MELBOURNE extended its lead at the top of the ABL standings with a resounding win in its top-of-the-table series against Canberra.
Elsewhere, Adelaide recorded its second series win in Perth to climb to third and Sydney stayed in second after earning a home split against Brisbane.
Here are six things we learned from round four of the ABL season:
1. PITCHING WON THE WEEKEND: Canberra’s hot, hot bats had a freezing cold weekend against Melbourne’s league best pitching unit. The Cavs were restricted to five runs across four games in the top-of-the-table series at Melbourne Ballpark, going 19-for-116 (.164). Canberra’s five run tally was the fourth lowest return during a four-game series in team history. Across the league 91 runs were scored on the weekend – the lowest of any round this season (99 runs were scored on opening weekend).
2. BEWARE THE BITE: A series win over Perth may not carry the status it once did but Adelaide did what it had to out west. The 3-1 series win was the Bite’s second in Perth (after breaking the curse last season) and third against the Heat all-time. Adelaide’s bats are getting hot and it has become evident there is plenty of power in its lineup. The Bite have homered in eight of their past 10 and recorded 30 extra-base hits in that stretch. Adelaide is one win better off than it was at the same stage last season (albeit a shorter season this time round) but flying under the radar as Melbourne continues to build hype.
3. AND ON THE TOPIC OF THAT HYPE, START TO BELIEVE IT: Not many teams are going to beat Melbourne if they can’t score on them. The Aces’ pitching for the second straight week choked the life out of an opponent. Melbourne gave up just five runs across four games in its top-of-the-table clash against Canberra, after Brisbane scored 11 on its home turf against the Aces. Melbourne has allowed an average of two runs per game at Melbourne Ballpark this season. The Aces look like a championship winning side and can build a bigger buffer over the rest of the competition when they host second placed Sydney this weekend.
4. SOX TICK BOX: Sydney negotiated its eight-game homestand against Perth and reigning champions Brisbane successfully, winning five of eight to sit second behind only the Aces. The Blue Sox pitching helped out a modestly producing offence which was actually outscored by one run across the past two weekends. At 8-4 at Blacktown, Sydney now gets a chance to prove itself on the road against Melbourne. A series split or win would put the Sox in a strong position to return to the playoffs a the halfway point of the season.
5. BANDITS IN A SLUMP: After a hot 4-1 start to the season, Brisbane is in a slump. The Bandits are 3-7 in their past 10 and possess a league-worst ERA of 6.04 during that time. They have been outscored 53-40, have the lowest on base percentage and have given up 13 home runs. Brisbane faces a crucial stretch with a home-and-home against Adelaide either side of the Christmas break. It provides a chance for one team to pull clear in the playoff race.
6. THE HEAT ARE GONE: Perth will need something special to return to the postseason. At 5-11 after 16 games the Heat’s hopes are slim. Just one side has been at 5-11 (or worse) after 16 games and qualified for the postseason. That was Sydney in 2011 – when the season was five games longer AND an additional team qualified for the playoffs. The Sox won 12 of their next 14 to get back in the playoff race before finishing 20-25 and qualifying on a tiebreak ahead of Brisbane and Canberra. Sorry Perth fans, but it seems unlikely.
What did you learn from week four of the ABL season? Comment below!
Follow David Penrose on Twitter at @David_Penrose