Shaky bullpen costly in ugly Tuatara loss
The Auckland Tuatara paid a heavy price for being unable to drive in runs and having a shaky bullpen yesterday.
The Tuatara lost 9-1 in the opening clash of a four-game series against Sydney Blue Sox at McLeod Park in West Auckland.
It was arguably the most frustrating loss of the eight defeats the Tuatara have had this season as they had the bases loaded three times.
But each time they couldn’t get any runs in from being in the dream situation, while when Sydney had the same scenario, Zac Shepherd hit a grand slam.
The game ended up as a blowout with Jimmy Boyce getting the loss. It was unfortunate for him – not only did he not get any run support, but pitched well over six innings, giving up five hits and two runs.
Boyce has no wins and three losses this season, which doesn’t reflect how well the 21-year-old New Zealander has pitched.
His team hasn’t batted well when he’s pitched. In his three losses, the Tuatara have scored a total of six runs.
‘‘It happens, there are days that we throw badly and let them down, so it goes both ways,’’ Boyce said.
‘‘I didn’t feel great with my fastball today, so I was trying to locate it and make good pitches.’’
Boyce did struggle in his first game of the season, but has pitched well since then has settled in well at the Tuatara.
‘‘I feel pretty good and good about going into the next couple of games,’’ he said. ‘‘The body is getting in shape now to go that distance and it’s all about keep getting those outs.’’
But after Boyce left the game and the Tuatara delved into their bullpen, they fell apart, with Ryota Okumoto giving up three runs from 0.1 innings and Yuki Harada coughing up four runs from the rest of a horrendous seventh inning.
Pitchers were on top early, especially Alex Maestri for the Blue Sox, who struck out the first three Tuatara batters (he struck out nine over the game).
But South African Gift Ngoepe for the Blue Sox, who played for the Blue Jays in the MLB this year, hit a leadoff triple at the top of the second.
Ngoepe was driven in later in the inning by Shepherd as Sydney went into a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Tuatara had the bases loaded with no outs, but they got nothing from it, with Zach Clark and Guiyian Xu striking out, then Taylor Snyder popped the ball up to left field.
Dwayne Kemp hit a home run in the sixth to double Sydney’s total and in the bottom half of that inning Max Brown walked, Kris Richards got a hit with a ball just over the second baseman’s head and Zach Clark was walked.
So the Tuatara had the basses loaded for the second time, but again came away empty-handed.
In the seventh inning it was the Blue Sox’s turn to have the bases loaded and pitcher Harada walked in a run.
Daniel Lamb-Hunt made an error taking a ball at third base, then Harada threw a wild pitch.
Later in the inning, Shepherd hit the first grand slam against the Tuatara in the club’s short history as Sydney went up 9-0.
That was as good as game over, but there was one small positive note in the eighth inning, when former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher John Holdzkom went well in his first game for almost three years, with two strike outs.
‘‘He was awesome. It was great to see him back out on the mound,’’ Boyce said of Holdzkom.
‘‘It looked like the ball was coming out pretty good and he got a couple of strike outs, it was a good day for John.’’
In the bottom of the ninth, with the Tuatara using their development players, they did manage to get a run, although it came from an error.
The teams play twice today, starting at 12pm and 3pm, while the final game will begin at 3pm tomorrow.
Jimmy Boyce was the losing pitcher as the Tuatara were beaten by the Sydney Blue Sox.