BOURNE ---- The defending champions have been facing issues not unique to a Cape League team. Some guys are just arriving from the College World Series and are tired. Others are rusty, coming from teams whose playoff dreams were crushed long ago. And all are suddenly submerged into an overwhelming schedule.
“In college baseball, you don’t play seven games in six days, and that’s what we’ve had to do for two straight weeks,” field manager Harvey Shapiro said. “Plus, we’re still in that transition of trying to put a team together and it’s hurt us.”
But the Braves may have finally hit their stride. After having one of the worst records in the league, they are finally playing like a team looking to repeat. The Braves (8-6) are on their second three-game winning streak of the season, the first coming from June 22-24.
“You’re only as good as your pitching and if you have a key win then you have momentum,” Shapiro said.
The Braves have found some momentum, winning seven of 10 games. But Shapiro is worried about his starters’ depth.
“Unfortunately, the starting pitchers haven’t given us enough innings,” he said. “I think our bullpen’s been overworked and I think they’re tired right now.”
Half of Bourne’s starting pitchers have thrown less than five innings this summer. On paper, the scores do not signal S.O.S. just yet (with the largest deficit coming in a 7-2 loss against Y-D on June 19). But Shapiro is looking for more from his squad.
“It’s nice if the starters could give you five innings,” he said. “But there’s been too many games this season where we haven’t gotten that.”
Perhaps, until now.
Amid the winning streak is another streak ---- one that is nothing for most teams to brag about, but is promising for Bourne. Braves’ starters have pitched a strong six innings for two straight games. For a team looking for a silver lining from its starters, this streak will suffice.
Austin Stadler (Wake Forest) and Anthony Meo (Coastal Carolina) joined an elite group of just three starters to throw six innings following Bourne’s doubleheader sweep of Orleans on June 27. Mike Morin (North Carolina) was the first Brave to accomplish the feat the day before in a 5-3 win over Harwich.
With the College World Series finally in the books and Bourne having a two-day break from summer ball, the Braves no longer have any excuses.
“The first couple of weeks are just hit or miss,” general manager Mike Carrier said. “You hope for the best and just get through those games and hope to be on the winning side.”
Still, Shapiro is not taking the recent strength in his pitching staff for granted.
“I’m always cautious with pitchers,” he said. “They’re like library books on loan.”
At least in the Western Division, the Braves are back to a place that they were very familiar with last summer: in first. If the starters can maintain longer outings and reciprocate the help relievers have provided, they might make themselves comfortable on top.