NEW BRITAIN - For the second time in as many weeks, the New Britain Bees are heading on the road hoping a change of scenery will yield some better results, after another homestand ended with a series they would like to forget.
“We’re looking forward to get out of here and put together two good series down in Pennsylvania,” starting pitcher Kyle Simon said. “Then coming back and continuing the grind of baseball.”
After taking three of four from the Long Island Ducks to begin their most recent eight-game homestand, the Bees were confident the first half of the season had started to turn for the better.
Then came the Bridgeport Bluefish and what looked like a promising eight-game homestand in the beginning ended with three straight losses.
New Britain took Game 1 behind Berlin native Anthony Marzi’s seven-inning shutout and it looked as though the team would take back-to-back series for the first time this season.
But over the next three games, the Bees fell apart, only to make late comeback attempts and come up short each night.
In a way, it was almost like a mirror effect from their series against the Somerset Patriots in the beginning of May. In that series, New Britain got the pitching it needed, both from its starters and the bullpen, but got little production out of its offense.
Against the Bluefish it was the exact opposite. The Bees’ offense produced some of its best games of the season thus far, with 20 runs over four games.
“We know the job we’ve got to do,” New Britain hitting coach Craig Maddox said. “Throughout the lineup, when everyone in the lineup gets hits, it’s a good day.”
But the pitching, particularly the starters, struggled. After being shut out, Bridgeport scored 27 runs over the next three games, while New Britain scored 16. In total, the Bluefish managed to outhit the Bees 47-37, including 43-28 over the final three games of the series.
Jonathan Pettibone followed Marzi in the rotation, but it was after the former Phillies starter when things turned for the worse. Eric Fornataro allowed five runs in three-plus innings on the mound and normally reliable starter Kyle Simon surrendered eight runs and 12 hits over his four innings.
“You give up 10 runs a night, it’s hard to come back from,” Bees manager Stan Cliburn said. “Not even the ’27 Yankees did that.”
Simply put, New Britain has not been able to put together a string of games when both the pitching and hitting are working. Either the pitching is going smoothly and the lineup goes cold, or vice versa.
The players in the Bees clubhouse, meanwhile, are still keeping calm after the first 28 games of the season, after Friday. But at 9-19, they know they need to start winning games if they are to have a shot at the first-half playoff race.
That starts with their seven-game road trip, beginning with the Lancaster Barnstormers and finishing with the York Revolution.
“Hopefully it clicks soon,” James Skelton said. “We’re digging ourselves a big hole for the first-half playoff push, but it’s still early in the first half. We need to put together a couple of good series and we need to win one game at a time. Wins are hard to come by and it is baseball.
“Our hitting can be hot and our pitching cold, or our hitting cold and pitching hot. We do have a really good staff and we’re going to hit, it just happens to be where we’re not doing it at the same time. We went through a stretch like that last year, in both halves, where we struggled and put ourselves in a hole. Hopefully we can get on a streak.”
Cliburn, however, had a simple message for his team.
“You better strap it on because that’s a good club we’re going to face in Lancaster,” he said. “I know York’s down a bit right now like we are. They play very good down there. It’s a monster road trip, but none of it gets any easier.
“The parity in the league is strong. That’s just telling me that my guys have to get better with them and if they don’t, changes have to be made.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach