We’re 12 weeks into the season and just like every week, members of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats continued on paths that they hope will end in the big leagues.
It’s June 29, 2018, here’s what’s happening on that path 400 miles to Toronto.
Friday, June 22 – Reading 5, New Hampshire 3
Saturday, June 23 – New Hampshire 5, Reading 1
Sunday, June 24 – Reading 8, New Hampshire 1
Monday, June 25 – Portland 8, New Hampshire 6
Tuesday, June 26 – New Hampshire 10, Portland 3
Wednesday, June 27 – New Hampshire 11, Portland 6
Thursday, June 28 – Postponed to Aug. 22
The big news this week (other than continuing to wait for updates on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s return eta – no official word yet there) came on Tuesday thanks to Jonathan Davis.
New Hampshire’s defacto leadoff man/centerfielder hit for the cycle, the first time any Fisher Cat has done so in the franchise’s 15-year history.
It’s not the first time he’s made Fisher Cats history. Last July, he set the franchise record for most consecutive at-bats reaching base safely (10). To be fair though, hitting for the cycle is just a tad wee bit more significant. Okay, way, way more significant.
Davis didn’t know he was the only Fisher Cat in history to record a cycle until after the game concluded. Although he couldn’t gauge whether this moment was more significant than his 2017 Arizona Fall League MVP award, it was obviously near the top of his career achievements.
“It was awesome, I didn’t think too much of it. After the first two at-bats, my teammates were like “Dang, J! You’ve got the double and the home run, you just need a triple and a single!’”, he said. “So, I just went up there and tried to take it pitch by pitch.”
He’s also leading the league in runs scored (64 as of today), with only fellow Fisher Cat Bo Bichette within 10 runs of that figure, although Davis tries not to pay too much attention to that figure.
Those runs came in large part to his presence at the top of the lineup, with Tuesday one of the few times all year, with recent addition/returning face Jon Berti taking the leadoff role duties.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. He’s been swinging it great all year, I kind of put him in the two hole to switch things up,” said Fisher Cats manager John Schneider. “He was on it, the home run he hit was one of his best swings all year.”
Other than that, the main takeaway from the homestand (other than continuing to wait for Vlad) is the Fisher Cats’ overarching seasonal narrative: generally amazing hitting and pitching swinging back and forth from superlative to horrible almost at random.
Schneider hopes that the pitching staff can feed off each other, and luckily, as one pitcher has slid, it seems like another goes on a hot streak.
The Fisher Cats have enough talent to win the Eastern League pennant, but they will need more consistency, particularly from pitchers shifting from hot to cold, like Jordan Romano, who started the year 8-0, but has dropped three of his last five starts.
“It’s not that he was sitting on his numbers, but I think he’s been a little bit complacent,” said Schneider on Tuesday. “He’s going to be a guy we we’re going to count on to be that horse along with TJ (Zeuch) and I’m expecting him to come out in his next outing and be more effective.”
Fisher Cats of the Week
Batting: Jonathan Davis – A case could be made for about half a dozen guys this week, so the cycle serves as an excellent tiebreaker. Tuesday’s contest was his second four-hit game this month and during the homestand he upped his slash line to .307/.390/.435
Starting Pitching: Jon Harris – As regular readers of this column know, Harris has become the fulcrum of New Hampshire’s pitching, a workhorse and firewall and veteran presence all wrapped in one.
Harris got the only win against Reading during the first half of the homestand, putting in 6 2/3 innings of work with just one run off six hits, striking out seven in the process.
Relief Pitching: Craig Breslow – Breslow returned from the disabled list this week and the Major League journeyman proved his big league bonafides over the homestand with no runs and only three baserunners in two innings of relief.
Around the Horn
At the end of 2017, it looked like Thomas Pannone and Ryan Borucki would head up the Fisher Cats’ rotation, or even get a joint trip to Triple-A Buffalo. Borucki did get that promotion, but Pannone faced suspension for a violation of Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy.
On Wednesday, Borucki got a trip to Toronto while Pannone returned to Manchester to start against Portland. Pannone lasted only four innings (the win eventually went to Breslow for some reason) allowed just two runs in a six-inning appearance against the defending World Series champions
The Blue Jays also traded Steve Pearce to Boston for prospect Santiago Espinal and cash. Pearce played in four games for New Hampshire last year as part of a rehab assignment.
Espinal now reports to Advanced-A Dunedin but is unlikely to break into a crowded Fisher Cats infield this season.
New Hampshire now heads to Trenton for a five-game series that is likely to serve as a preview of this fall’s Eastern League semifinals. The Fisher Cats will have to win at least one of the first two games in the series to avoid their first losing month this season.