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Quest Flemington Round 7 Preview
Aces host Cavalry in pivotal showdown
01/03/2018 6:24 PM ET

The Aces return to Melbourne for the penultimate homestand of the regular season. The pressure continues to mount as Melbourne continue to push for a second-consecutive postseason berth. The task will be no easier as the Cavalry come to town in Round 7. Here's a look at this week's Quest Flemington Series Preview.


In Round 6


Melbourne began the second-half the same way they ended the first-half with a four-game series against the Blue Sox. Unlike Round 5, the Aces earned a draw in round 6 by taking the two middle games and maintaining their one-game lead over Sydney for the fourth and final playoff spot. Mark Hamburger's Jekyll-and-Hyde season continued as he pitched five scoreless innings in the series opener before allowing six runs in the sixth inning en route to his third loss of the year. Virgil Vasquez made his first start of the year but was mostly ineffective in the series finale as he failed to reach beyond the fourth inning. This series continued to spotlight the Aces' pitching woes as this team scurries to find replacements for Kona Takahashi and Shunta Nakatsuka, who returned to Seibu after the Christmas break.


The good news from Round 6 is the welcome addition of true outfield Michael Crouse, who seamlessly fit into the lineup with a 6-for-16 effort. Crouse spent seven seasons playing in the states and reached Double-A New Hampshire in 2014. Braves outfielding prospect Tyler Neslony also had a terrific series with his six-RBI, .316 showing against Sydney.


The real story belongs to Allan de San Miguel who cashed in a ho-hum 7-for-17 effort in Round 6 (.412 average). More importantly, de San Miguel became the first player in the history of the ABL to appear in 300 career games. Throughout his illustrious career, the Perth native has secured four ABL titles and has more hits and homeruns than any other player in the history of the league. Unsurprisingly, the ranks second on the Aces among qualified hitters with a .309 average.


Last We Met


Canberra outclassed Melbourne back in early December when the Cavalry took three of four at MIT Ballpark. Pitching was the issue then and pitching will be the issue now if the Aces want to avoid a similar fate this time around. Melbourne pitchers surrendered 34 runs in Round 6, which doesn't scream confidence heading into a showdown against the league's second-best hitting team.


Pitching Edge: Canberra


The Aces are a team out of form and are even shorter on pitching after the break. With the departures of Takahashi and Nakatsuka, more pressure will be thrust upon the shoulders of Hamburger, Josh Tols, Matt Marksberry and Christian Meister. Of all pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings, Tols has the lowest ERA at 3.56. Hopefully, the arms who struggled in the first-half can finish the regular-season on a positive note.


The Cavalry boast the second-best team ERA at 5.56 and have three starters with sub 3.75 ERAs. Frank Gailey and Lake Bachar hold the top spots in the league with a 1.38 and 2.18 ERA respectively. Brian Grening has pitched the second-most innings of any pitcher in the ABL behind Hamburger. The only major concern about the Cavalry is that they have issued the second-most walks while recording the second-fewest strikeouts. If Melbourne can deliver when they have runners in scoring position, they may be able to earn a series win.


Hitting Edge: Canberra


The Cavalry are hitting over 20 points higher than the Aces, have scored nearly 50 more runs, and have 21 more extra-base hits. Canberra has three players who rank in the top 15 in hitting, including Jay Baum who leads the league with .446 average. Melbourne only has two with Tyler Nelsony (.345) and Allan de San Miguel at .309. The good news for Aces fans is the 31-run output they produced last weekend, and if they can carry that momentum back home it could set up slugfest at Melbourne Ballpark.


Players To Watch For


SS Darryl George (MEL) had a monster series against the Blue Sox going 10-for-19 (.526) with two doubles and three RBIs-all from the leadoff position. He led all hitters in Round 6 with at least 15 Abs.


LHP Frank Gailey (CAN) has allowed a total of four earned runs all season and is the frontrunner for the Pitcher of the Year. Gailey is doing this season what Mark Hamburger was doing last season.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.