Storm Chasers Repeat As PCL Champions

September 15, 2014

There is a new dynasty in the Pacific Coast League.

Omaha won its second straight PCL title on Sunday afternoon, when starter Aaron Brooks pitched a complete game two-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over Reno. Omaha won the best-of-five series, three games to two.

It’s not just two straight for Omaha. The Storm Chasers also won the PCL championship in 2011, giving them three PCL titles in the last four years.

I think we can safely say that Omaha has surpassed Sacramento as the top dynasty in the league right now. Sacramento won the Pacific-North 11 times in 13 seasons from 2000 to 2012, taking four PCL titles during that time. But Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in two straight seasons.

Omaha won its first two championships under longtime manager Mike Jirschele, who he was bumped up to the big league coaching staff this season. New manager Brian Poldberg didn’t skip a beat, winning a league championship in his first season as a Triple-A manager.

Brooks was named Most Valuable Player of the series, winning a pair of starts while allowing just two runs in 16 innings. He retired 20 straight batters during his championship-clinching shutout.

Omaha is not done yet. They have one game remaining, the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday night in Charlotte, NC.

It will pit Omaha against the International League champion Pawtucket Red Sox in the one-game cross-league battle.

The game feels kind of like an exhibition after the intensity of the league finals, although of course the players are trying to win it. Omaha will be trying to win it for the second year in a row.

Tuesday’s game will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network, with George Grande and Jim Kaat on the call. First pitch is set for 4:00 (Pacific).

The Mariners had a disappointing weekend, dropping games on Saturday and Sunday to Oakland after winning the series opener on Friday night.

The series loss to Oakland – the current leader for AL Wild Card #1 – at least provides some clarity in terms of who the Mariners are chasing. While it is still possible for Seattle to pass Oakland, it is much more reasonable for Seattle to surpass Kansas City and take the AL Wild Card #2 spot.

So it looks like we are anti-Royals for the final two weeks of the season.

Links:

Tuesday’s Triple-A National Championship Game is the final minor league game of 2014. We’ll start looking toward 2015 soon!


We Have A Game Five

September 14, 2014

The Pacific Coast League Championship Series comes down to a fifth and final game today, at noon in Omaha.

Omaha stayed alive and forced the final game by crushing Reno on Saturday afternoon, 11-2. Infielder Brian Bocock – not known for his power – hit two homers, had three hits, and drove in three runs.

Reno starter Charles Brewer lasted just three innings, three other Omaha players homered, it was 8-1 after four innings and the rout was on.

The series is tied 2-2, and it all comes down to Game Five today at 12:05 (Pacific). Both teams have good starters ready to go: Reno starts RHP Mike Bolsinger (8-3, 3.93) against Omaha RHP Aaron Brooks (12-3, 3.88).

You can listen to the game online by clicking here. For a gameday screen, go here.

Links:

  • The Omaha newspaper has a thorough story on last night’s game.
  • The winner of today’s game win the PCL Championship, but will still have one game left: the Triple-A National Championship Game against Pawtucket on Tuesday in Charlotte. The PawSox won the International League title (“the Governor’s Cup”) by downing Durham on Saturday.
  • The Mariners lost a toughie last night to Oakland, and now the series finale today looms as the latest Most Important Game Of The Year.
  • John McGrath’s MLB rankings give you a nice snapshot of what’s going on in the majors right now.
  • Larry Stone writes that Lloyd McClendon would be a good choice to win AL Manager of the Year.

Reno Grabs The Lead

September 13, 2014

The Reno Aces took pivotal Game Three of the PCL Championship Series on Friday night, coming away with a 2-1 victory at Omaha on Friday night.

Reno now leads the best-of-five series, two games to one. The Aces get two shots to win one game and their second PCL title.

Last night’s star was Reno left-hander Andrew Chafin, who delivered six scoreless innings of four-hit ball. Chafin has pitched 15 scoreless innings during the playoffs.

Reno scored its runs when Roger Kieschnick connected for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

Game Four is today at 12:05 (Pacific).

Links:

If there is a Game Five, it will be at 12:05 Pacific on Sunday.


Series Tied

September 11, 2014

Reno evened-up the Pacific Coast League Championship Series with a 4-2 home victory on Wednesday night, but Omaha still has the advantage.

By getting a split of the two games in Reno, Omaha is the favorite as the series moves to Nebraska for the final three games.

Reno could have been in deep trouble, but last night the Aces had a tremendous pitching performance by newcomer Bradin Hagens. Hagens allowed just one run on five hits (with no walks) over six innings to earn the win.

