It’s Sacramento and Omaha in the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, and it starts tonight, so there is only one thing left to do: make a prediction, of course!
First, the schedule and pitchers. All game times are Pacific.
- Game One at Omaha, Tuesday at 5:05. RHP Graham Godfrey (14-3, 2.68) at RHP Luis Mendoza (12-5, 2.18). These were the top two contenders for the PCL Pitcher of the Year award, which Mendoza won. Should be a very low-scoring game.
- Game Two at Omaha, Wed at 5:05. RHP Tyson Ross (3-2, 7.61) at RHP Vin Mazzaro (7-2, 4.29). Mazzaro is now with Omaha, he was with Sacramento for playoff runs in 2008 and 2010. Ross has good stuff when healthy, but he has been dealing with injuries.
- Game Three at Sacramento, Friday at 7:05. LHP Mike Montgomery (5-11, 5.32) at RHP Travis Banwart (9-9, 4.63). This is a wild-card match-up: Montgomery went into 2011 as one of the top pitching prospects in minor league baseball, but he has been very erratic in his first Triple-A season. Erratic is a good description for Sacramento’s Banwart, too: sometimes he deals, and sometimes he gets lit up.
- Game Four at Sacramento, Saturday at 7:05. RHP Sean O’Sullivan (8-2, 4.22) at Sacramento TBA. O’Sullivan is too good for Triple-A but hasn’t found himself in MLB yet – he’s a great guy to have starting in Game Four. I don’t know if LHP Carlos Hernandez (8-7, 5.27) suffered an injury or Sacramento is trying some sort of thinly veiled gamesmanship by not announcing him as starter. Hernandez started the fourth game against Reno and this is his slot.
- Game Five at Sacramento, Sunday at 1:05. RHP Jeff Suppan (11-8, 4.78) at Sacramento TBA. If we get to Game Five, it will be a battle of veterans: Suppan, a 16-year MLB veteran, against likely Sacramento starter LHP Lenny DiNardo (3-5, 6.49).
Now let’s look at the hitters:
Sacramento’s veteran hitters are going to have to step up in this series – either that, or a rookie is going to have to emerge. Oakland’s front office went against recent trends and called up several of Sacramento’s best players prior to the completion of the PCL playoffs, leaving gaping holes in the River Cats offense.
Gone are shortstop Eric Sogard, outfielders Michael Taylor and Jai Miller, and catchers Anthony Recker and Landon Powell. They have young players filling in from the lower minor leagues – and one of them, outfield prospect Grant Green, had a big series against Reno (8-for-14 with four RBI).
Sacramento veterans Chris Carter, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Cardenas, and Wes Timmons will have to carry the load.
On the other side, Omaha has a decidedly Triple-A lineup right now. Yes, the Royals have called several top prospects up to Kansas City, but that was a while ago – the current Omaha lineup has been intact for about a month.
Storm Chasers centerfielder Lorenzo Cain is the real deal; and the only reason he’s still in Omaha is a result of the surprisingly successful season of Royals outfielder Melky Cabrera. Omaha also has two big power threats in Clint Robinson and veteran Kila Ka’aihue.
Both teams have very strong, deep bullpens that feature power arms. It’s easy to picture these two teams deadlocked going into the late innings, and then each club bringing in one lockdown reliever after another.
So… its time for The Pick.
I’m guessing…. Omaha takes the first game behind a Mendoza gem. Sacramento wins the next two, having a good scouting report on their own former pitcher Mazzaro, and then drawing a ton of walks in the third game. Omaha ties the series with a Game Four blowout.
It’s going five games, it’s going to be veteran vs. veteran, and I’m taking…. Suppan and his 138 major league wins.
Storm Chasers in five.
- Here is the series preview from Sacramento, which includes DiNardo comparing the 2011 River Cats to the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
- The Omaha preview focuses on the Storm Chasers superior outfield defense. This article has a sidebar with the projected starting lineups.
- Away from the PCL, the Seattle Mariners promoted friend-of-the-blog Roger Hansen to the front office. This guarantees the Mariners will have the most entertainingly profane front office meetings in all of baseball. They should sell them as podcasts.