Matt Eureste fouled off pitch after pitch. Six of them, all with two strikes, pop-ups and choppers, one that hit so hard off his foot, he had to take a minute to walk it off. He did whatever he could to stay alive.
Phil Bickford wouldn’t budge. He kept pumping strikes, his velocity maybe down a tick, but his competitive streak still running hot. He wouldn’t throw a ball and he wouldn’t give him a pitch to hit. He struck Eureste out swinging on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
For the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and the Falmouth Commodores, it was that kind of series.
Falmouth did all it could. You thought, just as you did when Eureste kept battling the league’s top prospect, that the Commodores would be the ones to slow the Red Sox down.
Y-D never blinked.
The Red Sox swept the Cape Cod Baseball League championship series two games to none with a 10-4 victory on Friday afternoon at Red Wilson Field. The championship capped a remarkable season – and playoff run – for the Red Sox, who were 5-11 two weeks into the season before catching fire, sustaining it, and riding some of the best playoff pitching the league has seen in years to the top prize.
Many thought this was finally Falmouth’s year, maybe because they wanted it to be. The #WinItForTrundy movement has been embraced by two sets of Commodore teams now and – this year especially – by plenty of fans.
But it wasn’t just that. Falmouth looked like the best team in the league when it swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs, and its veteran team seemed poised for its finishing touch.
It never happened. In those moments that decide baseball games – where you blink or you don’t – the Red Sox simply stared right on through time and again. And when given an inch, they took a mile.
Thursday, they fought to beat a pitcher who struck them out 12 times, scoring all their runs with two outs. Their own pitcher dominated a powerful lineup. Friday, the Red Sox fell behind 2-0 and 4-2, but they answered the first deficit and loudly demolished the second.
The first sign that Y-D would own the big moments came in the fourth inning. Falmouth had just gone ahead 2-0, busting a crack into what was shaping up as another pitcher’s duel. Armed with the lead, Commodore starter Kevin McCanna was well on his way to an eight or nine-pitch scoreless inning. He had two outs and an 0-2 count on Josh Lester.
Lester fouled a pitch off, then took a ball, then fouled another pitch off. Then he inside-outed a soft line drive into left field.
Four batters later – with the help of a pair of Falmouth errors – the game was tied. Marcus Mastrobuoni’s infield hit scored one run, and the other came home after an ensuing error on the throw.
Falmouth went ahead again in the sixth on an RBI double by Boomer White and an RBI single by Austin Afenir. This time, Y-D didn’t let McCanna even sniff a one-two-three inning. Rob Fonseca lined the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth into left for a base hit.
The push was on again, and as was the case throughout the series, it was hard to stop. Lester walked. Brennon Lund – into the starting lineup for the first time since Monday – knocked his third hit of the game to load the bases. Joey Armstrong delivered a sacrifice fly and Mastrobuoni came through again with a base hit to tie the game. Michael Donadio drew a bases-loaded walk to give Y-D the lead.
As soon as the runner touched home, Bickford started stirring in the Y-D bullpen. Falmouth had done some good things and yet here they were, in the one spot they didn’t want to be in – trailing, with Bickford warming.
And then it got worse. Jordan Tarsovich smashed a bases-clearing double to deep right-center. Suddenly, Y-D led 8-4.
Sure enough, Bickford headed to the mound. He’d been dominant in the playoffs and now he had an even bigger cushion to work with. He gave up an uncharacteristic four hits, but no Commodore got past second.
Y-D added two runs in the eighth on a Donadio home run and an RBI single by Nico Giarratano.
In the ninth, Falmouth had a runner on first with one out and league MVP Kevin Newman at the plate. It was maybe a chance for Falmouth to own a moment, to swing things in the other direction. But Newman grounded a 1-0 pitch to third base, where Tarsovich started a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The Red Sox went wild, and deservedly so. Mastrobuoni and Walker Buehler were named Co-Playoff MVPs.
It’s their first title since 2007 and their fourth this century, more than any other team.
Their three previous championship clubs were dominant, part of the YDynasty. One of those teams won 31 games in the regular season.
This team will not go into the annals for a season like that, but they share an ending and an impressive route to it. Whether they were getting dominant pitching or chipping away at dominant pitching or playing fantastic defense, they were consistently putting the pressure on. They did it with a group that clearly had a lot of chemistry. They lost a few guys – their regular-season RBI leader is in the minor leagues now – but they mixed in some reinforcements and kept a core together. They knew their starting pitchers were a weapon, and they rode them. They shined in all the big moments.
And they never blinked.