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PREVIEW: Brisbane @ Sydney
01/02/2018 10:53 PM ET

Sydney continues its eight-game homestand with a tough test against ABL leaders Brisbane in round seven.

The Blue Sox only managed a split at home to Melbourne in round six, failing to capitalise on its road series victory over the Aces a fortnight earlier and jump into the top four.

Instead, Sydney sits a game back from fourth-ranked Melbourne and two back from third-placed Canberra with four rounds of the season remaining.

The Blue Sox face a Bandits team that swept them at Holloway Field earlier in the campaign.

They do so with reinforcements, as third baseman Zac Shepherd and left-handed pitcher Garrett Hughes join the roster.

Shepherd has played more than 100 ABL games but struggled last season, hitting .143 in 20 appearances.

Sydney will be without Gavin Fingleson, Kyle Glogoski and catcher John Collins for the series, leaving catching responsibilities to development player Mitchell Edwards and veteran Trent D'Antonio.

The Blue Sox will be hoping to make the most of their chances.

Sydney has left 167 runners on base this season, ranked third in the ABL.

Brisbane on the other hand has left the fewest (130) runners stranded.

It is the missed opportunities that could haunt the Sox at the end of the season.

Against the Bandits' league-leading pitching staff, any chance Sydney gets it must take.

The Sox will also need a lift from their pitchers, who posted a league-worst 6.92 ERA during a horror December.

Last-placed Adelaide showed Brisbane is beatable during round six and the Bandits head to Blacktown with a poor record at the venue.

Sydney has won nine of the past 11 meetings at the ballpark.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BANDITS - Wade Dutton: The 31-year-old hit seventh for Brisbane in its series against Adelaide in round six, testament to the Bandits' depth. On the season Dutton is hitting .328 with five home runs and 19 RBI. He is 7-for-13 against left-handed pitchers on the season.

BLUE SOX - Zac Shepherd: Shepherd joins the Blue Sox for the first time this season after hitting .189 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs across two teams during the Minor League season. Shepherd has played 111 ABL games with Sydney and is a .222 career hitter.

 

OUR PREDICTION

Split 2-2. Brisbane has a poor recent record at Blacktown and Sydney is in desperate need of wins. It sets the stage for a great series. The Sox have struggled for pitching recently and missed Trevor Foss, but as Adelaide showed last weekend a couple of strong starts is all you need to lift the rest of a team. Anything less than a split will hurt Sydney's chances, especially if Melbourne claim a series win over Canberra.

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

GAME 1: Ryan Bollinger (2-1, 2.20 ERA) at Chang-Sung Ko (1-1, 4.11 ERA)

GAME 2: Travis Blackley (3-1, 3.34) at Luke Wilkins (2-3, 6.20)

GAME 3: Tim Atherton (2-0, 3.29) at Todd Grattan (0-1, 5.52)

GAME 4: Chen Hung-Wen (1-1, 5.54) at Clayton Freimuth (3-0, 6.23)

 

SERIES SCHEDULE

GAME 1: Thursday, 7.30pm AEDT - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 2: Friday, 7.30pm AEDT - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 3: Saturday, 7.30pm AEDT - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee

GAME 4: Sunday, 1.00pm AEDT - watch live on ABLtv powered by Bing Lee



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