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Josh Rivera home run not enough in Anglers 3-2 loss to Harwich

by Andrew Crane, 07-18-2021

Josh Rivera home run not enough in Anglers 3-2 loss to Harwich

Danny Serretti dove to his right, a last-resort extension with the Chatham infield pulled in after Harwich placed runners on second and third, but Carter Putz’s single snuck by his glove and into center field. The first two singles off Alex McFarlane had created the threat, a passed ball made it more real — the chance that the Mariners could retake a lead the Anglers just snatched back — and the third one turned it into reality.

As Brock Wilken rounded third, Jake DeLeo bobbled the ball in center field, mishandling the clean transfer and watching it bounce to the side. That allowed both Harwich runners to score without a throw. And after Tom Holliday made a defensive switch to lose the designated hitter spot, leaving McFarlane in the game to pitch and even having him work a six-pitch at-bat, the Mariners strung together three-straight singles after failing to create offense in the previous three innings against the Miami pitcher.

Once the Mariners regained the lead, they inserted a left-handed closer and he stifled the Anglers in their final at-bats. David Falco relieved Mederos and kept the Chatham deficit at one — with help from shortstop Josh Rivera’s barehanded putout, a “SportsCenter” highlight and “big-time play” according to Holliday — but what resulted was a fourth-straight loss to Harwich this season. The Anglers out-hit the Mariners, erased a first-inning deficit and retook the lead on Josh Rivera’s home run, but Harwich pooled three of its five hits together in one inning and handed Chatham in a 3-2 loss to open a four-game homestand.

“That was a big inning for them,” Holliday said. “They got the big hit. That's what you gotta want to be: You gotta be the guy that gets the big hit. You gotta be the guy that wants to make the big play on defense. And we didn't do that tonight, and we lost.”

But Rivera’s blast the previous inning, the bottom of the seventh, threatened to flip the game’s final result in favor of the Anglers. They started three-straight innings with a baserunner, though Garrett Martin ended that streak on a strikeout. Then the sound off the barrel when Josh Rivera swung — a loud, booming crack that echoed in the Veterans Field night — forced Harwich center fielder Chris Newell to turn his back instantly and threatened to change the trajectory of the inning. Newell pivoted, sprinted back toward the deepest point in the outfield and stretched his glove over the fence for a final attempt at preserving a 1-1 game in the seventh inning.

McFarlane waited in the on-deck circle, the result of a defensive substitution Tom Holliday made the inning prior that caused him to lose the designated hitter slot. Caeden Trenkle stood atop the dugout steps with his helmet on. Whether either of them strolled to the plate correlated to the result of Rivera’s swing on the 1-0 pitch. And that swing, the one where he sat on a fastball that cleared the center-field fence and gave the Anglers the lead, channeled weeks of extra repe and pregame hours spent with Mickey Tettleton in the cage into one blast, one rotation of the barrel with Rivera’s hands lowered and following a downward plane.

“I thought I got a good barrel on it,” Rivera said. “I saw the height of the ball and I didn't know whether it was gonna go out or not, but I was definitely hoping for it.”

It gave Chatham little breathing room against a team it hadn’t managed a win against in three previous matches this season. The latest loss against Harwich, an 8-2 defeat less than a week ago, spiraled out of control in the final innings after the Anglers had started to claw back from a game-long deficit. The Mariners leapt out to a similar start on Sunday, this time using a Brock Wilken double down the left-field line instead of a home run to score a leadoff walk that Tanner Witt issued. He gobbled up a hanging breaking ball from Witt, spun it just fair, and Garrett Martin’s path to the ball had no effect on the outcome when Newell stole second — strolling in without a throw after Tamez couldn’t control the transfer.

But just like his last start — his first Cape League appearance — Witt settled down and held the Mariners hitless until allowing a single in the fourth inning. He struck out six batters, half of the outs he recorded, and walked two batters, another strong step toward transitioning from a reliever to starter for Texas next season like he aspires to. Holliday said postgame that Witt’s fastball wasn’t as effective as it usually is, but he didn’t panic. He still recorded outs with his other pitches, like his changeup that was “outstanding” and his curveball that was “good.”

When that paired with McFarlane’s best outing since his season-debut on June 23, it eliminated the Harwich offense’s potency. He struck out one in the fifth, all three in the sixth and another two in the seventh before the Mariners laced hit-after-hit in the seventh.

Chatham’s offense finally broke through in the fifth when Rivera led off with a single past a diving Harwich shortstop. Tamez then bunted a ball off his face, took two steps toward the dugout, and dropped to one knee as a trainer and Holliday walked over to check on him. He remained in the game, then sent a single into right field that advanced Rivera to third. That run scored during the next at-bat, when Serretti lofted a ball into shallow left field that Harwich’s fielder dove for and missed in a late attempt to catch it. After the game, Holliday said that Tamez “just got a little ding on his head” and will be “fine.”

But with the exception of that, and the home run from Rivera, the Anglers couldn’t manage any more offense. Left-handed reliever Owen Coady entered after the Mariners regained the lead, and retired Chatham in order the final two innings — including the final three via strikeouts, squashing any last hopes the Anglers had of starting another streak to open its longest, and most pivotal, homestand of the season.

“They ended up getting better hits in timely situations,” Rivera said, “and we just couldn't answer back to that.”