London Majors ‘have to be ready’ for playoff grind

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There won’t be much of a break for the London Majors heading into the Intercounty Baseball League playoffs.

The Majors played a meaningless IBL game Monday night in Brantford, their final game of the regular season. If you count an extra-inning suspended game that was picked up from the ninth on Friday, Monday was the Majors’ fifth game in four days.

The Majors finished third in the IBL and will play the sixth-place Burlington Herd in a best-of-seven series. After getting Tuesday off, the teams will open the series Wednesday at Labatt Park before alternating home field on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. By then, the Majors will have played nine games in 10 days.

“That’s a big league schedule right there,” Majors manager Roop Chanderdat said.

The heavy schedule puts a strain on a lineup, especially a pitching staff. It was onerous on the Majors since they lost their No. 2 start Murilo Gouvea in early July when he signed with a Can Am League team in Quebec.

That loss, paired with several injuries and player personnel issues, made it the toughest stretch for the Majors, who had lost eight in a row (excluding a forfeit win over Guelph) but were 5-1 in their last six before Monday’s game.

Chanderdat doesn’t seem worried about the compact schedule.

“They give you 11 days to finish seven games,” Chanderdat said. “I wanted to start Friday and have a little break but (Burlington) couldn’t get the park so we’re starting on Wednesday. Being the farthest west, team travel always causes a little bit of havoc because guys work and so forth. Travel will be a bit of a factor. But it’s playoffs so you have to be ready for it.”

Chanderdat has regular starters Luis Sanchez and Cory Hammond ready to go in the first two games. Friday it looks like Brett Sabourin will be the arm on the mound. In recent years he’s been an infielder for the Majors but he has plenty of pitching experience. He’s starting filling in when Gouvea left the Majors. Sabourin has pitched 16.2 innings for the Majors this year and is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA.

“All it means is that everyone has to step up,” Chanderdat said. “Brett used to be a dominant pitcher in the league. He pitched (against Toronto Sunday) and only gave up one run in three innings and got the win. He had another good outing. I just wanted to get him some work in before the playoffs.

“He knows the hitters. He’s a veteran guy. He knows how to pitch. For what he’s lost in velocity he makes up for in smarts.”

The Majors are also getting healthy. Catcher Mike Ambrose caught Sunday and appears to have recovered from a head injury. Chanderdat says everyone will be ready to go.

“We’ve been playing this way (with a patchwork lineup) for about half the season,” Chanderdat said. “We’ve been resilient that way. A lot of guys have gotten opportunities to play. It’s worked out. We’ve had a good stretch to finish up. We’ve played some good ball at the end.”

Chanderdat says his club is back on track with this team.

“This team at the start of the year was a different team and we’ve had some hiccups,” he said. “The squad we have right now, we’re on track with this squad. We’re going to scrap out wins.

The Herd finished the season 13-23 and was swept by the Majors 5-0 but Chanderdat believes that doesn’t truly reflect how close the series will be.

“This is not your classic 3-6 matchup,” Chanderdat said. “We’re a lot closer in the standings with our recent team. They are a good hitting. It’s going to be a good series.

“It’s a seven-game series but it really is a short series. You don’t want to get down. We worked hard to get home-field advantage. Everyone likes to play at Labatt Park including the visitors.”

— — —

IBL playoffs

Majors vs. Herd

Game 1: Wednesday at London, 7:05 p.m.

Game 2: Thursday at Burlington, 7:15 p.m.

Game 3: Friday at London, 7:35 p.m.

Game 4: Sunday at Burlington, 5:30 p.m.

Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 8 at London, 7:05 p.m. (if nec.)

Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 10 at Burlington, 7:15 p.m. (if nec.)

Game 7: Friday, Aug.11 at London, 7:35 p.m. (if nec.)

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