NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain Bees return home from a brief road trip to begin a three-game series with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs on Friday night, when the Bees will be hoping to erase what has been a rough first month since the All-Star break.
The Bees, well below the .500 mark in the second half of the season, welcome a Blue Crabs team hovering right around .500 and looking to claim another series in New Britain. The Bees hosted the Blue Crabs in their first home series of the season’s second half back on July 16, and Southern Maryland came away with two of the three games to win the series and send New Britain on a four-game losing skid.
For the Bees, there was a positive to be taken away from that series loss. New Britain’s pitching has been a problem since the second half of the season began. The Bees had allowed a league-worst 7.7 runs per game heading into this week, and begin their series with the Blue Crabs with a 5.24 team ERA, easily the worst in the Atlantic League. But over those three games against Southern Maryland last month, Bees pitching allowed just five total runs, though the bats went quiet and managed just two total runs in the two losses of the series.
Rainy Lara pitched in the series opener against the Blue Crabs last month and had one of his best starts of the season, allowing just two earned runs through six innings despite scattering eight hits. In game two, Cory Riordan and Akeel Morris combined to toss seven shutout innings in the first game of a doubleheader, and Devin Burke allowed just two runs through six innings of the series finale.
Burke last pitched on Sunday and was knocked around in a loss to the York Revolution, but perhaps getting the ball against a team he has had success against could help get him back on track. Morris just pitched six shutout frames against the Lancaster Barnstormers on Wednesday night and will likely be unavailable and Lara just started on Tuesday, making him possibly available for the end of the series this weekend. Still, it looks like some of the Bees arms that weren’t a factor in last month’s series will have to step up if the Bees want to put themselves in a position to take the three-game set.
New Britain’s success against the Blue Crabs on the mound sticks out as an anomaly given their performance against the rest of the league so far this past month, and that’s likely due to Southern Maryland’s shaky offense, which ranks last in the league with a .669 OPS, 44 points behind the next highest mark. The Bees have the second-highest OPS in the league (.756), but were kept in check last time against Southern Maryland.
The Blue Crabs are a middle-of-the-pack pitching staff when compared to the rest of the league, so the Bees will have to have a better offensive showing this weekend. They could turn to Logan Moore, who has struggled for parts of the season but was 5-for-10 with a home run in New Britain’s last series with Southern Maryland. Moore and the rest of the Bees lineup will have to be prepared to take on Blue Crabs pitcher Daryl Thompson, who currently leads the Atlantic League in strikeouts with 115.
Friday’s contest with Southern Maryland begins a seven-game home stretch, and the Bees will have to take advantage and begin to make up ground in the Liberty Division before they hit the road again for seven games against the Sugar Land Skeeters, one of the top teams in the league since the start of the regular season.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org