BRISTOL - With offense hard to come by in recent games, the Bristol Blues have leaned on their pitching and the bullpen has been a rock all season.
“Our bullpen’s been strong so far,” Blues manager Pat Riley said. “We’ve kind of figured out what guys can do, what roles they’re best suited for.”
The Blues sit toward or at the bottom of the league multiple offensive categories but have been able to hover above .500 thanks to the work of their pitchers, especially their relievers.
Out of all the Blues’ pitchers, two relievers rank first and second on the team in ERA. Mike Kreiger, out of LIU Brooklyn, leads Bristol at 0.72, while Mike Munson, a pitcher at Post University during the school year, sits second at 1.08. Each have made six appearances out of the bullpen and have allowed just one earned run.
“I feel confident turning to a lot of guys in our bullpen,” Riley said.
The Blues have three relievers that have ERAs under 2.00 and a fourth that recently made the transition to a starting role. Paul Versteeg from St. Mary’s began the summer in the Bristol bullpen and earned three wins, which is tied for second in the FCBL.
Even the pitchers who have higher ERAs have been strong for the Blues. University of Hartford’s Sebastian DiMauro threw multiple innings in a game for the first time on Tuesday and got the save for the Blues in the 7-3 win over the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks in the rain.
“Even with the wet conditions, Sebastian came in [and] tossed a gem for us,” Blues outfielder Lorenzo Arcuri said. “It was awesome how strong it was.”
With offense at a premium and pitching running on all cylinders, the Blues find themselves in plenty of close games.
That means the games are decided with late scoring, making the bullpen even more important.
So far, Blues pitchers who have not recorded a start have posted a record of 3-4. The bullpen has also picked up a total of eight saves. Considering the lack of run support, both the record and the save total truly show how influential the bullpen has been.
Another strength of the Bristol bullpen has been pitching out of trouble. Tuesday, the Sharks loaded the bases against DiMauro in the top of the ninth with no outs, but he was able to get out of the inning with only two runs getting across the plate, the Bristol lead still intact and the win in the books.
“That’s what it’s about,” Riley said. “Runners are going to get on base, but if you can get out of the innings, at the end of the day, it’s about getting zeros.”
The Blues are still in the playoff hunt as the mid-point of the season nears, sitting in second place in the West Division. Prior to Friday’s action, Bristol trailed the Worcester Bravehearts by 5½ games and held a one game lead over the third-place Pittsfield Suns.
In order to have any hope of catching the red-hot Bravehearts, overtaking them and holding them off, the offense needs to pick up and match the production of the Bristol pitchers.
“It’s super important,” Kreiger said about the bullpen making up for the lack of offense, “When it comes to the offense, it’s baseball stuff and we’re going to eventually figure it out on the sticks and just day-by-day we’re going to get better.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 983-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org