BRISTOL - With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Bristol Blues have virtually clinched a playoff spot, with six of the league’s seven teams making the postseason, but would like to finish as one of the top two teams to get a bye through the single-elimination opening round.
During their final postseason push, they will spend a lot of time in hostile territory.
Bristol has 11 games left on its regular season schedule and just four of those games will be played at Muzzy field. There is also the question of Sunday’s rainout against the Nashua Silver Knights, which was set to be a home game for the Blues, but is currently listed as “cancelled.”
“We’re working on it,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said of scheduling a makeup date for the game. “It’s just a matter of when, where, what time and when we can fit it in the schedule. But I know [general manager Brian Rooney] is working on it.”
Of the team’s four remaining home games, three take place this week - on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Yet road games may prove to be to Bristol’s advantage down the stretch, as the Blues are 14-6 on the road this season entering last night’s game, the best road record in the Futures League.
“I think, for the guys, it’s less distractive to play on the road,” Palmer said. “We have a pretty sound routine and plan where we hop on the bus, we show up to the field, get our stuff on and take BP. There’s just more structure when we’re on the road. I think that’s part of it.”
But despite the team’s success on the road, Palmer is still focused on the big picture - keeping his players fresh and healthy down the stretch.
“A big concern of mine is that the players don’t get too tired or worn out, especially with all of the bus trips,” the manager said.
The Blues have struggled at home so far this season, just 10-12 in games played at Muzzy Field. But Palmer thinks just looking at the record doesn’t tell the full story.
“A lot of our home games were during a point when I think we played our worst baseball of the summer,” Palmer said. “I think our guys have done a good job at home. We’ve lost a lot of close ballgames. Hopefully down the stretch we can play well, so we can have some playoff games in front of our home crowd at Muzzy. We’ve had some good crowds lately and the boys have played well in front of them.”
The Blues are heading into their last leg of the season playing well. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games and have turned the corner after some midseason struggles.
“As of late, the guys seem to be a little bit fresher coming to the park,” Palmer said. “They’re more excited. Maybe it’s because they see the end of the season and the playoffs are right around the corner. The guys have just brought the right attitude. They’ve brought the right intent to play the game and that has carried over into some wins.”
Entering last night’s action, Bristol was in third place in the Futures League, 4½ games behind Martha’s Vineyard and three games behind Worcester.
But Palmer isn’t worried about seeding or playoff matchups. His focus is solely on his ballclub.
“Obviously we would love to finish first or second to avoid an elimination game,” Palmer said. “But at the end of the day we just have to worry about out own business and give ourselves the opportunity to play in the playoffs. We’ve put ourselves in a good position so far. We just have to focus on maintaining our status.”
Tyler Roaix can be reched at firstname.lastname@example.org