The Stretch Run

by Dave B. in

Cape League all-stars signed autographs last week. Now they are preparing for the final week before playoffs. Wednesday was the last day on the Cape League calendar when every team will have a day off. The CCBL All Stars visited Fenway Park where they were recognized for their accomplishment. Hopefully they enjoyed a Fenway Frank and the attention they received from the crowd and the Red Sox organization. Hopefully they did not leave Fenway thinking that is how the game is played in the majors as the Red Sox made four errors in a 9-2 loss, getting swept in the three game series in the process.

Now the Cape League heads into the stretch run. The regular season ends a week from today. Here is a look at Thursday's games with the probable pitchers in parenthesis:

Falmouth (Chris Gloor) @ Bourne (Nick McCully): Falmouth has been playing well, going 8-2 in their last ten games. Surprisingly, those two losses were to last-place Wareham. The Commodores hold a 3 point lead over second place Hyannis. Gloor (Quinnipiac) has pitched well this year. Although he has no decisions, he has posted a 2.23 ERA in 10 appearances. Bourne sits in fourth place with 35 pts. The Braves are going in the opposite direction, having won only 3 of their last 12. Bourne has dropped two games to Falmouth in that stretch. The last two games have been particularly painful for Bourne as they took a 4-0 lead into the ninth inning against Chatham on Monday before eventually losing 9-4 in 13 innings. Things continued to go bad on Tuesday when they gave up 4-1 and 8-4 leads before settling for an 8-8 tie in Cotuit. McCully's (Coastal Carolina) turn in the rotation may be coming at the right time to stem the tide. He is 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA.

Cotuit (TBA) @ Hyannis (Matt Ridings): This is an important game for both teams. The Mets hold a slim two point lead over the Kettleers. Following a 7 game losing streak, Hyannis has won 3 of their last 4. Cotuit has followed a 4 game losing streak with a 2-0-1 record. Cotuit plays 3 of their remaining 8 games against teams from the East so it is vitally important that they fare well in games when they go head-to-head against divisional opponents. These two teams meet again next Wednesday at Lowell Park. Hyannis will close out the regular season next Thursday when they host Falmouth.

Chatham (Sammy Solis) @ Harwich (Chris Manno): Key game on the schedule in the battle for the second playoff spot in the East. Potentially a very good pitching matchup between Solis (San Diego) and Manno (Duke), although I thought the same thing going into Tuesday's game when the A's sent Justin Marks (Louisville) up against Orleans' Matt Thomson (San Diego) and the game ended up 9-8 in Chatham's favor. Harwich is in the midst of a 5 game losing streak which has given life to Chatham's and Brewster's playoff hopes. Both teams trail the Mariners by 4 points. Harwich and Brewster have 7 games left to play while Chatham has 8 remaining. Harwich has scored 12 runs in their last 5 games. Mark Fleury (UNC) is 0 for 8 in the two games since the All Star game. Mariner pitching has given up 13 runs in the last 2 games. Chatham has won their last two games in stunning fashion. They entered the ninth inning against Bourne on Monday night down 4-0. They were scoreless in their last 27 innings to that point. After scoring two, they were down to their last strike when Even Ocheltree (Wake Forest) hit a two-run homerun to tie the game. They went on to win on the strength of a Kyle Bellows (San Jose State) grand slam in the top of the 13th inning to leave Doran Park with a win. It was more of the same at Veterans Field on Tuesday as the A's spotted Orleans a 7-1 lead before eventually handing Alex Hassan (Duke) his first loss of the year. Once again, Ocheltree, a former temp player, was one of many heroes for Chatham as his two-out single drove in two runs including the winner in the bottom of the ninth. Manno takes his 2-0 record and 2.06 ERA to the mound opposite Solis who is 3-1 with an ERA of 1.84.

Brewster (Rob Gilliam) @ Y-D (Anthony Ranaudo): Another important matchup in the East. The pitchers who are listed as "Probable" in this one are both struggling. Gilliam (UNC-Greensboro) is 1-3; 4.38 ERA while Ranaudo (LSU) comes in at 0-1; 11.17 ERA. Brewster recently broke a 5 game winless streak. The Whitecaps had a big 7-5 comeback win over Harwich on Tuesday. Y-D's chance to make the playoffs is slim. They are in last place with 31 points, 7 behind Harwich and 3 behind Chatham and Brewster.

Wareham (Matt Bashore) @ Orleans (Kyle Smith): Two teams heading in opposite directions. Orleans is on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. Wareham is on the verge of playoff elimination. The Cardinals are 17-4-2 in July. Wareham recently had a 5 game winning streak but the Gatemen have followed that up with 3 straight losses to all but ensure they will not make the playoffs. They trail second place Hyannis by 9 points and only have 7 games left to play. It wil be interesting to see how Orleans closes out the regular season. Will Nate Freiman (Duke) and Angelo Songco (Loyola Marymount) provide enough offense to offset the loss of Cole Figueroa and Rich Poythress? Will Hassan be over-worked? He threw 33 pitches on Monday before absorbing the loss in Tuesday's game. The obvious advantage of clinching a playoff spot this early is that manager Kelly Nicholson can rest some players and set up his pitching.