By Ben Strober
Once Yarmouth-Dennis captured its final out of the regular season in Wareham, a small celebration ensued.
Y-D’s fate wasn’t determined, but still, the Red Sox poured out of the dugout with glee to take a team picture.
The entire team even insisted that 84-year-old superfan Gary Wilson come to join them for the picture, which he ecstatically did. He and all of Y-D had been scoreboard-watching most of the evening, and they could start to feel the magic.
The Red Sox did their job over the bridge, but they still needed some help from the last place Chatham Anglers. It was a forgettable season for the Anglers. However, playing for nothing but pride saw them play their best ball all season. And in the end, Chatham defeated Orleans on the road, handing Y-D its first division title since 2018.
The Red Sox nearly relinquished a 3.5-game lead with just five games to go. None of that matters anymore. Y-D has to focus its attention on getting it done six more times.
Y-D enters the playoffs as the one-seed and will host the Brewster Whitecaps – a team they dominated in the regular season. The Red Sox took five of the six they played, outsourcing the Whitecaps 41-30. Y-D’s lone loss to them was a 15-7 dud prior to the All-Star break.
Here’s some things to watch for in the series:
Much of Y-D’s success this summer is thanks to its starting pitching. The Red Sox’s 3.93 ERA finishes the regular season as the best on the Cape. The minuscule ERA comes part of a starting rotation that has led the way.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Smith Pinson and Finnegan Wall won’t be the two getting the ball for the first two games. Pinson and Wall firmly occupy the fifth and sixth spots in the league ERA leaders. Y-D eclipsed a 9-5 record when those two started.
“Man, I’m stoked,” Wall said. “It’s a dream to come out to the Cape and pitch. Being on a winning team and having a chance to pitch in the playoffs is also a dream, so I can’t wait.”
Wall gave the Red Sox exactly what they’ve needed on the mound – someone who throws strikes consistently. Wall’s 38 strikeouts triumph well above his 16 walks. Wall went 2-2 on the year, but those losses are mostly part of a lack of support from his hitters.
“I’ve just trusted my stuff,” Wall said. “The goal is the always go out there and pound the zone.”
On the other hand, Pinson might be one of the most feared right-handers in the entire league. The 6’8 hurler has a six-pitch mix, making it almost impossible for teams to gameplan. Pinson faced Brewster on July 21st, and he dominated from start to finish.
Pinson went six scoreless for the second time of the summer and held the Whitecaps to just five hits – with three of them infield singles.
It’s unclear who field manager Scott Pickler might turn to should the series stretch to a game three, but an arsenal consisting of guys like Jackson Kent, Jason Doktorczyk and Gavin Bruni provides them reassurance that they’ll be alright.
Hunter Hines’ Whitecap Domination:
Hunter Hines’ summer in Y-D has been pretty much what most expected. The lefty slugger from Mississippi State shattered the Red Sox record books, hitting a league-leading 13 homers in the regular season.
If you’re Brewster in this situation, they’ve got to be frustrated that they’ll once again have to pitch to the potential MVP candidate. 10 of Hines’ league-best 45 RBIs came against Brewster. In fact, Hines notched multi-RBI games in four of the six meetings. Hines only played in five of those games, and the Whitecaps witnessed him hit the ball out of the park in four.
Hines rocketed the Red Sox to their first win of the season with a clutch, eighth-inning, go-ahead blast back in game three. Brewster will have its hands full with Hines and the rest of Y-D’s potent offense.
Containing Davis Diaz:
RJ Austin is done for the summer on the Cape, but his Vanderbilt teammate is still here, and he’s on a heater. The last time the Red Sox faced Brewster, Diaz went off for three hits, a homer and three RBIs.
Diaz comes into the playoffs with a .284 average and headlines the list of a few other Whitecap studs, such as Will Turner and Brock Tibbits.
The upcoming series provides Pickler a chance at some revenge over this Whitecaps team that sent Y-D packing last summer. Brewster walked away with a two-game sweep and eventually lost the league championship to Bourne.
Pickler obviously remembers it well, but so does Braden Montgomery. Montgomery drove in three on three hits in Y-D’s season-ending loss to the then-defending champions.
Montgomery’s back in Y-D, and the two-way superstar has lit up the league at the plate. In just 12 games, Montgomery notched 12 RBIs with a .340 batting average. His breakout game came in a 14-0 win over Bourne, in which he drove in five runs.
Montgomery’s .901 OPS indicates his approach is one the best on the Cape, and he’ll be a major contributor to any kind of postseason run from Y-D.
The Red Sox begin their road through the postseason tomorrow at home at 4:00 p.m.