Even the most attentive Rainiers fan has probably never heard of Hagens: he was with Double-A Mobile until late in the season, and made just four August starts for Reno. He was not with the Aces at any time that they played Tacoma.

That was a big outing for the Triple-A newbie. Hagens had some early run support: Reno scored all four of its runs in the second inning, as Mike Freeman hit a two-run single and Nick Ahmed had a two-run double.

The series takes a day off for travel today, and resumes with the pivotal Game Three on Friday night at 5:05 (Pacific).

Links:

With both the PCL Finals and the Mariners getting a day off tonight, we will not have a post on Friday. This blog will next be updated on Saturday.


Omaha Strikes First

September 10, 2014

The Omaha Storm Chasers won the opening game of the best-of-five PCL Championship Series on Tuesday night, picking up a 6-2 road win at Reno.

The way the game started was ominous for Reno: Omaha scored three runs in the top of the first inning, knocking out Reno starting pitcher Clayton Richard in the process. Reno used four pitchers to cover the remainder of the game, with former starter Bo Schultz picking up 4.1 innings to save the rest of the bullpen.

Omaha was ahead 6-0 in the second inning and coasted to the win behind Aaron Brooks, who lasted seven innings. Brooks had a streak of 25 consecutive scoreless inning end when Andy Marte connected for a two-run homer in the sixth.

Offensively, Omaha drilled 11 hits although they were mostly singles. They hit nine singles and two doubles, but were able to string together the hits over the first two innings to amass the six runs.

Game Two of the series is tonight at 7:05.

The Mariners stretch run continues tonight with the final game of a three-game series against the suddenly-pretty-good Houston Astros (they have won 8-of-their-last-11 and are playing above .500 ball for roughly the last two months).

Tonight Houston starts RHP Nick Tropeano, who will be making his Major League debut.

Tacoma faced Tropeano at Cheney Stadium on June 22, scoring three runs against him in 5.2 innings. Michael Saunders was on rehab with the Rainiers at the time, and his RBI triple keyed a two-run rally in the third inning.

The 23-year-old ended up going 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA in his first Triple-A season. He closed the season on a real roll, allowing just three runs over his final 23 innings pitched.

The late surge enabled Tropeano to lead the PCL in earned run average, as he dropped below the 3.38 ERA of Fresno’s Chris Heston to win the title.

One thing was very clear in the PCL: Tropeano has a reverse platoon split, due to his outstanding change-up. Left-handed batters hit just .156 against him, while right-handers batted .241. This was over 124 innings pitched, so “small sample size” does not apply here. The Mariners may not be able to take advantage of this split, due to the heavily left-handed roster composition.

At any rate, I think this will be an interesting match-up to watch.

The popular food truck festival – The Moveable Feast – is this Saturday at Cheney Stadium. The lunch session is free entry and the dinner session is paid admission, 21+, live bands, beers, etc. TNT Diner has a post which includes descriptions of many of the food trucks that will be present.

Links:

  • The Reno newspaper has a detailed report on the opening game of the series. In the story, Reno manager Phil Nevin explains his quick hook of Clayton Richard.
  • The MiLB.com game story has reaction from Omaha starter Aaron Brooks.
  • In the International League Finals, Pawtucket won the opener against Durham, 3-2. For blurbs on all of the minor league championships, check out this Baseball America round-up.
  • The Mariners offense was shut down by Astros mystery man Collin McHugh, who has quietly been one of the better starters in baseball for the last two months.
  • James Jones discussing base stealing is the leadoff item in Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook. The story also includes a Dustin Ackley injury update.
  • Oakland A’s beat writer Susan Slusser got some interesting player quotes regarding the rumored A’s affiliation change from Sacramento to Nashville.
  • Speaking of the A’s, Jonah Keri writes about their fall, and Bruce Jenkins writes that Billy Beane made a bad trade.

PCL Championship Series Opens Tonight

September 9, 2014

The best-of-five series for the PCL title starts tonight in Reno, where Omaha looks to win back-to-back championships.

No matter which team wins, these two teams have had the PCL trophy on lockdown for four years. Omaha (Kansas City Royals) won it all in 2011 and 2013, and Reno (Arizona Diamondbacks) took the title in 2012.

