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Like so many A’s hitters on Thursday night, Alex Toral (Miami) was ahead in the count. Up 2-0, Toral saw a pitch down the middle he liked and took a big swing. He missed.
But he didn’t miss the next offering. Toral belted a low fastball over the berm in right field onto Depot Road to tie a game that had been missing offense most of the night. Chatham’s pitching had done its job. Then, its bats followed behind.
“He’s in the middle of our batting order, he has to be a threat,” Anglers manager Tom Holliday said. “He got a fastball and he hit it nine miles. He likes that down fastball.”
Yarmouth-Dennis has one of the league’s top offenses, with four hitters batting .300 or better and the second highest OPS numbers on the Cape. They’ve mashed against almost every other team and scored the third most runs in the CCBL. But when they’ve faced Chatham, the Anglers pitching has shut down the Y-D offense in every single meeting. Thursday night, Chatham (22-12-2) combined successful pitching, timely hitting and a lucky break to take down East Division foe Y-D (20-16-2), 4-3.
“(Dennis) Cook tells us we’re assassins,” starter Kolby Kubichek (Texas) said of the pitchers. “We come out, we know our job, we do our job, and we don’t try to be too fine with anything.”
The driver of Chatham’s success the entire season — its deep pitching staff — has created separation in the tightly grouped East Division. While the A’s bats have come and gone and come again, the Anglers pitching has been the reason for their success this season. Despite the shutdown pitching yet again and Toral’s home run, the Anglers still needed one more to win. After Ben Ramirez (USC) drew a leadoff walk, he advanced to second on a Toral groundout.
Holliday said before the game Chatham would need to find a way to manufacture runs. As Ramirez stole third base with two outs, the catcher’s throw bounced into left field and allowed Ramirez to get up, run home and slide in for the winning run.
“We have so much trouble here scoring early, we just have to hang around,” Holliday said. “The only way to combat that is to put zeros on the scoreboard.”
In three starts against one of the Cape League’s top offenses, Kubichek has been in control all three times. He’s now thrown 13 innings against the Red Sox, allowed four runs, but none earned.
The first time Y-D came to Veterans Field, multiple Chatham players commented on how impressive the Red Sox offense looked during batting practice before the game. Balls flew out of the park pregame, but the Red Sox didn’t muster a hit off Kubichek in four innings and scored just three runs. The Red Sox moved on, but in the six total meetings with the Anglers — the team they've chased for first in the East Division all season — Y-D has scored a total of 10 runs.
And it’s not just Kubichek. Mason Hazelwood (Kentucky) and Ty Madden (Texas) combined to allow just two runs on June 22. Cole Ayers (State College of Florida) tossed five scoreless on Wednesday. Daniel Federman (Miami) pitched seven innings of one-run ball in Chatham’s 1-1 tie with Y-D.
No matter who’s thrown for the Anglers, they’ve shut down the Red Sox consistently.
“You have to keep them off the fastball,” Kubichek said. “You could tell they had a different approach in their third time seeing me. Me and Brady (Smith) talked and we had to get them off the fastball and that’s why I worked offspeed early.”
On Thursday night, it was Kubichek, lefty Jeremy Wu-Yelland (Hawaii) and Hugh Fisher (Vanderbilt). Kubichek tossed four innings, and avoided well hit balls most of the night despite allowing three unearned runs. Wu-Yelland entered in the fifth and threw 4.2 shutout innings. His fastball overwhelmed the Red Sox lineup, as he allowed just two hits and struck out five. He kept putting up zeroes. Wu-Yelland pitched out of a jam in the seventh with two runners by striking out the final hitter with a changeup.
“He’s been so good. We’ve seen it,” Holliday said. “I think that he’s a guy learning how to control his emotions. I thought the best pitch of the night was the changeup to end the seventh, that was a great pitch.”
Fisher came in for the final out, striking out Red Sox slugger Austin Wells on three pitches to secure the Anglers victory.
Holliday knows the scenarios. Yarmouth-Dennis is behind Chatham, and with Thursday’s win, the A’s are now within two games of clinching a playoff spot. Most importantly, though, is the gap between the two teams.
Chatham created separation with Wednesday’s shutout win. Now, it’s double. With Thursday’s victory, the Anglers magic number is now two, meaning a Brewster loss and Chatham win on Friday would officially secure the A’s playoff spot with a week left in the regular season.