It’s April 25, 2019 and here’s what’s been happening recently for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on the path 400 Miles to Toronto.
Vs. Hartford (Home)
Thursday, April 18 – New Hampshire 5, Hartford 3
Friday, April 19 – Hartford 4, New Hampshire 3
Saturday, April 20 – Hartford 12, New Hampshire 4
Vs. Trenton (Home)
Monday, April 22 – (Postponed to Tuesday)
Tuesday, April 23 Game 1: New Hampshire 6, Trenton 4 (7 inn.)
Tuesday, April 23 Game 2: New Hampshire 8, Trenton 6 (7 inn.)
Wednesday, April 24: New Hampshire 7, Trenton 2
The Fisher Cats are above .500 for the first time this season and hanging around the top of the Eastern League’s Eastern Division standings like everybody else, save Portland.
It is still April, so there’s still plenty of season left, but with the new split-season playoff format, the games will become more important sooner than in previous years.
So, the fact that the Fisher Cats are beginning to get into a groove is certainly a welcome sight for Fisher Cats manager Mike Mordecai.
To Mordecai, the key to that recent upward trend comes from building confidence, taking risks and building on the results regardless of the outcome versus staying inside a comfort zone.
For hitters, that means not waiting for the perfect pitch and producing on various counts with whatever pitch comes their way. For hitters, it means building a rhythm on the foundation of the fastball.
“I think the pitchers have been pretty good. When we’re not doing a good job, we’re not commanding the fastball. You got to be able to pitch off your fastball and throw it over the plate” he said. “Every time we’ve gotten into trouble, it usually stems from that. There have been a few times when we’ve been fastball-happy, but I can’t fault them for that because it shows aggression. If you can keep a good fastball, you can pitch.”
That mentality has helped New Hampshire stay competitive just about every night this season. Although they’re only 10-9, there have only been two losses so far this year that couldn’t have been tied up by a swing of the bat on the game’s final pitch: the losses on Saturday and April 11 to Hartford.
“We’ve stayed in all the games we’ve played in save for maybe one, but they keep battling which is a good sign,” said Mordecai.
So far, the offense has centered around catcher Alberto Mineo, who will likely be in New Hampshire for awhile given the logjam of talented Fisher Cat alumni behind the plate in Buffalo and Toronto right now.
However, Santiago Espinal has continued to produce in his second year in Manchester following last season’s Steve Pearce trade with the Red Sox, going 20-for-66 in his first 16 games, including 10 hits over the last week. That figure was enough to earn him Eastern League Player of the Week honors, a welcome sight after New Hampshire’s offense hovered around the Mendoza Line as a team for much of early April.
On the mound, the key will be whether Patrick Murphy and Hector Perez can bounce back from early slumps, with the rest of the rotation shining so far.
Combined, Murphy and Perez are 1-4 with an ERA of 7.25. Murphy came just short of giving up as many earned runs on his start on Saturday as Yennsy Diaz has three starts so far.
Mordecai hopes to see positive changes on this front as the Fisher Cats now head out for week-long road trip against Reading and Trenton.
“We’ve seen these two teams before,” he said. “It’s just a matter of pitching and holding onto the baseball. We’ll hold tough with them.