by Eric Adler
CHATHAM — Game one of the Cape League East Division championship series between the Chatham A’s and Y-D Red Sox had the best of what baseball can offer: a good old fashioned pitching duel and a high-drama finish that ended in walk-off fashion.
Chatham Second Baseman Kyle Seager can’t hold onto a ball hit in foul territory in the A’s 4-3 loss to Y-D Saturday afternoon. ERIC ADLER PHOTO
Unfortunately for the A’s, that game-winner came off the bat of Matt Long, whose chopped shot into right field scored Nick Romero to give Y-D a wild 4-3 win before an estimated 3,000 energized fans at sunshine soaked Red Wilson Field Saturday.
“It’s disappointing, but we hung in there, made a comeback, and the game wasn’t so much our failure as it was their success,” Chatham Field Manager John Schiffner said of the back-and-fourth battle. “From a fan’s perspective, it was a great baseball game.”
The game featured the league’s top two hitting teams, but the strong arms of Chatham’s Alex White and Y-D’s Eddie Burns kept the sluggers in check for most of the contest.
White struck out 10 through seven spectacular innings, and when he trotted off the field at the end of the seventh, with Chatham nursing a 2-1 lead, he did so to an overwhelming ovation from A’s fans who thought he was done for the day.
But with lights-out closer Bryan Shaw (seven saves) waiting in the wings, White returned in the eighth and gave up a game-tying home run to Collin Cowgill, who deposited the first pitch of the inning over the centerfield fence.
Two batters later, Grant Green drew a walk, moved over on Buster Posey’s grounder through the left side, and scored the go-ahead run on Jason Castro’s single to right.
“Alex had a low pitch count (under 100), he had just thrown eight pitches the inning before and he was hot, so we figured why not send him back out?” Schiffner said. “He felt strong, and with the exception of Cowgill’s homer, hits against him were bouncers between the infielders. It wasn’t like Alex was out of gas. Their hits just had eyes to them.”
The resilient A’s rallied in the ninth when Addison Johnson (3-for-5), who showed no ill signs of an eye infection that bothered him earlier in the day, lofted a one-out single to center. The Chatham speedster moved over two bags thanks to Kyle Seager’s hit and Alan Dykstra’s walk, then sprinted 90 feet home on Nick Cassavechia’s wild pitch to tie the game at three.
But the A’s, who left 11 men on base, including five over the final two frames, couldn’t add to their total, and it proved costly.
Romero reached base on a sacrifice bunt and Cowgill drew a walk off reliever Rob Wooten in the ninth. That set the stage for Long, whose Baltimore chop skipped off Dykstra’s glove at first and deflected into right field, giving Romero enough time to score the game-winner standing up.
“If Alan doesn’t jump for the ball and tip it [second baseman Kyle] Seager’s got it, but Alan was playing hard and wanted to make the play,” Schiffner said. “He was being aggressive and you can’t fault him for that.”
Chatham’s aggressiveness is precisely what helped them in the first inning. Johnson singled, moved over on a ground out, darted to third on a pop fly foul ball, and scored on a wild pitch by Burns, who allowed one earned run and struck out seven over seven innings.
Y-D knotted the game on Gordon Beckham’s RBI ground out in the fourth, but the A’s reclaimed the lead in the sixth. Jermaine Curtis (2-for-4) launched a leadoff triple, and after Dykstra was given a free pass to first, Tim Federowicz singled to left to put the A’s up 2-1. But Chatham, plagued by a lack of clutch hits, left both men aboard.
“If we executed better and scored some more runs I think we would’ve been alright,” Schiffner said.
Instead, the A’s headed home for game two of the best-of-three series, with their backs against the wall, their summer-long season on the line, and the realization they may have let a playoff win slip away.