Here’s the schedule with the anticipated starting pitchers:

  • Game One tonight at Reno, 7:05 (all times Pacific). Omaha RHP Aaron Brooks (12-3, 3.88) vs. Reno LHP Clayton Richard (1-0, 4.26)
  • Game Two Wednesday at Reno, 7:05. Omaha LHP John Lamb (8-10, 3.97) vs. Reno RHP Bradin Hagens (1-1, 2.55)
  • Game Three Friday at Omaha, 5:05. Reno LHP Andrew Chafin (5-6, 5.34) vs. Omaha RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (5-4, 3.56)
  • Game Four (if necessary) Saturday at Omaha, 12:05. Reno RHP Charles Brewer (8-10, 4.99) vs. Omaha RHP Andy Ferguson (1-1, 6.00)
  • Game Five (if necessary) Sunday at Omaha, 12:05. Both starters TBD.

The series is a rematch of the 2012 series, which Reno won 3-1. According to research by the PCL office, four players appeared in that series and are likely to play in this one as well: Reno’s Mike Jacobs, Charles Brewer, and Joe Paterson, and Omaha’s Paulo Orlando.

Whoever wins the series will play the International League champion in the Triple-A National Championship Game next Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The IL is down to Durham (Tampa Bay) and Pawtucket (Boston), and their championship series also starts tonight.

My PCL pick:

First, I should definitely mention that I picked both of these teams to lose in the opening round. Obviously I’m not very good at this.

I’m changing my tune on Reno, and I am picking Reno to win the series.

The Aces were the hottest team down the stretch – including the playoffs, Reno has won 14 of its last 17 games. Reno was not hit hard by call-ups, due to the Diamondbacks lost season. Omaha’s roster was already hit by the contending Royals. Omaha has a better pitching staff, but Reno has the cagey veterans.

Reno takes the series in four games.

Links:

  • For the local angle, here are the PCL Championship Series previews from the Reno newspaper and the Omaha newspaper.
  • MiLB.com has an article up previewing both the PCL and the IL championships. Former Rainiers infielder Nick Franklin gets some love in this story.
  • Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year Award went to Kris Bryant of the Iowa Cubs. Bryant played four games at Cheney Stadium in August and went just 3-for-18, but he did hit a homer and a triple. The triple hit near the top of the giant wall in center field.
  • The Mariners won the opening game against the red-hot Houston Astros last night, 4-1. Houston had won seven of its last nine games prior to last night. I went to the game and it was nice to see Brad Miller contribute with some big hits.
  • As always, Bob Dutton’s Mariners notebook is packed with all of the latest news and notes. The Mariners 2015 schedule was released, and the Mariners open at home while the Rainiers will open on the road. Hey, the team with the roof opened at home. That’s the way it is supposed to be!

Blog schedule for this week: we’ll have PCL recaps and links on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (unless there is a sweep in the finals – if that happens, I’m taking Sunday off).


Reno And Omaha Advance

September 7, 2014

It’s going to be a repeat of 2012 in the PCL Championship Series, as Reno and Omaha have advanced to the finals.

These two teams – the Arizona Diamondbacks and Kansas City Royals affiliates – faced off in the championship just two years ago. Reno won that time, three games to one.

Omaha’s success is remarkable: they have won the American Conference and reached the finals four years in a row. They are just the third team in the PCL’s 111-year history to reach the finals four straight seasons. The last team to do it was the Albuquerque Dukes, from 1980 to 1983.

The 2014 PCL Championship Series is a best-of-five. It opens Tuesday night in Reno.

We’ll have a preview of the championship series in our next blog update, on Tuesday. In the meantime, here’s how they got there:

PACIFIC CONFERENCE

Reno 7, Las Vegas 3. Reno wins the series, three games to one.

Defense cost the 51s, as they made two errors and allowed three unearned run in the loss. Danny Dorn hit a two-run homer as Reno built a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning. Charles Brewer pitched into the seventh inning to earn the victory for Reno. Allen Dyskstra‘s three-run homer was the entire Las Vegas offense.

AMERICAN CONFERENCE

Omaha 6, Memphis 2. Omaha wins the series, three games to one.

Whit Merrifield doubled and homers to lead Omaha to the win. Merrifield hit three homers in the four-game series – a rather surprising outburst, seeing how he hit three homers in 76 regular season games for Omaha. The star on the mound was polished pitching prospect Christian Binford, who delivered four scoreless innings from the bullpen.

Astute readers will notice that I went 0-for-2 on my predictions for this round of playoffs. To paraphrase former Rainiers manager Dan Rohn after a blowout loss, “What can I say? I stunk.”

Links:

No blog Monday because there are no PCL games today – we’ll be back on Tuesday!


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