The Pacific Coast League Championship Series opens tonight at Werner Park in Omaha, NE, where the Omaha Storm Chasers host the Salt Lake Bees in Game One of the best-of-five series.
Omaha is in the finals for the third year in a row, but their appearance is totally unexpected. Omaha went 70-74 during the regular season, yet reached the playoffs by winning an extremely weak American-North division. It’s the first time an under-.500 team has reached the playoffs since the current format was created in 1998.
Of course, the under-.500 Storm Chasers beat up the best team in the league in the first round of the playoffs – the Oklahoma RedHawks and their gaudy 82-62 record. Omaha swept Oklahoma City in three straight games last week, taking the first two on the road. They did this despite losing more players to September call-ups than Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake won a very tense series against Las Vegas in four games. All four games were one-run decisions, and Salt Lake had two walk-off wins.
Salt Lake caught an unexpected break when the Angels sent down infielder Tommy Field yesterday – just one day after calling him up. He’s one of the Bees best players right now.
Salt Lake finished with a 78-66 record despite having a negative run differential during the regular season. The Bees were out-scored by opponents, 832-809.
So we’ve got a team with a losing record against a team that was supposed to have a losing record playing in the PCL Championship Series. What a strange season.
Schedule (all times Pacific):
- Tuesday at Omaha, 5:05 – Game One, RHP Matt Shoemaker at LHP Chris Dwyer
- Wednesday at Omaha, 5:05 – Game Two, RHP Jarrett Grube at LHP Justin Marks
- Thursday – travel day
- Friday at Salt Lake, 5:35 – Game Three, RHP Nate Adcock at RHP Tommy Hanson
- Saturday at Salt Lake, 5:35 – Game Four (if necessary), RHP Brian Sanches at RHP Billy Buckner
- Sunday at Salt Lake, 12:05 – Game Five (if necessary), LHP Chris Dwyer at RHP Matt Shoemaker
Since I was wrong on both of my first-round picks, take this for what it’s worth (read: nothing): I pick the Omaha Storm Chasers to win the title in four games.
I went to the Mariners game last night to see Taijuan Walker‘s final start of 2013. He looked sharp, retiring the final nine batters he faced to close off a highly successful season. Barring injury or trade, he’ll be in the Mariners rotation to open 2014.
More striking was the fact that seven of the ten Mariners starters played in Tacoma this season. That’s an extremely high number – in fact nine of the ten starters played in Tacoma on their way to the big leagues, with Kendrys Morales the lone holdout (and Kendrys played at Cheney stadium as a visiting member of the Salt Lake Bees in 2006, 2007 and 2008).
We got to witness Abraham Almonte‘s first Major League homer, a two-run shot that put the Mariners ahead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Then we got to see the Mariners lose the game in the ninth on walks and errors – which felt a lot like a PCL finish.
For a Rainiers fan, it was an entertaining night at a big league ballpark.
- Omaha will be playing without outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who had the game-winning HR in the final game of the Oklahoma City series. Hernandez is leaving the team to have a baby – is he doesn’t name the kid Gorkys Jr (boy or girl) I’m going to be very disappointed.
- Also from the Omaha newspaper: a column, and a sidebar of players to watch.
- From the Salt Lake Tribune, we have a series preview that includes some big news: Andy Marte is injured.
- Salt Lake City has not won a PCL title in 34 years – although there was a long stretch during that time when the city did not have Triple-A baseball.
- MiLB.com has a preview of the PCL Finals.
- Ryan Divish has the game story on the Mariners loss to Houston on Monday night.
- Felix Hernandez‘s next start has been delayed due to back issues, so Brandon Maurer moves into the rotation.