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June 16. 2014 10:53PM

Fisher Cats searching for runs as they start homestand

MANCHESTER — If only the Fisher Cats had an offense.

Coming off two shutout losses, New Hampshire tries to generate some runs when it opens a three-game homestand today against Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate Altoona Curve at the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. All three games are 7 p.m. starts.

A 1-0 setback on Saturday followed by a 2-0 defeat on Sunday to Richmond ended New Hampshire’s streak of winning four straight series. While the Fisher Cats have won 10 of their last 15 games, their overall 28-40 record still serves as a reminder that the reason they’re 16½ games behind Eastern Division-leading Portland is because of their anemic offense.

The team ranks dead last in the 12-team Eastern League in batting average (.232), well below 11th-ranked Altoona, which is hitting .251. The Fisher Cats are last in total hits (533) and 11th in runs scored with 268.

The .232 team batting average is worst in franchise history since the program arrived in Manchester in 2004. The lowest team batting average over the last decade was .238 in 2009.

The only notable hitter in the lineup worthy of all-star status remains Ryan Schimpf, batting .271 with 15 homers and 37 RBIs. In the home run department, the next highest are Brad Glenn and Andy Burns with five apiece. The next highest RBI man is Burns with 23.

To date, in 33 of the 68 games played, New Hampshire has not scored more than three runs. They’ve won only five of those 33 games. They only have one walk-off hit, are 0-30 when trailing entering the ninth inning and are 8-19 in one-run games. They’re also 13-18 at home, a dismal stat considering the fans continue to show their support with the fourth-highest average attendance (4,179) this season. The Fisher Cats are averaging more fans than Portland.

If only New Hampshire had an offense to complement its pitching staff, which is holding its own with a respectable 3.83 team ERA. The bullpen in recent weeks has been outstanding. In his last four outings, Dustin Antolin has allowed five hits, one earned run and three walks in six innings. He has whiffed nine batters in those outings.

Randy Boone, who spent two stints this season on the disabled list, has been lights out as the closer. He has not allowed a run or walk in 10 games, registering eight saves. He has allowed just one hit in his last three games.

In his last four outings, Greg Infante has allowed one hit in four innings. He’s allowed no runs and two walks with four strikeouts. Arik Sikula has allowed one hit, no runs and one walk in three innings over his last three outings. Tyler YBarra has pitched four innings in his last three appearances. He has allowed four hits, no runs, two walks, with four whiffs. Blake McFarland has seven strikeouts in his last three appearances covering 5 2/3 innings. He’s allowed two hits, two walks and one run.

Today, P.J. Walters (1-0, 2.89 ERA) gets the start against the Curve. In his last outing against Bowie, Walters pitched well enough to win. He allowed only three runs in six innings, but got no run support. New Hampshire came back to win that game 4-3, scoring four times in the eighth inning.

jhabib@unionleader.com


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