#1 Somerville Alibrandis vs. #2 Al Thomas Baseball Club Athletics:
Two teams remain standing with a shot at this year’s YBL crown. Top-seeded Somerville is playing for the thumb on their golden knuckles, winners of the last 4 YBL championships. Second-ranked ATBC, winners of their 3rd straight regular-season conference title, rides in on the highest of high notes, their last action being a series-winning walk-off home run in Braintree. (Series opens on Friday, August 22nd at 8:00 @ Trum Field)
* How they got here: Somerville rolls in on a 16-game winning streak, the last 6 being first- and second-round sweeps over the Black Sox and Knights. Al Thomas joins the festivities after a pair of grueling 5-game series wins over the Dodgers and Rockies (see: aforementioned walk-off HR). Advantage: Full of confidence, rest and swagger, Somerville couldn’t be more ready to go.
* Wings: Somerville boasts the top pitching staff in the league, yet again. 3 guys mainlining red bull and pumping in the 90′s (Foundas, McKenzie, Mahoney), Cy Young candidate Jon “GimmeSome” Morse still yet to lose in 2014, Yukon Cornelius waiting in the wings, Tanguy closing doors on teams like a bouncer closes doors on guys wearing jorts (Sully), and “Deli” Del Prete waiting to eat up some playoff innings like an Italian BMT with banana peppers. Al Thomas has a solid rotation of their own, featuring their Cy Young candidate in “Slim Shady” Archibald who has only given up 4 hits in 19 playoff innings thus far (4-0 with 1 save). Bobby Freeman, Mike “Cruella” DeMille and the recently ‘wifed-up’ Bill Clang round out the rotation, then “Junkyard” Gaughan and Trevor Derochea should be the primary wings out of the bullpen. They might not be as stacked here as their opponents, but the A’s have already thrown 2 no-hitters in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. Actually, they should just stick with that gameplan. Advantage: Throwing cheese and giving up only 3 runs so far in the postseason….Somerville all day.
* Bats: No surprise if we see a lot of offense, with the league’s top-2 hitting teams facing off. Somerville brings the perennial assault with Sir Thaddeus Dziuba leading the way in the tourney after another season worthy of MVP consideration. Former MVP “MoneyMaggs” Maguire has somehow been quiet yet also noisy in the playoffs, not hitting at his usual level but chipping in at crucial moments along the way. Bobby Barrett spanked in the winning run in game 1, and the tying run in game 2. Stan “The 40-Year Old Rookie” DeMartinis has been a solid DH all year after being called up on short notice. AnthonyMason PerryMason and “The Solution” Salines could’ve been called ring-chasers, but Perry brought a .305 avg and Salines led the YBL in runs in the regular season. As previously mentioned, Al Thomas (whose roster holds 32 former league MVPs) has the toughest “fruit” of the order with Freddi “Arriba” Carerra, James “KatsyRakes” Katsiroubas and Steve “Silence of the” Lambert (combined .417 avg in round 2). All 3 are blasting their team forward, and if they are dialed in, balls will be headed away from the plate twice as fast as they were heading in. The “3-Headed Matt” of Jacobs, Lavasseur and Rodriguez have provided even more offense so that no part of the order is safe. And the likely “Comeback Player of the Year” Award may go to Chris McDonough, who has been a big bat for the A’s after destroying his arm (and a month of my sleep cycle) in the 2012 Fenway Game…..this is also the end of the YBL road for McDonough, as he departs for the left coast after the season. Advantage: We all know both squads have the wood, but the Athletics have been getting much more out of theirs so far.
* On the Bases: Both teams are smart and fast on the dirt. The Athletics have a 13:1 steal ratio in 2 rounds led by Tom Trull (2) and Carerra (6), while Somerville is at 4:0. Advantage: ATBC takes the edge here, but it’s not by much. While the A’s have stolen at will in their first 10 games, Dziuba threw out 4 of the 5 attempted thieveries in the 2nd round against the speedy Knights.
* Players to Watch: Both teams are loaded with studs everywhere. The “fruit” of the Al Thomas order is on fire, and much will be expected. John Kostas had 32 ABs in the regular season, but has been calling his own number in the playoffs with 24 ABs to this point….and he’s answered his call with a couple big extra-base hits and 4 rbi. For the Alibrandis, Marc Adessa has been their Iron Man at all 38 games, and plans to get on base at the bottom and take some trips around the bags. However, all eyes in this series may fall on the Old Guard of Somerville’s lineup. Sal “Padonkadonk” Mendonca highlighted round 1 with a game-saving catch in game 2 against Brighton. Justin Cristafulli has battled an elbow injury all year….simply to get to this moment, and will be a huge bat off the bench to rip skidmark-inducing line drives into the 3rd-base dugout. Lastly, is this the end of an era? Marc “Doc” DesRoches may be suiting up for his last YBL championship series, and the legend may hang ‘em up after a career that I can’t even begin to summarize…you know, since he joined the league before the internet. There is nothing I can write here to do justice for the player who has been the ‘Face of the YBL’. Look for a slow clap at some point, and join in. Advantage: Somerville should have copious amounts of nostalgia and tiger balm in their dugout.
* Intangibles: Which team will get the most spiritual support? Somerville always has a following, but the Athletics have been rolling deep in the playoffs, including 7 YBL HoF’ers in attendance at game 5 against Revere. Advantage: Anyone smart enough to wheel a Sabrett’s cart by the ballpark at game time.
* Edibles: Somerville has spent the last 4 days loading up on Pini’s pies and pitchers from the Tavern. The ATBC hasn’t had the luxury of a long break, so they are still jacked up from inordinate amounts of fresh fruit and kale smoothies. Advantage: Trans fats vs. wholesome nutrients…..ATBC gets a tasty edge here.
* Series Prediction: #1 v #2. A prediction is merely a prediction. For the first time in a while, the more potent offense (at least for the moment) will not be wearing the red and white…..and camo. The best pitching team in the league going up against the best hitting team in the league. In no way can you count out the Athletics, as they have shown that they can mash no matter who is throwing……but…….
The Red Army makes it 5 titles in a row, winning in six games.