Weekend Dish: Sept. 3
See also: Friday's Daily Dish
The upcoming playoff races are the big news as the minors head into the final week of the regular season, but before we update all of the playoff pairings, here's a look at what happened over the weekend.
• Rookie-level Danville upended Elizabethton for the Appalachian League title. Because of the after-effects of Tropical Storm Ernesto, the two teams had to play a championship doubleheader on Sunday. The Braves won the series opener on Saturday, then the Twins took the first game of the doubleheader to tie the series at 1-1. In the nightcap--with the league title on the line and the score tied at 3-3 in the seventh, Braves third baseman Danny Brezeale
connected for the go-ahead, championship-winning home run. Atlanta's 19th-round pick in 2004, Brezeale was 7-for-10 with three RBIs in the series. The championship was the Braves' first in 13 seasons in Danville.
• Reds righthander Homer Bailey
finally showed a human side in his final regular-season start at Double-A Chattanooga. The 20-year-old didn't retire any of the seven batters he faced on Saturday, and maxed out his pitch count (40) after walking four and allowing three hits. "He's fine physically," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky
told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He knew it was a tuneup. He was overthrowing. He couldn't find the plate." Bailey, who will pitch for the Lookouts later this week in the Southern League playoffs--before possibly being called up to Cincinnati--is 10-6, 2.46 with 156 strikeouts in 139 innings overall this season.
• Royals righthander Luke Hochevar
had his longest outing as a pro on Saturday, and though he was tagged with the loss, it was still a quality performance. The No. 1 pick in this year's draft allowed a pair of runs on four hits--two of which left the park--and struck out six over six innings in low Class A Burlington's 2-1 loss to Quad Cities. Hochevar is expected to be called up to Double-A Wichita today and will pitch for the Wranglers in the Texas League playoffs.
• Pirates righthander John Van Benschoten
left his Saturday start at Triple-A Indianapolis after just 27 pitches due to tightness in his shoulder. Van Benschoten, who is coming back from a series of shoulder surgeries, allowed a run on two hits and walked two in just one inning of work. The Pirates hoped their 2001 first-round pick would be ready to make it back to the big leagues before the season ends, and have moved him quickly in his return to the mound after missing all of last year--Van Benschoten made one start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, then another in Double-A Altoona and was bumped up to Triple-A. In three starts with the Indians, Van Benschoten is 1-1, 5.40 with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings.
• The Mariners promoted 2006 first-round pick Brandon Morrow
to high Class A Inland Empire, and he made his debut over the weekend, tossing three hitless innings. Morrow is expected to remain with the 66ers through the playoffs, then report to instructional league.
• Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre righthander Jeremy Cummings
tossed a no-hitter in a 5-0 win at Rochester Sunday. He needed 137 pitches to get it done, and he struck out nine and walked four. He was opposed by Twins lefthander Glen Perkins,
who was making his Triple-A debut. The Red Barons will square off with the Red Wings again in the first round of the International League playoffs beginning Wednesday.LEAGUE WRAPSTriple-A
A single International League playoff spot is up for grabs on the season's final day. Charlotte and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre long ago clinched their divisions, and Rochester has the wild card locked up. But the Western Division title will come down to the wire today, with defending champion Toledo controlling its own destiny. If the Mud Hens defeat Columbus today, they win the division. If they lose and Indianapolis knocks off Louisville, the two teams will play a one-game playoff.
In the Pacific Coast League, Nashville, Round Rock, Salt Lake and Tucson have all clinched their divisions. The winner from each Triple-A league will face off in the Bricktown Showdown--a one-game championship to be held Sept. 19 in Oklahoma City.Double-A
In the Eastern League, Trenton and Akron are the division winners, while Altoona won the wild card berth. In the Southern League, Huntsville and Chattanooga are in from the Northern Division, while Montgomery and Jacksonville will fight for the Southern Divison crown. In the Texas League, it'll be Wichita and Tulsa in the North, and Midland and Corpus Christi in the South.High Class A
In the California League, which is essentially the NHL playoffs of the minor leagues with six of the 10 teams securing playoff spots, San Jose and Inland Empire are in as the first-half winners. The other four berths belong to Visalia, Lake Elsinore, Lancaster and Stockton.
In the Carolina League, Wilmington and Frederick will play for the Northern Divison, while Kinston and Salem will grapple for the Southern Division crown.
And in the Florida State League, Palm Beach will face first-half champs St. Lucie in the East, and Fort Myers--who won the second half by a half-game over Tampa--will battle first-half champions Dunedin.Low Class A
In another NHL-like playoff scenario, eight of the 14 Midwest League clubs make the postseason, with Quad Cities, Beloit, Kane County, Lansing, Peoria, West Michigan, South Bend and Fort Wayne heading to the playoffs.
On the other side of that low Class A coin is the South Atlantic League, which features two more teams than the MWL, yet just four clubs enter the postseason each year. This season, those four are Lexington and Lakewood in the North, and Augusta and Rome in the South.Short-Season
The New York-Penn League has four games left to go, and its playoff berths have not been decided.
In the Northwest League, Eastern Division champ Boise will face Western Division champ Salem-Keizer for the league crown.Rookie-level
In the Pioneer League, Billings and Orem are on track to win both the first and second-half titles. Billings will face Missoula in one playoff series, while Orem's opponent has not been decided yet.
As noted above, the Danville Braves won the Appalachian League title, while the Red Sox won the Gulf Coast League title. The Arizona League Padres beat the Angels for their league title.