The Eastern League All-Star break is here and the final two series before the break have not been kind to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Each of the 30 members of the Fisher Cats roster continued the path of their professional careers over those two series, a path they hope will lead to the big leagues. It’s July 9, here’s a recap of what’s happening on that path 400 miles to Toronto
Away vs Trenton
Friday, June 29 – Trenton 7, New Hampshire 6 (10 innings)
Saturday, June 30 – Trenton 6, New Hampshire 0
Sunday, July 1 – New Hampshire 4, Trenton 0
Monday, July 2 – Trenton 8, New Hampshire 6
Tuesday, July 3 – New Hampshire 4, Trenton 1
Home vs Reading
Wednesday, July 4 – Reading 5, New Hampshire 3
Thursday, July 5 – Reading 13, New Hampshire 3
Friday, July 6 – Reading 2, New Hampshire 1
Saturday, July 7 – Reading 8, New Hampshire 7
Sunday, July 8 – New Hampshire 14, Reading 2
So far this season, the Fisher Cats’ fate has rested largely on their offense, but that offense became inconsistent over the last few games before the break. New Hampshire’s final June contest marked the first time they failed to score any runs this season, with things slipping from there.
The Fisher Cats bounced back on July 1 with a shutout of their own, marking the last time New Hampshire outhit an opponent for seven days. They mustered only one win in that stretch thanks to timely home runs from Harold Ramirez and Cavan Biggio on July 3.
Despite that recent overall offensive inconsistency, exacerbated by the loss of Jonathan Davis for several days from an undisclosed injury, there were still bright spots.
Biggio and Ramirez each had two more home runs over the week following the July 3 game, while Connor Panas hit safely eight straight games against Trenton and Reading. Indeed, New Hampshire’s struggling offense might have been moot on July 2 if not for four unearned runs off a pair of errors in the seventh.
But the diminished offense and flashes of poor fielding paled in comparison a total implosion recently from the bullpen.
Every New Hampshire reliever gave up at least one run during past two series, allowing a walk-off extra-innings win to open the Trenton series and blowing leads in four of the five games against Reading.
Things got so bad for the relief corps that during the 13-3 loss on July 5, infielder Nash Knight pitched the ninth. He gave up a run too.
The Fisher Cats’ nadir came on July 7, an 8-7 loss to Reading that easily could have been a win.
New Hampshire regained the lead in the seventh and building it into a three-run lead an inning later.
With two outs in the ninth and two men on, Andrew Case entered what seemed to be a seventh save in eight opportunities this year. Instead, he immediately allowed an Austin Listi blast toward left centerfield.
Listi’s ball wedged itself atop the outfield wall padding, just a few feet short of a home run. One run scored, and Zach Green provided a three-run homer for Reading in the next at-bat, erasing New Hampshire’s lead.
However, the ‘Cats seemed poised for a stunning comeback half an inning later. A Ramirez two-out single putting the speedy Davis on third. That gave Biggio a chance to mirror Green’s heroics, a chance he took.
On the first pitch of his at-bat, Biggio lined a shot to right. Davis scored, and Fisher Cats manager John Schneider waved Ramirez home. Although it appeared Ramirez dodged Deivi Grullon’s tag at the plate, umpire Chris Scott called him out. Schneider, incensed, stormed into Scott’s face, refusing to let Scott off the field for several minutes despite an almost immediate ejection.
One day later, New Hampshire came back with a vengeance with a 14-2 win that included scoreless relief from three separate Fisher Cats and a nine-run eighth that saw 14 men come up to the plate.
That July 8 win, along with a 3-2 Trenton loss in Altoona, put New Hampshire back into first place by half a game. Fisher Cat fans will have to wait and see if that momentum holds when the squad heads to Portland on Thursday.
However, the news has not been all bleak. This week, Fisher Cat infielder Bo Bichette was named to the Major League Baseball Futures game on July 15.
The annual All-Star Weekend event assembles a collection of Minor League Baseball’s finest prospects each year, with Bichette participating as the sole current Fisher Cat member. Along with Bichette, 2017 Fisher Cat member Danny Jansen, currently with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, will also join Bichette in the game.
Bichette is also one of six Fisher Cats named to the Eastern League All-Star Game along with Davis, Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jordan Romano, and T.J. Zeuch.
However, Guerrero will sit out the All-Star Game due to the lingering effects of the leg injury he suffered in early June.
The Fisher Cats still have not released any official statement on his return date.
Fisher Cats of the Week
Batter: Harold Ramirez – While it was a difficult week overall for the Fisher Cats, Ramirez shined, collecting a hit in every game during the two series except for the June 30 shutout.
Starting Pitcher: Jordan Romano – The Fisher Cats’ defacto co-ace isn’t back to where he was at the beginning of the season, but he put in two starts during the past two series that gave his squad a chance to win the game.
Romano had a 2.91 ERA over his Trenton and Reading appearances this week, with just over twice as many strikeouts to walks.
Relief Pitcher: Nobody – This is a new precedent in this column. Therefore, we’re putting the Fisher Cat of the Week Award on pause as each member of the New Hampshire bullpen had at least one very poor appearance.
Around the Horn
There were only two changes to the Fisher Cats roster this week. Jon Harris briefly got a call up to Buffalo, making two starts against Pawtucket and Scranton-Wilkes Barre before returning on Independence Day.
This week also marked the Double-A debut of Tayler Saucedo on July 5. There, he lasted five innings, giving up six runs off nine hits to Reading.
Following the All-Star Game in Trenton on July 11, the Fisher Cats travel to Hadlock Field to face the Portland Sea Dogs in a three-game series before starting a seven-game home stand against the Trenton Thunder and Harrisburg Senators.