NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain Bees remained in the Liberty Division race into the final two weeks of the season before the All-Star break, but a mass departure of contributors coupled with the stacked competition within the division left the Bees on the outside looking in once again.
As the Bees take the All-Star break to regroup and gear up for another push at the franchise’s elusive first playoff berth, the team isn’t obsessing over what went wrong after a 10-game winning streak jolted them back into the race. Instead, they have their eyes fixated on what went right during that furious streak of victories, and will look to replicate that success into a more prolonged stretch through the final months of the regular season.
“We got rolling in the first half,” catcher Logan Moore said of the Bees’ win streak that was immediately followed by a slump that put them out of first half contention. “We have to find a way to always have that energy. When you’re winning, it’s hard to have a bad day, no matter how you’re playing. If we can keep that energy whenever we win a couple games that will be huge.”
The roster looks a bit different than it did when the Bees rattled off what at the time was the longest active winning streak in professional baseball, as valuable infielder Taylor Motter and top-of-the-rotation starter Christian Friedrich both had their contracts purchased, and middle infielder Alexi Amarista returned home to be with his family. Still, manager Mauro Gozzo believes the pieces are there to make a more sustained run at the playoffs.
“I think we have a great core of guys here,” Gozzo said. “We need certain pieces in the field, and we need to strengthen our pitching a little bit. We’ve been hurt by the injury bug a little bit. We need to get them recovered and get our bullpen going again.”
Injuries certainly haven’t helped. Starter Cory Riordan has been out with an injury, and coupled with the loss of Friedrich, who had a 3.00 ERA, the rotation is a shell of what it was earlier in the year. Losing Amarista, the team’s home run leader before he left, also dealt a blow to an offense that also said goodbye to Motter, who had just begun to find his stride after being picked up in early May.
“Those are three pretty big guns,” Gozzo said. “They were a big part of what we were doing in the first half.”
The Bees were more equipped to deal with the losses on offense, as the team still has top hitters Alejandro De Aza and Jonathan Galvez to lead a lineup that finished the first half with the third-best offense in the Atlantic League in terms of OPS (.760). Losing Friedrich, however, to affiliated ball and Riordan to injury crippled a pitching staff that was the third-worst in the league based on ERA (4.70). Friedrich won’t be back, but the Bees can take this All-Star break to rest the wounded and prepare for a strong start to the second half, a commodity they didn’t enjoy to start the first half of the season.
“I think having a break will help,” Moore said. “That helps to have for everyone during the season.”
The first half crown is the more coveted playoff spot, as it allows teams to rest players through the second half of the season and be primed for a healthy championship push. The Bees won’t have that luxury, but whether it’s through a second-half title or a wild card spot, they aren’t counting themselves out in the second half, regardless of how the first half ended.
“It’s tough, but we just need to make adjustments,” Galvez said. “We know we’re a good team, and we have to show it in the second half.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org