Quality pitching but the inability to score runs has been the achillies heel of the Fort McMurray Giants this season.
The Giants (11-21) were held to just two runs and nine hits as they lost back to back games to the visiting Swift Current 57s Tuesday and Wednesday at Shell Place.
The 57s who sit tied for first place in the Eastern Division with the Regina Red Sox picked up 5-0 and 4-2 victories during their first ever trip to northern Alberta.
“When you’re not scoring runs you kind of have to play perfect baseball defensively and pitching and that’s a lot to ask,” said Giants Manager Pat Riley. “This game’s an imperfect game and a lot can go wrong and you just can’t play the game like that. You have to be good at all phases or exceptional in certain phases and we’re not there right now.”
Swift Current (21-11) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 3rd inning Tuesday night after roughing up Giants starter Samuel Hersh in the inning. But from that point on, Hersh settled down and kept his team in the ball game, pitching seven innings of work.
The Giants were even able to keep the most dangerous team on the base paths in the Western Major Baseball League under control. Entering play, the 57s had a league high 96 stolen bases but weren’t able to muster one off the duo of Hersh and catcher Richard Ortiz who even threw out stolen base leader Riley Campbell (27) for the first time this season.
“I was very happy with that, Sam Hersh did a great job mixing up his timing like we talked about pre-game and Richard Ortiz did that, he threw out the base runner and did a nice job on the back pick at first base earlier in the game. They beat us with the sticks and pitching and they’ve been beating a lot of teams on the base paths but they didn’t beat us like that tonight,” said Riley.
The Giants threatened in the bottom of the 9th inning as Jordan Stickler recorded his third bunt single of the ball game which was followed by a bunt single from Tyler Friis but again it was the inability to get a timely hit to cash in a runner.
“You’ve just got to step up and deliver in situations like that. We didn’t capitalize and it has been our kryptonite of our season, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, we need to do a lot better job and these guys know that,” said Riley.
Dustin Wells pitched a complete game for the 57s as the Giants were shutout for the first time this season 5-0.
“We couldn’t get anything going off of him, he kept us off balance. He pretty much dominated us with two pitches; fastball, change-up,” said Riley.
Wednesday night it would be the Giants taking an early lead when Garrett Takamatsu and Josh Snider got aboard with two outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Catcher Evan Willow stepped up to the plate and crushed a pitch into the gap in left centre that allowed both runners to come in and score to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
The game would stay that way until the 7th inning when Giants starter Trevor Bauer got himself in some trouble and for the first time in the game, wasn’t able to get himself out of the jam. Blake Adams hit a two run single to tie the game and the next batter Kyle MacDonald hit a sacrifice fly to give the 57s the 3-2 lead.
“Overall he did a really nice job for us, this was his first start of the season and he competed really well,” said Riley on Bauer’s performance. Bauer was making his 12th appearance on the mound but the first as a starter. He went six and one-third allowing three runs on 11 hits while striking out four.
The 57s would get some insurance in the top of the 9th when Brett Esau hammered a ball over the left field wall for his fifth homerun of the year.
“Offensively if we’re struggling to put together two runs a game, you’re not going to win a lot of ball game’s like that. That’s just not reality so we need to get more runs on the board there,” said Riley.
The Giants will wrap up their six game homestand this weekend when they welcome the Brooks Bombers to town for a four game set beginning Friday at 7:35 p.m. Saturday the two teams will play a double header at 2:05 p.m. and 7:35 p.m. before wrapping up the weekend Sunday afternoon at 2:05 p.m.
“We’re in a lot of games and we’re not finding ways to win them but we’re still not out of this and we have an opportunity to make a push and we have all the opportunities ahead of us and the guys just have to cease those moments.”