The Green Blueberries went into the finale of our marathon run of seven games in eight days with a late opponent switch: 78 Shiffman’s team canceled because of a lack of available players, so we scheduled a last-minute rainout makeup with SFX Mezzo-Lui (the Mets). We also had a last-minute substitute on our roster, after losing several players to high school playoff preparations, injuries (more on that in a bit), and other factors, with Yates’ brother Ellis filling in as emergency right fielder and #9 hitter.
Yates took the mound for the third time in five days, and whether because the usage was getting to him or because of some bad luck on hit balls, he wasn’t quite as sparkling as his previous couple of appearances: Following a leadoff single and two stolen bases, Mets #2 hitter Gabe lofted a flyball to deep center that Jordan N immediately lost in the setting sun, getting a glove on it with a late lurching stab but not keeping it from falling to earth as the first run of the game scored. Two more stolen bases and an RBI groundout to Roan at first followed, then a single that snuck up the middle, then another groundout, then a line drive to right that shot past Ellis for a triple. An infield single and another stolen base gave the Mets a shot at a fifth run, but they were stymied as Yates picked the runner off second to at last bring the Green Blueberries to the plate.
I’d shaken up the lineup a little, both to give some bats that were starting to heat up some more plate appearances and just because nothing much else had been resulting in wins, and it paid immediate dividends, as leadoff hitter Zach pounded a line single to center that the Mets center fielder let skip past him for an error, allowing Zach to motor all the way to third. Jordan N, batting just .095 coming into the game, followed with a line single to center of his own, then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Two strikeouts and a long line drive to left by Ben M that was caught ended the inning, but at least we were on the board.
Yates almost got three quick outs to start the 2nd, with Luke snagging a line drive to third and a strikeout, but sandwiched in between was our first error of the game, a soft line drive to second that was dropped. After that, Yates lost the strike zone, walking three batters in a row and ultimately being lifted for Isaac, who induced a groundout back to the mound to hold the score at 5-1.
The home half of the 2nd opened almost identically to the 1st, as Luke and Isaac led off with line singles, then the next two batters struck out against Mets hurler Jamil’s assortment of slow, arcing pitches. But this time, the next pitch plunked Zach in the butt, loading the bases, and Jordan followed with a hard grounder to the left side that eluded the Mets shortstop for a two-run single. Yates then drove in Zach by beating out a grounder to third, advancing to second when the throw went wild; another strikeout ended the inning, with the Mets now clinging to a slim 5-4 lead.
The Mets had their hitting shoes on, however, and though Isaac whiffed two batters in the top of the third and induced another to pop up harmlessly to the mound, he gave up two runs on a pair of soft groundball hits (one dying in no-man’s land between the mound and third-base line) and a bloop that fell between Jordan N and Ellis in right-center. The G-Berries got one back in the bottom of the frame when Ben M singled, stole second, sped to third on a wild pitch, and scored on an RBI groundout by Isaac, but that was all.
In the top of the 4th, the Mets went back to teeing off on our pitching: Gabe again crushed a ball to center to lead things off, but Jordan (by now wearing Yates’ sunglasses) tracked it easily for the first out. The next batter, Efferem, took advantage of some suddenly-shaky defense to manufacture a run, reaching base on a dropped popup, stealing second, then scoring when a pickoff throw went awry and made it all the way past our center fielder. A walk and a parade of mostly-dinky hits that either squeezed between our infielders or dropped just over their heads followed, and soon enough our deficit was back up to 12-5.
With darkness approaching, we needed runs in bunches in a hurry, and we started getting them: Jordan N laced a one-out single down the left field line for his third hit of the day, Yates victimized the Mets shortstop who was playing deep by beating out a grounder, Roan squeezed a groundball through the right side, and Ben M beat out another grounder, with Roan scoring the third run of the inning when the throw to first went wild and out of play. After Luke was plunked by a pitch, though, the next two batters were retired, supersub Emmett going down swinging for the third out with only a minute to spare before the time limit would have prevented us from starting another inning.
With darkness really approaching now, Luke took the mound for the 5th, and made relatively quick work of the Mets, yielding a couple of groundball singles but then striking out the last two batters to complete a scoreless frame. We prepared for last licks … then watched as the base ump shouted “Line it up!”, calling the game for darkness even though a Grasshoppers game was still happily underway on field 2 a few feet away. It’s not certain that we could have gotten four runs before it really became too dark to play, but it would have been nice to try. SFX Mezzo-Lui 12, 78 deMause 8
It was another frustrating close loss — our four-game losing streak has been by scores of 12-8, 15-7, 12-7, and 12-8 — but we definitely showed some signs of improvement, with our entire lineup, even with some of our hottest hitters absent, delivering in the clutch; solid pitching performances by Yates, Isaac, and Luke (aside from the string of bases on balls when Yates was tiring, we only walked two batters on the day against five strikeouts); and mostly better fielding. One thing we’re noticing, though, is that our opponents’ hitting has definitely stepped up significantly with the move from Grasshopper to Freshman: Not only are batters making more contact, they’re making harder contact, one thing that several players mentioned in our postgame meeting is probably contributing to our fielding woes, since there’s less time to react to hit balls and more likelihood that they’ll get past you if you don’t field them cleanly. Our players also agreed that the resulting errors have been getting in their heads, causing them to field balls less with an “I got this” than with a “Don’t let me screw this up”; we’re going to try to hold some more fielding practices in what remains of the season, if only to build some muscle memory of fielding balls successfully to wipe some of the bad taste from our minds.
We have six games remaining before the postseason tournament; they are listed below. (We shouldn’t have any more makeup dates added, unless any upcoming games are rained out.) Please update the Doodle or email me with your availability ASAP, as we’re starting to get shorthanded: Ganden has a finger injury he suffered while helping win the city Ultimate Frisbee championship (congrats, Ganden!) that could knock him out the rest of the season, depending on how his test results come back; and Zach will have limited availability the rest of the year as well. Emmett and Zane (and presumably Ellis) will hopefully be able to keep filling in where needed, but it will help tremendously if everyone can let me know their schedules the rest of the way so we can avoid any forfeits.
We now get a well-deserved seven-day break before our final rematch with 78 Steckel next Wednesday at 6 pm. (I’ll be around to hold fielding practice starting at 5.) Losing four in a row is a bummer, but it’s worth noting that our hitting and pitching have been good enough to keep us in games to the end, and I definitely sensed a better mood and desire to work together to fix our mistakes last night, at least, which gives me hope for our remaining regular-season games, and our chances in the double-elimination tournament to follow. Have a great holiday weekend, and see you on Wednesday!
Remaining game schedule (all games Prospect Park field 3):
Wed 5/29 @ 6 pm vs 78 Steckel
Fri 5/31 @ 6 pm vs HN Meehan
Sat 6/1 @ 2:45 pm vs SFX Mezzo-Lui
Sat 6/1 @ 4:45 pm vs SFX Mezzo-Lui
Mon 6/3 @ 6 pm vs SFX Mezzo-Lui
Wed 6/5 @ 6 pm vs 78 Lieber