2017/18 ABL R9 – Sydney v Canberra
20 Jan 2018 16:00 AEST
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Game 4 – 4:00pm
Sydney’s hopes of making a return to the playoffs have taken a hit with ABL runs batted in leader Chiang Chih-hsien returning to Taiwan ahead of the Chinese Professional Baseball League season.
Chiang, who has 44 RBIs in 32 games and ranks third in the league with a batting average of .391, will be a huge loss for the Blue Sox as they look to make up a one game gap on fourth-ranked Melbourne in the final fortnight of the regular season.
Sydney hosts Canberra this weekend before travelling to face bottom-placed Adelaide.
The Sox have added outfielder Willie Johnson ahead of their series with the Cavs while Trevor Foss will make his long-awaited return out of the bullpen.
Zac Shepherd looks a likely replacement at third base for Chiang with the Detroit prospect compiling impressive numbers in his season debut last weekend.
Shepherd drove in seven runs and went deep twice in Sydney’s series loss to Perth.
Max Brennen (hitting .381 in his past 10 games) and Jacob Younis (.372) must also continue to fire if the Sox are to reach the playoffs following a two-year absence.
Sydney’s biggest challenge – aside from coming up against the in-form Cavs – is winning games it should.
The Sox could easily have won an extra couple of games away to Perth last weekend.
Sydney gave a lead in the ninth before losing in extras of game one and gave up the lead in the eighth in game two.
Even in their game five victory the Sox gave up a 10-run advantage before prevailing.
Canberra also gave up a big lead in its series against Adelaide but was otherwise dominant against the hapless Bite in a four-game sweep.
But the Cavs head to Sydney without outfielder Buddy Reed, who went 10-for-21 with five homers – including three in game four – against Adelaide.
Canberra has added outfielder Taylor Jockers and infielder Lee Mills to its roster.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CAVALRY – Kyle Perkins: Perkins has gone through a tough patch recently, hitting .091 over his past ten games, but is a valuable player for Canberra. He had a rough series against Adelaide, going without a hit in 10 at-bats and getting plunked twice. But two of his three hits in the past 10 games have been bombs and he has game-breaking ability.
BLUE SOX – Zac Shepherd: With Chiang Chih-hsien’s departure, Shepherd looms as the likely replacement at third base. The Detroit prospect went 6-for-16 against Perth last weekend in his first at-bats of the season. He homered twice and drove in seven runs and will be an important piece of the puzzle as the Sox chase playoff action.
Cavalry 3-1. Canberra continues to quietly take care of business behind Brisbane and Perth. The Cavs remain a chance to finish top two and host a semi-final series in the opening weekend of the playoffs. With second-ranked Perth at first-placed Brisbane this weekend, Canberra could make inroads into the 2.5 games it sits back from the Heat. Both sides have lost guns – Chiang and Reed – but still have plenty of talent.