ABL Week Seven: just when you thought....
27 December 2018
Is it time to shift the favourites tag a little further south? That’s the thinking after Sydney swept the highly fancied Perth side in the west.
The Blue Sox have taken all before them this season, sitting top of the pops in the Northeast with an ABL best 17-7 record. They’re playing to bigger home crowds, have a highly effective pitching crew and nary a care in the world.
But as has been said all along we’ve heard this song before. Since the ABL rebooted, Sydney’s had the post-Christmas blues in a big way, winning 79 games and losing 94. In the last three years, they’re 19-42 when Santa heads back to the North Pole.
It’s a fantastic week of matchups to throw even more confusion over the postseason situation in the Southwest division. Adelaide need to get something from their trip to Perth, who are seething about how they got shown up by Sydney. Melbourne need to take at least three games from their Geelong neighbours to get into a top two spot.
It has been a great season and we’ve got some even bigger weeks ahead.
To the predictions. It’s a scorcher across the country this weekend so remember to cover up!
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CANBERRA CAVALRY versus AUCKLAND TUATARA (Narrabundah)
Game 1: Thursday 7.00 pm local time (Forecast weather: 37, hot & sunny)
Game 2: Friday 7.00 pm local time (38, hot & sunny)
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm local time (38, hot & sunny)
Game 4: Sunday 7.00 pm local time (35, sunny)
Canberra set their feet a little better last week with a convincing sweep of Geelong-Korea. They’ll be expecting more of the same against Auckland as the Cavalry farewell Japanese pitcher Shota Imanaga.
Imanaga had a perfect game going for six innings against Geelong-Korea before coming out of the game as scheduled. He’s a rare talent to have had in the ABL and it’s a shame he won’t be around for the full season. If you get a chance to watch him in orange before he goes, do it.
Auckland fought hard as they typically do in Mount Gambier against Adelaide but the wear and tear and roster juggling of an ABL season could be starting to take its toll. They had a good win on Sunday when their bats got hot, but the theme of their season is that it doesn’t happen enough.
The Tuatara get a pitching boost with former Major Leaguer Scott Richmond taking to the rotation. Richmond played 36 games for the Toronto Blue Jays between 2008-12.
Prediction: Canberra win
The Cavs should make the most of an Auckland side who is fighting hard but getting weary towards the end of their debut season.
PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE (Barbagallo)
Game 1: Friday 7.05 pm local time (26, cloudy)
Game 2: Saturday 7.05 pm local time (27, sunny)
Game 3: Sunday 7.05 pm local time (30, sunny)
Game 4: Monday 7.05 pm local time (33, sunny)
Perth were swept at home for the first time in eight years and they’ll look to right the ship against a visiting Adelaide.
Adelaide took the series against Auckland in Mount Gambier which not only put them over .500 but vaulted them into second place in the Southwest. Chris Adamson’s Bite have shown they’re a challenge for anyone, particularly behind the arms of Markus Solbach and Kurt Heyer.
Mikey Reynolds, Michael Gettys and young gun Mitch Edwards are hitting well and keeping the bases busy and Aaron Whitefield is hitting .326 in his last 10 games as he grows into the season too.
Just a couple of weeks ago Perth were the team to beat after a hot run , but now they’re one bad series away from being dumped into the wildcard mixer. They still head the division, but Andy Kyle’s men now stand only one game ahead of Adelaide and 1.5 ahead of Melbourne.
If the Heat can’t get a win here there’s a real chance they’ll drop to third in the Southwest, with trips to Melbourne and Canberra in their near future. That’s not good for a side a lot of people had as warm Claxton Shield favourites.
Prediction: Perth win
A rude shock like the one the Heat took last week could bring them out of their funk. Perth need to do better than their 6-6 home record but they won’t have an easy run against Adelaide, who will still be burning about letting Perth get away with a split series from 0-2 down in Round Three.
GEELONG-KOREA versus MELBOURNE ACES (Geelong Baseball Centre)
Game 1: Thursday 6.30 pm local time (34, mostly sunny)
Game 2: Friday 6.30 pm local time (33, sunny)
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm local time (26, shower or two)
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm local time (23, shower or two)
Melbourne head down the road to face a Geelong-Korea side who matched up pretty well against them in Round Three.
I say matched up well, but it was an Aces 3-1 series after Geelong-Korea kept shooting themselves in the foot whenever they had chances to take games away from Melbourne.
The Aces face their traditional pitching quandary with Seibu Lions imports Hayato Takagi and Hiromasa Saito headed home. Jon Deeble’s headaches worsen with Tyler Fallwell being shut down by the Philadelphia organisation. Saito and Falwell had only given up 12 hits from a combined 99 batters faced.
There’s going to be a lot more pressure on Melbourne’s lineup to produce runs and support their defence from here on in. Any missteps down at Waurn Ponds and life gets even tougher with Perth and Adelaide on the horizon.
Geelong-Korea’s trip to Canberra went as all of their series have so far this year - promising signs let down by really bad moments. They have a chance to make an impact on the playoff situation, but not in the way they’d hoped when they joined the ABL.
Prediction: Melbourne win… just
The Aces put in an ordinary one last week and will be desperate to atone. As for Geelong-Korea, they might well win at least a series this year, why not this one? They were close enough in Round Three, but couldn’t get things right.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Blacktown International Sportspark)
Game 1: Thursday 7.30 pm local time (29, sunny)
Game 2: Friday 7.30 pm local time (29, sunny)
Game 3: Saturday 6.30 pm local time (32, sunny)
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm local time (34, sunny)
Sydney welcome Brisbane to Blacktown Sportspark in what could be a possible ABLCS preview. The Blue Sox pushed the Bandits all the way up north in round three and this series should be just as good.
Sydney come back east full of confidence after taking all the games from their visit to Perth. That’s something that has not been done often and it certainly will have made the ABL sit up and take notice.
Brisbane had a key away series win of their own too, taking three of four in Melbourne. It’s not a season-defining weekend in Sydney as the champs have a helpful draw and should make the automatic postseason spot, but we know Brisbane prefers to test themselves against the best.
The Bandits are calling in some big guns to try to make a dent in Sydney’s 2.5 game lead, with Logan Wade and Ryan Searle returning from injuries and Wade Dutton coming back. That’s a fair bit of championship pedigree coming into the clubhouse.
Sydney have struck a perfect balance between their defence and attack and it showed as they pulled away from Perth. Against Brisbane, things will ramp up once more. It’s the perfect test to see whether the Blue Sox can maintain good form when history shows they’ve struggled to do so.
Prediction: Sydney win
I’m a Blue Sox believer now and I think they’ll get the job done. A series win could put Sydney far enough ahead to lay a claim to the Northeast division, but that’s a highly presumptuous thing for me to say…