688 0.5 W-2 8-2
Southern Maryland 7 10 .412 5.0 L-4 2-8
Camden 7 10 .412 5.0 L-2 3-7
Freedom Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10
Lancaster 10 7 .588 ---- W-3 7-3
Somerset 9 8 .529 1.0 L-3 6-4
York 6 10 .375 3.5 W-3 4-6
Sugar Land 5 12 .294 5.0 L-2 2-8
SundayLancaster 3, Blue Crabs 2
Blue Crabs 002 000 000 0 2 5 1
Lancaster 020 000 000 1 3 8 1
WP Lo (1-0), LP Morlan (1-1)
Extra-base hits: 2B Espinosa (BC, 8), Giannotti (BC, 4), Godwin (L, 4); HR Kirkland (L, 3)
SaturdayLancaster 8, Blue Crabs 2
Blue Crabs 000 200 000 2 5 0
Lancaster 041 300 00x 8 12 1
WP Durbin (1-1), LP Vasquez (1-1)
Extra-base hits: 2B Mercado (BC, 1), Harvey (L, 4), Hernandez (L, 1); 3B Godwin (L, 2); HR Tiffee (L, 4), Hernandez (L, 1)
FridayLancaster 9, Blue Crabs 1
Blue Crabs 000 000 100 1 6 2
Lancaster 031 004 10x 9 13 1
WP Halama (2-1), LP Green (1-1)
Extra-base hits: 2B Giannotti (BC, 3), Merchan 2 (L, 5), Lentini (L, 7), Frostad 2 (L, 2); HR Tiffee (L, 3)
ThursdayBridgeport 15, Blue Crabs 11 (11 inn.)
Bridgeport 002 070 002 04 15 18 0
Blue Crabs 010 001 081 00 11 22 2
WP Lewis (2-0), LP Dumesnil (0-1)
Extra-base hits: 2B Gathright (B, 3), Redman (B, 4), DeLome 2 (B, 4), Figueroa (BC, 5), Hu (BC, 8), Espinosa (BC, 7), Lopez (BC, 4); 3B Peterson (B, 1), Padgett (BC, 1), Giannotti (BC, 2); HR DeLome (B, 2), Rodriguez (B, 1), Daniel (BC, 1), Padgett (BC, 1)