It’s time for the final stretch of the minor league regular season.
With just over a week left before the year’s end, only one of the Mariners’ top affiliates has been eliminated from playoff contention, though currently none can even lay claim to second place in their division.
Though only the blind optimist would give any of these teams a realistic shot at September baseball, any remaining hope rests on teams having a better week than anything following in our penultimate regular season Minor League Update.
The AquaSox’s motto for the past week: consistently inconsistent. They failed to record either two straight victories or defeats, losing three of five against Eugene after breaking the three-game skid to end the series at Vancouver.
A day off on Sunday saw the division-leading Tri-City lose, bringing Everett back to within two games of the division lead.
Nick Torres followed a three hit showing on Sunday the 17th with a solid week, going 7-21 (.333 BA) with a home run. James Alfonso, on the other hand, only played in three games and went a woeful 1-10, but that single hit was a walk-off homer on Wednesday against the Emeralds.
The top pitching performance of the past seven days by far came out of the bullpen. During Friday’s 6-1 win, Ramire Cleto worked a full five scoreless innings of relief for Lukas Schiraldi (3.0 IP, 1 ER), giving up five hits without a walk while striking out two.
The AquaSox will end the year with an eight-game road trip, starting with five at Boise and ending at Tri-City. If Vancouver stumbles and the Everett can win the Boise series, the AquaSox-Dust Devils matchup could decide the Second Half.
The LumberKings came into the week needing a miracle to chase down the plethora of teams ahead of them in the West, but two series against Wisconsin and division-leading Kane County could at least allow Clinton to help themselves. Sadly, any remaining dreams were quickly dashed as the Cougars and second-place Cedar Rapids just kept winning.
Clinton is officially eliminated from playoff contention, as a win to start a three-game set against the Timber Rattlers was followed by five consecutive losses (two against Wisconsin and a three-game sweep at Kane County) before coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Peoria on Sunday in walk-off fashion courtesy of a Luis Caballero walk.
While his efforts were in vain, Aaron Barbosa was scorching all week long, putting up 11 hits in just 28 at bats (.393 BA).
It is difficult to choose just one of the many terrible pitching performances by the LumberKings’ staff. The team gave up at least five runs in five straight games, four of which ended with the opposition putting up at least seven. Carlos Misell (2.2 IP, 6 ER), Eddie Campbell (3.2 IP, 5 R, 4 ER), and Jose Flores (2.0 IP, 5 R, 1 ER) all forced the bullpen into action much earlier than Scott Steinmann would have liked.
The ‘Kings will limp to season’s end with two more against Peoria before going to Quad Cities. They will finish the year at home against Cedar Rapids.
High Desert Mavericks
Anyone who thinks that the AL West and NL Central races are close have not seen the insanity going on in the California League’s Southern Division. Going into Sunday’s games, three teams (Inland Empire, Lake Elsinore, and First-Half winner Lancaster) were tied at the top at 31-31, while both High Desert and Rancho Cucamonga both sat two games back.
This was the result of a 3-3 start to the week from the Mavs, who won the finale versus Inland Empire, dropped two of three at Lancaster, and split the first two of three at Modesto.
Sunday saw the offense put up only a single run for the second consecutive game, and a Rancho Cucamonga win put the Mavericks in last place, though still only 3.0 GB.
Gabby Guerrero had a hot start to the week, hitting safely in four straight while batting 6-14 (.429 BA) during that stretch. But he finished with a whimper, recording only one hit over the final three games.
Will Mathis got lit up for seven runs (6 ER) in an inning and a third on Saturday, as the Mavs were dismantled in short order, 14-1, by a Modesto offense that by far has been the worst in the California League in 2014.
After a day off on Monday, High Desert will end with seven at Heritage Field, three against Lancaster and four against San Jose. Perhaps the North Division standings will be to the Mavs’ benefit. Stockton has nearly clinched the Second Half, so San Jose will likely have much less to play for during that final regular season series.
Jackson got a surprise day off on Monday, as the second game of five at Huntsville was rained out. The Generals then split both the Tuesday doubleheader and the final two games on Wednesday and Thursday, but got off to a rough start to another five-gamer, this time at home against Chattanooga, by falling in two of the first three.
The team is in last place in the Southern League’s North Division, four games behind Tennessee.
The offense on the whole was lethargic, as the team only put up more than four runs once during the week, but not due to a lack of production from DJ Peterson, who went 8-26 (.308 BA) with a pair of homers. Meanwhile, Patrick Kivlehan put up two hits in the first game of Tueday’s doubleheader before going four games with only one walk to show for his efforts. Overall, he hit 4-23 (.174 BA)
The pitching held up for most of the week, but on Saturday the Lookouts exploded for 15 runs on 23 hits. Cam Hobson gave up a whopping ten runs (9 ER), but, at the very least, he managed to eat 5.1 innings.
After two more against Chattanooga and a day off on Wednesday, Jackson will finish the regular season with five at Montgomery.
The Pacific Southern Division race of the PCL is over, as Las Vegas (76-60) has taken advantage of poor seasons from El Paso (64-71), Albuquerque (59-75), and Salt Lake (57-78) to run away with a playoff spot.
Fortunately, the Rainiers are in the still-competitive Pacific North Division, and were able to cling to playoff hope despite a pedestrian 4-3 week.
Tacoma won one of the last two at Round Rock before splitting a four-game set at home against the American North Division leaders, Omaha. The team finished with a wild 14-inning win to begin a home series against Iowa.
That last win pulled the third-place club to within four games of Sacramento.
Ketel Marte is continuing to excite Mariners’ management, as in ten games he has torn up AAA pitching (.326/.362/.512). The 20-year old has also shown unexpected power in his early Tacoma stint, as the two home runs he hit this past week matched his 109-game total at AA Jackson.
Justin Smoak also tore the cover off the ball, going 12-28 (.429) this week, including a three hits on Monday and a 4-6 output last night.
Erasmo Ramirez put up another spectacular start on Thursday when the Rainiers beat Omaha, giving up only three runs (2 ER) in 8.0 IP. Even better was the fact that Ramirez threw only 100 pitches to get through that great start, continuing his trend of efficient outings.
After the last three against the Cubs, Tacoma will end the year with a five-game series at already-eliminated Fresno.