For the first time in a long time, the Ottawa Titans’ win percentage dropped below .600, thanks to a series loss to the Washington Wild Things in front of the Ottawa fans. The Titans, despite being 3-7 in their past 10 games, still occupy the second spot in the East Division, but the gap to first place Quebec continues to grow, and the gap to third place Sussex County continues to shrink.
Nearly every night, the Titans have been close, putting runners on base in the ninth inning, but more often than not in the past month, they have come up just short, leaving them in big need of a turnaround. Earlier in the season, they were winning the close games, but now, they are coming up inches short, showing that the difference sometimes isn’t all that much.
“In football, the difference between 3-8 and 8-3 is razor thin,” said Titans’ manager Bobby Brown. “If we take care of the baseball there in the ninth inning, it’s a one-run game instead of a three-run game, and the pressure on the other club is a lot different. We had some opportunities to drive in some runs, and we didn’t execute offensively, and that’s what you have to do against a first-place club.”
The Titans’ undoing in the series against the Wild Things was their team defence. On Thursday night, they committed three errors on defence, but that doesn’t account for all of the miscues. There were also a few instances of Evan Grills being unable to cover first base on time, and no one being there to back him up. It meant the Titans had to get extra outs, and a team as good as Washington is will take advantage of mistakes.
“The one that was hit sharply to first and bobbled, I’m not sure Grills would have gotten there anyways because he’s a lefty and he falls off the right side of the mound,” Brown said. “The bounder to Clay Fisher up the middle, I don’t think he and Jackie Urbaez communicated. That cost us a run. It’s just little things that if you’re going to beat a good club like that, you have to do.”
“You have to do the little things, and the game we won, we did that, and the games we lost, we didn’t. I think we are right there with both of those clubs, and time will tell.”
Outside of defensive errors and not getting the clutch hit when they need it the most, the Titans’ have had other issues, and among them is an inability to get a shut-down inning when the offence does go out and score a bunch of runs. Team pitching has struggled over the past few weeks, and if pitching coach Tom Carcione can figure that out with his pitchers, it would lead to wins for Ottawa.
“That’s a big thing in winning,” Brown said. “When you score runs, can you get a shut-down inning the next inning? When you are playing a little below .500 baseball as we have for the last 30 games, you don’t get those shut-down innings. We’re just going to keep grinding it out and see where we are in the standings.”
Even with all of the things going wrong, the Titans and Wild Things played three close games. Ottawa has only won one game against first-place clubs, this season (Washington and Quebec), but they kept the games close, proving that they can compete with the big dogs in the Frontier League.
“Overall, it was a very competitive series,” Brown said. “They are a first-place club, Quebec is a first-place club and we played with both of them. If we can get rolling and get into the playoffs, it’s about the team that is hot at that time. I’m betting on us.”
The solution, Brown believes, is spending more time with individuals and getting their swings, their deliveries, and their defensive technique right.
“I think you have to focus on each individual guy,” Brown said. “We have 24 guys on the team, and I don’t think you can focus on the team aspect of it. If you have a bunch of guys that individually are getting better and making adjustments, the big things will take care of themselves.”
After their loss on Thursday, the Titans hopped right on the bus, driving 12 hours to Schaumburg, where they will take on the Boomers, for a three-game series this weekend. They will then head to Tri-City for a series with the ValleyCats, before coming home to take on the Sussex County Miners, a series that will likely be for second place. The next nine games are pivotal for the Titans’ season, but Brown wants to focus on them one game at a time.
“We going to try to win Friday night, and then we’re going to try to win the next night,” Brown said. “I don’t think you can get too far ahead of yourself when you’re playing a series, especially when you are playing a little bit under .500 for the last month.”
Subscribe to 13th Man Sports to get email notifications when we post!