BRISTOL - Not all victories have to be pretty, but the Bristol Blues found a way to win in their first home game of the season against the Pittsfield Suns Saturday.
On a night where neither their pitching nor hitting was particularly sharp, the Blues avoided splitting their series with the Suns by a narrow margin as they came back to beat Pittsfield 5-4.
The eighth inning proved to be the most important for the Blues, which saw them not only take their second lead of the night since the first frame, but also the final lead change of the game.
Dylan Reynolds drove in the winning run on a bases-loaded ground out to first base to bring home Richard Brierton.
But Bristol was able to manufacture the base runners that led to the Brierton score. The Blues put two runners on early with Alex Loparco and Brierton leading off the inning with a walk and a hit by pitch. Conor Nolan then loaded the bases with a bunt single down the third base line.
Bristol catcher Alex Baumann drew another walk next to bring in Loparco to tie the score, setting Reynolds up to bring home the deciding run.
The Blues pitching, meanwhile, combined to allow 10 walks, six hits and struck out 12 batters.
Having burned through pitchers Justin Rouse and Kyle Haag by the seventh inning, Bristol called upon Brierton to suppress the Suns. Rouse and Haag combined to allow seven walks in the game.
After the right-hander walked his first batter, Brierton struck out five of the next six he faced. Brierton’s pitching was everything the Blues needed trailing 4-2 at the time and finished with two scoreless innings, while walking two.
“Richard was our next available option,” Bristol manager Ronnie Palmer said. “We figured we’d bring him in and keep us where we were at and he did. We knew he had good stuff.”
In the top of the ninth, the Blues opted to bring in closer Neil McDermott.
After putting away the first two batters he faced, McDermott walked Taylor Meilleur to bring the winning run to the plate. But Meilleur was replaced at first by pitch runner Nolan Cloutier, who was thrown out attempting to steal second by Baumann to end the game and notch the save for McDermott.
Undoubtedly, the amount of walks allowed by the Blues was out of the ordinary for the young team. Starting pitcher Justin Rouse particularly struggled with his control, only lasting three innings and giving up three runs. Haag also went three, surrendering a run of his own.
“He just didn’t have his command tonight,” Palmer said of Rouse. “His stuff’s electric and he’s gonna compete for us. I think the next start will be better than this start.”
Today’s doubleheader against the North Shore Navigators brings up the dilemma of whether or not the team’s pitching staff is ready, especially after the 11 walks issued.
“That was uncharacteristic of us comparable to the first two games we played,” Palmer said. “We didn’t pitch ahead at all tonight. We have a game plan for our two starters, and we still have four guys in the bullpen we can use.”