Braves encounter Wednesday woes in Yarmouth, fall to Sox 6-2

The Braves fell 6-2 to the Red Sox on Wednesday after struggles on the mound, in the field and in the box proved to be too much to overcome.

Braves encounter Wednesday woes in Yarmouth, fall to Sox 6-2

By Mac Friday

(Photo: Braden Reed/Bourne Braves)

With two on and two out in the top of the eighth, the Bourne Braves had a golden opportunity. The best hitter in the CCBL, Bourne shortstop Matt Shaw had just slotted an RBI single up the middle to cut the Y-D lead to four, and with a home run in the prior inning, Brito was the man to close the gap.

Despite a strong at-bat by the Bourne slugger, Brito was retired on strikes, curbing Bourne’s comeback efforts on an unfortunate day at Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth, as the Braves fell 6-2.

“I missed that opportunity with runners on there at the end,” Brito said. “That’s mostly how we lose games, we just don’t capitalize on the chances that we create and it always comes back to hurt us.”

Trailing 1-0 heading into the third after an early attack by the Red Sox, the Braves Wednesday woes began in the top of the third after back-to-back singles by right fielder Josh Moylan and third baseman Mac Horvath, as well as a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by catcher Tomas Frick forced the first two Bravos to second and third, respectively.

As second baseman Bryce Eblin stepped in, Moylan took a generous lead and paid for it, as catcher Fernando Gonzales rifled a ball up to third base, resulting in the ECU product being tagged out.

Braves manager Scott Landers went out to have a word with third base umpire Alan Libardoni, who made the call. After a 20-second exchange, Landers turned back to the dugout and made one final remark over his shoulder. The Braves skipper had received two warnings on the season and in his 28th game at the helm, was tossed by Libardoni for his extra comment. First base umpire Jeffrey Kinney wouldn’t even let a rightfully upset Landers, who kept the interaction PG and civil, get back to Libardoni to have a conversation.

As Landers grabbed his backpack and headed for the parking lot, assistant coach and 12-year MLB veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia took the top step of the bench, filling in for Landers as interim skipper.

“I texted Scott and asked him who was supposed to be the manager, and he replied with, ‘You got it!’,” Saltalamacchia said. “When he hired me he told me that I was to be a bench coach and to be next to him looking out for things and helping him out because as a manager, you need guys around you to help pay attention to all the different things going on.”

With Saltalamacchia at the helm, the Braves trudged on, hoping to ride a solid outing by right-handed starter Bryce Cunningham into the promised land against the best team in the East. Instead, the Vanderbilt product had an up-and-down day on the bump, not providing his best stuff after back-to-back six innings starts with just a single run and hit allowed.

On Wednesday, Cunningham allowed two runs across on four hits with four walks and a trio of strikeouts. Y-D center fielder Cole Carrigg accounted for two of those walks and maneuvered his way around the basepaths both times to score the first two runs for the Red Sox.

Wednesday marked Cunningham’s second start where he’s allowed more than a single run, both coming in visits to Red Wilson Field.

“I mostly missed arm-side today with my fastball, I just couldn’t get it in, plus a tight strike zone never helps,” Cunningham said. “I’m not one to complain about it though, I just have to get ahead on hitters and get ahead in strikes and win some counts next time out, that’s it.”

“It was mostly a location thing today,” Saltalamacchia said. “With Bryce, he just lost a little bit of his command. He couldn’t get off the strikes he wanted. You can’t have lead-off walks, or two-out walks as well.”

In the fifth, one of the Braves’ steadiest relievers across the season, righty Cameron Bye, filled in to keep the contest close. Instead, he struggled with command too, walking the bases loaded before a searing ground ball off the bat of right fielder Braden Montgomery was missed by Horvath, allowing two runners to score. Another error in the sixth was converted for a run on a sacrifice fly, and the Red Sox tacked on one more in the seventh off of Bye.

The Braves committed two errors on the day, but in reality, it should’ve been three as a dropped ball in right by Moylan in the first was ruled a hit. The woes on defense and on the mound managed to carry over to the Braves’ offense, too.

The Braves stranded four runners on Wednesday, the vast majority of them in scoring position. Red-hot hitters over the last week like Eblin, designated hitter Wyatt Henseler and center fielder Carson Jones all went quiet with no hits on the afternoon. Shaw, Brito, left fielder Evan Sleight, Horvath and a late pinch-hit single for Carson Roccaforte was the full extent of the Bourne offense.

“We had an opportunity to take advantage of what their pitcher was throwing, we knew he had a lot of breaking balls and the hitters have to recognize that early and commit to it,” Saltalamacchia said. “We have to be ready to go if we are going to commit to the breaking ball, you can’t be caught in the middle. We were caught in the middle and made some dumb mistakes on the bases. Some errors cost us a few runs. We want to wipe this game away.”

The highlight of the day was a 101-mph, 389-foot home run to left field by Brito, his third home run of the season.

“I was hunting the fastball all day, and I finally got it,” Brito reflected. “When I saw it, my eyes lit up.”

Despite a late surge by the Bravos, it would be their mistakes that spelled their downfall on Wednesday, halting a three-game win streak. With a plethora of experience in the big leagues, Saltalamacchia expanded on the grind of the season and how important it is not to falter at this stage, something he hopes the Braves avoid after Wednesday’s loss.

“These guys are in grind time,” the interim skipper added. “It’s a long season on the Cape and it’s a little bit warmer out here. It’s getting to that point where these guys need to lock in and focus a little bit more.”

The Braves return home to Doran Park for a matchup with the Chatham Anglers on Thursday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.