(GAME DATE — Sep. 18, 2020) — The Boston Brawlers have shaken a monkey off their backs and ended 29-year streak by clinching their first division title since 1991. They stand alone atop the LL East with a 91-61 record, a full 11 games ahead of the New York Dragons with just ten games left on the schedule.
Boston front office and fans are said to be ecstatic. Their last playoff appearances have come only after the team managed to secure wild card entries, with a total of six appearances since 2009.
This year, they will be guaranteed one of the top two seedings in the postseason, and have a chance at winning their first Lake League pennant since the inaugural 1991 season. In that year, they faced off against the Chicago Knights (now Pit Bulls), formerly in the opposing league, for the Bull Cup championship. The Knights went on to win the Bull Cup, and Boston has been shut out of the finals ever since.
This season could be their year to reach the Bull Cup finals again, though it will be more challenging than it was in 1991. The Elimination Round will see them paired up in a best-of-five against either a strong pitching Toronto Nomads, or, should the Nomads fail to maintain their current wild card, possibly the Chicago Pit Bulls or the New York Dragons.
Chicago would be problematic for Boston, who although they lead the season series 4-2, would face one of the best hitters to ever come into the Bull League, John Rambo. The Pit Bulls are the top run producing team in the LL and boast two players with 50 or more home runs, including Rambo, and DH/left fielder Mike Strang. Their relatively poor pitching has been immensely aided by their ability to put runs up on the board and outscore opponents.
Toronto poses the opposite problem for Boston, with their ability to hold opponents to low scores. They have the lowest runs against in the LL, and boast one of the best defensive teams around. Three starters have ERA’s under 4.00, and some of their offensive pieces are finally showing some talent at the right times. Speedy leadoff man Joseph Walker has hit a personal best 12 home runs this season, and Brian Chambliss has become the team’s first player to hit more than 30 home runs since Eric Tessier had 37 in 2006.
New York may pose the best matchup for Boston to advance, but currently New York would be seeded against the Minneapolis Ravens, who have clinched the LL West but would be seeded #2 in the postseason with their current record. The Dragons have decent run production, but generally worse pitching than Toronto, and are defensively hampered.
A boost to Boston will be the return of lefty starter Lenny Brisco, who has been dogged by a sore shoulder since September 4th, and was placed on the disabled list when doctors said he needed more time to rest. He will be back before the end of the regular season, just in time for the playoff run. Boston will certainly appreciate his devastating curve and 98 mph fastball being back in the rotation. He was on an 8-game win streak when he went to the DL and will look to add to that streak on his return.
Meanwhile, Neal Moran has quietly crafted the second best ERA in the LL, at 3.13. The Boston groundballer has managed to build up a 12-6 record, and is projecting to break the 200 strikeout mark.
Offensively, the team seems ready for the postseason as well. Third baseman Zong-ming Gang has been there before, having been named LL Elimination Round MVP in 2016 when Boston defeated the Montreal Metros to move on to the LLCS, in one of their best postseason performances in recent memory. Gang is batting .317 with 15 home runs and 21 steals, and has drawn 74 walks. He is said to be itching for another chance to prove himself in the playoffs.
Designated-hitter Bruce Aberto, who has struggled with injuries this year, nonetheless stormed back to hit 17 home runs in just 77 games, a pace that bests his 20 taters in 143 games in 2019. Aberto has also demonstrated speed on the bases, picking up 25 steals in 30 attempts.
Young Lowell Woodford, a first overall draft pick from 2011, and who broke into the roster in 2017, has finally blossomed, becoming the Brawlers top power hitter with 35 home runs this year, and 121 RBIs. He was named Player of the Week last week, and has three grand slams this year.
The impressive and young Boston roster is chomping at the bit to shake the teams ghosts of the past and put in a solid performance in the postseason. The question remains: are they good enough to shake the biggest monkey of them all and win their first Bull Cup ever?