Nitty gritty time for baseball Rams needing Ws to make playoffs as regular season winds down
May 9, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.
It is getting down to nitty gritty time for the Port Chester baseball Rams. With just three regular season games left to play, it doesn't get any nittier or grittier because the Rams have lost seven of their last eight games and are in danger of nosediving right out of any chance to make the post-season playoffs.
The stretch run isn't going to get any easier because the remaining three games include an away-and-home series after press time Wednesday (5/8) and Friday (5/10) against a very good White Plains team at 4:15 p.m.
The regular season home finale has the Rams going up against a solid North Salem team Monday (5/13) at 4:30 p.m.
Outcome in doubt
The outcome of those games could determine whether the Rams make the playoffs, winding up as either an out-bracket play-in team or as one of the lower seeds in the tournament.
At this point in time, with the team suffering a major power outage on offense, the Rams will take getting into the playoffs any way they can. Because they know if they get in, and if they play up to their capabilities, cut down on their errors, focus on quality at bats and trust themselves and those around them, their pitching Big 3 (Myles Durney, Chris Hudson and Bryan Morel) could keep them in any game.
Those are admittedly very big ifs.
But all season long, Rams head coach Eddie Martinez has been stressing those ifs while saying his team is on a learning curve and has been getting better game by game.
The learning curve
That learning curve hasn't translated into wins despite improved play and attitude.
But unless they start hitting the curve from the league's better starting pitchers as well as their fast balls, the Rams won't be going anywhere.
If truth be told, the Rams have hit well against the "meatballs" tossed up by lesser pitchers from Blind Brook, Ramapo and Pelham. But their bats have looked more like spaghetti against the better teams such as Roy C. Ketcham, Carmel and John Jay/East Fishkill. Those limp bats have become almost linguini-like against teams a notch below such as New Rochelle, Clarkstown North and Ossining.
And no matter how much you may like Italian food, the above menu—spaghetti, meatballs, linguini—indicates the Rams had better start hitting before it is too late to enjoy any kind of post-season antipasto followed by all the usual red saucy trimmings.
Bats go cold
The latest Ram losses in their last four games to Fox Lane (twice), Arlington and Valhalla are cases in point, leaving local Ram aficionados wondering why the bats have gone ice cold.
In their away game against Fox Lane last Tuesday (4/30), for example, the Rams made more errors (four) than hits (three, two by pitcher Myles Durney and one by Chris Hudson) and wound up on the wrong end of an 8-3 score. Durney really had just one rough inning, allowing eight runs on eight hits, but when a team isn't hitting, one rough inning is all it takes. Especially when the errors undermine a strong effort.
It was pretty much the same thing in the return home match last Thursday (5/2) with Hudson losing 6-0 while allowing just one earned run on six hits even as the Rams made five costly errors behind him. Again, Hudson had just one rough inning. But that was enough because Rams catcher Joe Rinello provided Port Chester’s only real offense by going two for three.
Arlington, Valhalla losses
Jack Mutino took the 10-5 home loss against Arlington last Saturday (5/4), allowing five runs on six hits in three innings with Bryan (Bree-own) Morel and Dan (Danny Carp) Carpinello coming on strong in relief, Carp closing with three shutout innings. Corey Heckel, Anthony (AJ) Marini, Rabel Badia, Durney and Hudson had base hits and Joe (Joe Rye) Rinello had two, but that wasn't enough to get the job done.
In their latest game, a 3-1 away loss to Valhalla Monday (5/6) the Rams once again had more errors (four) than hits (three coming from Marini, Hudson and Rinello). Morel pitched a gem scattering eight hits, striking out four batters and allowing two walks while giving up just one earned run. Usually that would be more than good enough to win. But not this time around.
Throughout the losing slide, Martinez has been urging his Rams to stay positive, play with a playoff mindset, lock in on quality at bats, get dirty on both sides of the ball (sliding on steals on offense and going the extra mile on defense, so much so that Martinez has established a point system to acknowledge how well his fielders have positioned themselves to be set to make key defensive stops).
The mind game
Martinez, a former Connecticut high school star who made the All-Region collegiate team for Concordia during his junior and senior years, and assistant coach Robert (Bobby Thal) Thalheimer, an ex-Ram slugger who played college ball for Iona, have been working hard to keep the Rams positive while trying to work their way out of their collective hitting slump.
As can happen all too often, when a team stops hitting, that affects its mindset and contributes to defensive letdowns as well. No matter how good the pitching is, and the Rams Big 3 of Durney, Hudson and Morel are very good, the Rams are stumbling towards the finish line as a no hit, no field, no consistency kind of slumping team. And that is a formula for no wins.
But that is a formula Martinez and Bobby Thal refuse to accept. They keep repeating that old baseball Mets mantra: "You gotta believe."
Juggling life, baseball
Martinez has been juggling his lineup, switching Heckel and Luke Masi in and out of the one-two leadoff slots, moving Hudson into the cleanup spot ahead of Durney, inserting Badia into the lineup along with Nick Dorazio, Mike Kessler, Jason Hinz and Joey Pascale. So far nothing has been working. And Martinez and Bobby Thal can't do the hitting for their Rams.
Martinez keeps urging his team to stay positive and keep things in perspective because they are due, actually long overdue, to start hitting. And through it all, Martinez has remained upbeat, never letting on to his team that his young daughter has been going through a series of MRIs that leave him and his wife worried even as they keep hoping, praying that things get better. And they are.
Hopefully things will also get better for the Rams.
"No matter what the score, no matter what is happening, keep grinding with quality at bats, quality fielding and quality pitching and good things will happen" is the gospel the gravelly-voiced Martinez continually preaches to his team with a conviction that has helped him lead his semi-pro New Rochelle Robins to within one run of a national championship while tying for the league title last year with Martinez starring as a player-coach.
But those good things better start happening soon because the Rams are running out of time.