BRISTOL - The past couple of weeks have been rough going for the Bristol Blues and a large reason for that is a seeming lack of intensity throughout games.
“It’s just a mindset,” Blues manager Pat Riley said. “We’ve addressed it but we’re going to have to keep addressing it to play the full nine and try to scrap a run every inning, something like that. Just scrap some more runs across. It’s a grind and we’re going to stay after it.”
In recent games, the Blues have often gotten off to slow starts and appeared to have nothing in the tank to get back in the game. Wednesday night’s 10-2 loss to the North Shore Navigators was one of the most recent examples. After falling behind 4-0 in the third inning, the Blues were only able to match the Navigators’ scoring in the fifth and sixth and could not put a dent in the four-run deficit. North Shore eventually ran away with the game in the late innings.
Intensity from the Blues in recent games has mostly come in the contests’ final inning when they trail their opponent. In both halves of the doubleheader against the Worcester Bravehearts on July 4, the Blues’ most productive inning was the last one but they lost both. The first game ended 2-1, with the only Blues run coming in the seventh inning (the games were only seven innings). The second game finished with a score of 7-5 and the Blues scored three of their five runs in the seventh.
“Sometimes losing streaks and getting your butt whooped a little bit puts you on the right course,” Riley said. “We’re a talented team. We’ve got a lot of good things going on but it just hasn’t clicked. We’re just going to have to keep working.”
Something that tends to get a team’s intensity up is outstanding plays on defense. That is something that the Blues have been getting all season but, because games are out of reach pretty early in games, the plays and subsequent energy go to waste. In Wednesday’s game, shortstop Tyler Roberts and second baseman Zach Scott each made multiple incredible plays but they came later in the game, by which time the game was out of reach.
“[Scott] made some stellar plays,” Riley said. “He did really some pretty awesome things with the glove tonight. So did Ty Roberts. Those are big plays and it’s tough because, in a closer game, those are the things you feed off of.”
Roberts knows how important plays like that can be for a team’s momentum and he feels it. According to Roberts, he and Scott were in sync on Wednesday. But the score was too lopsided for their plays to spark a comeback in their teammates.
“I love it. The crowd’s reaction after those plays is electrifying,” Roberts said. “It gets the dugout going, it gets us players going and we just had something special going tonight.”
The Blues recently added a new player to the roster but he is not completely new. Dylan Morris was on last season’s Blues squad that reached at FCBL championship. He returns to a team that is struggling to string two wins together but, having seen the run Bristol went on last season, he could provide some insight for this year’s team.
“I think all it really takes is getting momentum early in games,” Morris said. “Getting big hits with runners in scoring position [and] making big plays like the middle infield made. Ty Roberts and Zach [Scott] were just making plays all night. It just takes effort like that from the whole team to start going on a little streak and start making a run at it.”
The Blues are definitely experiencing a slump right now but they have the potential to turn things around and save the season. They are still clinging to second place in the West Division, a few of their bats are heating up and the team defense, despite some recent hiccups, has been strong. The road has been bumpy but the team is confident it can right the ship in the second half of the season.
“Baseball is such a roller coaster sometimes,” Riley said. “I told the guys we have our best baseball ahead of us. I firmly believe that. We’ve just got to keep moving towards that.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org