ABL Round Eight:  three locked away

AJ Mithen

11 January 2018

 

Here comes week eight and we can comfortably suggest that three of the four postseason spots are taken. All that’s left for Brisbane, Perth and Canberra to do is squabble over how to deal up the one, two and three spots in the standings.

 

Brisbane and Canberra were magnificent in taking away series in Sydney and Melbourne, while Perth got the result they wanted against a dogged Adelaide.

 

There was an incredible pitching matchup in Melbourne on Friday with Mark Hamburger and Brian Grening going at it for the full nine innings. Grening got through his work with just 83 pitches and Hamburger struck out an ABL record 16 batters…..then wore a 2-0 loss.

 

What makes it more unbelievable was that there were only seven hits allowed and no walks at all from either pitcher.

 

But nostalgia is for last week - This weekend we have two five game series which could prove fatal for Sydney or Melbourne’s playoff chances. Let’s see what’s in store….

 

We’re keen to get your thoughts on what will happen in Week Eight. Let us know on the Australian Baseball Alumni’s FACEBOOK page. To ridicule these previews, visit @AJMithen on twitter.

 

 

BRISBANE BANDITS versus MELBOURNE ACES (Holloway Field)

 

Game 1:      Thursday 6.30 pm AET                                              WATCH LIVE                                                                                                                            Game 2:      Friday 6.30 pm AET                                                   WATCH LIVE                                                                                                                                   Game 3:      Saturday 3.30 pm AET                                               WATCH LIVE                                                                                                                     

Game 4:      Saturday 6.30 pm AET                                               WATCH LIVE

Game 5:      Sunday 12.00 pm AET (make up game)                   WATCH LIVE                                                                                                                 

 

If pitching duel enthusiasts thought last week was fun, wait and see how Mark Hamburger’s matchup with Ryan Bollinger goes on Thursday.

 

Hamburger and Bollinger played out a doozy in round three, with Bollinger striking out 10 in eight innings but taking the loss, topped by the Aces gun’s three-hit complete game shutout.

 

They’re a tough team to follow this season, the Aces. I thought they’d beat Canberra last weekend but they couldn’t take opportunity when it presented and were soundly defeated.

 

Mitch Nilsson and Aaron Whitefield are expected back for the Bandits, just in case they needed more hitting and speed around the outfield and bases.

 

Donald Lutz is putting up ABL-career best numbers for RBI, walks and homeruns and more importantly, he looks like he’s having a bunch of fun doing it.

 

Melbourne get reliable service from the likes of Delmon Young, Allan De San Miguel and Darryl George but the team is not scoring enough runs to bail out the pitching if they have an off night.

 

I feel like I sing their praises every week, but Brisbane’s pitching staff is a cut above at the moment while Melbourne’s, although still high in the numbers, has been having some uncharacteristic struggles.

 

A five game series will stretch pitching staff and starters and if I had to trust one bullpen to go the distance, it’s Brisbane’s. It will be fascinating to see how David Nilsson and Jon Deeble shuffle their pitchers over the weekend.

 

Prediction: Bandits 4-1

 

When these teams first met this season the Aces prevailed 3-0 on a soggy few days out at Laverton.

 

But that was then - Things are a lot different now. It’s tempting to say Brisbane will return the favour, but with Melbourne you never know…

 

 

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus ADELAIDE BITE (Narrabundah)

 

Game 1:     Thursday 7.00 pm AEDST                                                                                                                                                            

Game 2:     Friday 7.00 pm AEDST                                                WATCH LIVE                                                             

Game 3:     Saturday 7.00 pm AEDST                                            WATCH LIVE                                                                                                                        Game 4:     Sunday 1.00 pm AEDST                                                                                           

 

This weekend’s ‘traditional’ four game spread sees the Bite head to the capital. Adelaide’s series against Perth was promising, taking the fight right up to the visitors for the most part.

 

Adelaide actually led in three of the four games, but again couldn’t keep their opponent at bay when it mattered.

 

Kuan-Jen Chen has certainly started with a bang, continuing his hit streak. Rodrigo Ayarza and  Tai-Shan Chiang have gradually built into the season and are hitting well, complementing Stephen Lohr’s consistent year.

 

Jordan McArdle also enjoyed himself against Perth, with two homers and eight RBI.

 

While Adelaide’s bats have turned from stone cold to lukewarm, their pitching has stayed at room temperature. The men on the mound aren’t helped in any measure by the Bite’s 32 errors, either.

 

Canberra were convincing winners away to Melbourne and showed that they are a force not to be forgotten among all the homeruns and stolen bases in the north and out west.

 

The Cavalry starting crew got the job done well. Grening’s Friday effort was spectacular, Lake Bachar was solid yet again and Steve Kent finally got the outing he’d been looking for, shutting out Melbourne for the better part of seven innings.

 

Canberra’s hitting is rolling on nicely with most of the spotlight on David Kandilas, Jay Baum and Gabriel Arias, but one player to watch is outfielder Buddy Reed.

 

Reed has a habit of getting on base and finding his way around to score. His awareness and speed has led to a few heads-up plays that not a lot of others could (or should) consider.

 

Prediction: Canberra 3-1

 

A split is good enough for the Cavs to secure a finals place, but they’ll want to keep the pressure on the second placed Perth.

 

The home team’s starting rotation should be frugal enough to take the series win.

 

 

PERTH HEAT versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Harley Davidson Ballpark)

 

Game 1:       Thursday 7.00 pm AWT                                                                                                                                   

Game 2:       Friday 7.00 pm AWT

Game 3:       Saturday 4.00 pm AWT                                

Game 4:       Saturday 7.00 pm AWT

Game 5:       Sunday 4.00 pm AWT (make up game)                   WATCH LIVE 

 

Pop quiz, hotshots. You lose your star second baseman who is hitting .427 and leading the league in RBI. What do you do - what do you do?

 

Mike Brosseau is gone for the season, flying home with a busted finger. It’s a gut punch for the team in second place, but they’ve overcome big losses already this year (Zac Law, anyone?).

 

So what’s the answer? If you’re Andy Kyle, it turns out it’s pretty simple. You switch either a former major leaguer or a red-hot young Aussie talent to second and bring in a hitter who is more than capable of keeping the bat hot.

 

Tim Kennelly is back in the line-up, hitting ‘just’ .407 and Kyle can place any of Jesse Williams, Robbie Glendinning or Luke Hughes up the middle.

 

It’s a sign of Perth’s depth that they can replace a talent like Brosseau and keep pushing for wins like they did in Adelaide.

 

As for the Blue Sox, they were comprehensively swept at home by Brisbane even though they led in two of the games, including a 4-0 first innings lead on Sunday.

 

The Sox were taken for 42 runs, only scored 12 of their own and probably the best thing to come from the weekend was Connor MacDonald’s 7-15 with four RBI and two homers. MacDonald also found himself on the mound, pitching one scoreless inning.

 

Prediction: Perth 4-1

 

I’ve been big on Sydney’s pitching, but it’s hard to stay in love at the moment. The Blue Sox used 13 pitchers against Brisbane and nine of them conceded at least one earned run.

 

Sydney’s staff have the least strikeouts, have gone for the most homeruns and are neck and neck with Adelaide for hits and runs conceded.

 

That spells big trouble against a Perth side who are a decent series win away from locking in a postseason home field advantage.