- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Blue Crabs fall twice to Somerset as first-half nearing end
By DALLAS COGLEStaff writer
Feast or famine.That’s been the state of affairs for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs offense recently, as the bats have struggled with consistency and in turn the team has struggled to find the win column.
Going into Thursday’s action that finished too late for inclusion into this edition, the Blue Crabs had averaged nine runs per game in their previous three wins dating back to June 11. But during that same stretch time, they managed just nine combined runs in six losses — getting shut out twice while only mustering one run on two other occasions.
Then there was Wednesday, when both the feast-or-famine nature of the Blue Crabs sticks revealed itself in the course of the same game versus visiting Somerset at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium.
The floodgates opened early on for the Blue Crabs as they plated five runs through the first two innings on six hits and four walks, chasing Somerset starting pitcher Doug Arguello by the end of both frames.
The Blue Crabs’ lead quickly vanished as they were held scoreless the rest of the way on just four hits, while Somerset countered with a half-dozen unanswered runs to pull out a 6-5 comeback win.
It was the Blue Crabs second straight loss and sixth in their last eight games.
Former Blue Crabs all-star shortstop Yunesky Sanchez supplied Somerset’s game-winning hit by smashing a two-out, two-run home run way over the left-field picnic pavilions.
Sanchez was the Atlantic League’s top hitter, boasting a robust .403 average with the Blue Crabs, when he was signed last July by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and assigned to Double-A Altoona (Pa.).
“It’s been somewhat frustrating. We just haven’t gone on one of those streaks yet this year,” third baseman Matt Padgett said after Wednesday’s costly loss, magnified by the Blue Crabs being unable to gain any ground on Liberty Division-leading Long Island, which also fell on the same night. “There’s no doubt this is a tough loss, having a [5-0] lead. But we’ve got to play all nine [innings]. It’s a cliché, but we really do. For sure with two outs, we didn’t get some of the guys [on base] in that we would’ve like to.”
The Blue Crabs (25-27) thus remained five games behind Long Island (30-22) while tied with Camden entering Thursday’s series finale with Somerset. Just 18 games were all that remained in the first half of the season going into Thursday. The first-half division winner clinches a playoff berth.
Padgett had hits in 13 of the Blue Crabs’ 18 games in June through Wednesday
“I still have confidence we could still make a run here at the end of the first half,” he said. “We have the pitching and defense, and we have the guys that can swing it too. So I’m very positive about the first half. I have no doubt that we can put a run together.”
Storming back from a 5-0 hole to claim Wednesday’s contest won the series for Somerset after it downed the Blue Crabs on Tuesday, 7-1, to start the three-game set.
Somerset blew open a 1-all game in the series opener with two runs in the fifth and four more in the seventh, plating six of them against usually stingy Blue Crabs starter Dan Reichert. He lost his third straight decision to fall to 3-3 on the season while sustaining his second consecutive subpar start.
Getting two runs of offensive support through his last three outings of 19 2/3 innings has not helped Reichert’s cause.
“It’s a frustrating loss,” Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn said about Wednesday’s outcome when it looked at the beginning that his team was about to bounce back from another poor offensive display 24 hours earlier, registering only four hits along with the one run. “To come out and score five runs early and then they held us scoreless the rest of the game even though we had some chances, it’s tough. It’s a tough one. I thought the bullpen pitched well [in four innings] for the most part. [Reliever Eduardo Morlan] made one mistake with a slider to Yunesky and he hit it. Tip your cap to him. [Sanchez] is a [heck] of a hitter.”
Down 5-0 Wednesday, Somerset quickly climbed back into the contest with a three-run third, which could have been limited to a pair of scores if not for an error by Padgett.
Somerset scratched out another run in the fifth to set the table for Sanchez’s deciding blow, keeping Blue Crabs starter Deinys Suarez (3-2) from winning his fourth straight decision after tossing five innings.
Half of the four runs Suarez allowed were unearned. He still totes the league’s third-best ERA at 2.68.
Up, then down at the plate
The Blue Crabs offense was going well early on with a pair of opening-inning clutch RBI hits with two down in the form of a Brian Barton double and a Padgett single for a 3-0 cushion. Jesse Gutierrez’s RBI groundout drove in the Blue Crabs’ first run.
In the second, Chin-Lung Hu scored again for the Blue Crabs when he and Casey Benjamin were doubled in by Gutierrez with one away.
Benjamin, Gutierrez, Padgett and Paco Figueroa each had two hits for the Blue Crabs.
But the Blue Crabs left runners in scoring position in six of the first seven innings, stranding 11 for the game, as they consistently failed to record the big hit as the game wore along.
“I was talking about that with my father,” Osborn said Wednesday about his bats’ knack of being feast or famine, “and I was telling him that offensively we’ve just been so inconsistent this whole year. I’ve really felt like we haven’t gotten hot. We put up 10 hits tonight and scored five runs, so it’s just been a rollercoaster. I wish I could put my finger on it but I can’t.”
He added, “I’m just waiting for this team to get on a roll and those bats come alive for a week or week and a half and put us back to where I think we could be. But it hasn’t happened yet. I still have faith in these guys.”
The Blue Crabs’ most glaring lack of productive offense occurred in the fourth when Benjamin led off with a scorched triple to right-center field, making a run almost a certainty with the heart of the lineup following.
Gutierrez, however, grounded out to the pitcher, Barton was hit by a pitch and, with the Somerset infield playing in, Padgett grounded into a fielder’s choice at third with Benjamin getting gunned down at the plate. Christian Lopez then struck out to end the Blue Crabs threat with runners on first and second.
“We just need to be a little bit more aggressive up there at the plate and little bit more selective,” said Gutierrez, who has settled into the cleanup spot in the lineup since being signed by the Blue Crabs on June 11. “It seems right now baseball’s not giving anything to us. Tomorrow will be a new day.”
Atlantic League standings
(Standings as of Wednesday)
Liberty Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10
Long Island 30 22 .577 ---- L-1 4-6
Southern Maryland 25 27 .481 5.0 L-2 3-7
Camden 25 27 .481 5.0 W-1 5-5
Bridgeport 22 30 .423 8.0 L-3 3-7
Freedom Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10
Lancaster 32 20 .615 ---- W-3 7-3
York 27 26 .509 5.5 W-3 7-3
Somerset 26 26 .500 6.0 W-4 7-3
Sugar Land 22 31 .415 10.5 L-3 4-6
WednesdaySomerset 6, Blue Crabs 5
Somerset 003 010 200 6 9 0
Blue Crabs 320 000 000 5 10 1
WP Wright (3-0), LP Morlan (1-2), Save Rupe (10)
Extra-base hits: 2B Bynum 2 (S, 13), Figueroa (BC, 11), Gutierrez (BC, 4), Barton (BC, 7); 3B Sanchez (S, 1), Benjamin (BC, 3); HR Sanchez (S, 2)
TuesdaySomerset 7, Blue Crabs 1
Somerset 010 020 400 7 12 1
Blue Crabs 010 000 000 1 4 1
WP Phillips (7-2), LP Reichert (3-3)
Extra-base hits: 2B Bynum (S, 11), Mathews (S, 9)