By Sam Blum
July 19, 2014
HARWICH – Mike Roberts said that the key to recent success and future success of the Kettleers lies partly in the performance of his middle relievers.
As he’s pieced together a rotation to boost an already strong back-end of the bullpen, a crop of middle relievers began to take shape.
“We’ve got good arms,” Roberts, the manager said. “We’ve just got to throw strikes.”
On Saturday, though, after a decent start from Nick Eicholtz (Alabama), the bullpen coughed up three runs on five hits and a walk in a disaster sixth inning for the Kettleers.
It proved to be the difference in a 4-1 loss for Cotuit (14-17-1) to the hands of Harwich (19-11-2).
“They were getting some bloop hits here and there,” Adam Whitt (Nevada) said, “because I was just up and over the plate too high, so they were just squeaking it over.”
Eicholtz struggled out of the gate, walking four batters in the first inning, which cost him a run. But he settled down to throw 3 2/3 of one-run ball. In the top of the sixth, Logan Taylor (Texas A&M) knocked his fourth home run of the season on a line drive over the left field wall.
But after the home run, the momentum shifted right back to the Mariners. C.J. Hinojosa (Texas) led off with a single against Sean Beckman (USC), who was making his Kettleers debut.
Then Brendan Sanger singled off Travis Duke (Texas). With runners at first and second and one out, Roberts went to Whitt.
Whitt, sporting his 0.98 ERA and a newly-cemented All-Star game status, had his worst outing of the season. He allowed a walk to Danny Zardon to load the bases, then served up three straight hits.
A 1-1 game had become 4-1 in just moments. Whitt eventually got out of a bases loaded, one-out jam.
But by then, the damage had been done.
“Whitt came in and threw strikes, threw really well,” Beckman said. “He didn’t get a couple calls that he needed.”
Roberts said that a taxed bullpen may be plaguing Cotuit. Only four times this season has a starter gone at least five innings.
“It wears you out, it really wares you out,” Roberts said of his starting rotation’s inability to go deep in games. “If you’re going to be successful in any league, certainly here, you’ve got to get five, at least, out of your starters.
Roberts said that the reason for needing a lot of bullpen is walks. They had nine of them on Saturday, including seven from the starter Eicholtz.
He said that a 4-1 loss wasn’t even a bad finish given how many free bases his team gave up.
“We know that we have a little bit of an Achilles heel, and we don’t really talk about that much,” Roberts said. “We talk about throwing strikes. We’ll keep working on it.”
UP NEXT: Cotuit hosts Orleans at Lowell Park at 5 p.m. tomorrow.