2005 Minor League Playoffs


For the first time since 1967, the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) took
home the Governors’ Cup as International League champions by sweeping
three straight games from Indianapolis (Pirates). Mud Hens righthander
Jason Grilli, the fourth overall pick in 1998, pitched into the eighth
in the clincher, while outfielder Marcus Thames hit his third home run
of the postseason in the 8-3 victory. The Mud Hens reached the finals
by defeating Norfolk (Mets) 3-2 in the semifinals, while Indianapolis
was also taken to the distance by Buffalo (Indians). Thames led
Toledoí•â'¬â"•s offense by batting .407-3-10 in eight postseason games, while
closer Jason Karnuth earned the save in four of their six victories.


The Nashville Sounds (Brewers) swept three games from Tacoma
(Mariners) to win the Pacific Coast League title, their first
championship since 1982, when the franchise was in the Southern League.
Championship series MVP Nelson Cruz, who hit three home runs in the
finals and finished the postseason with four homers and 11 RBIs in
eight games, hit a three-run home run in the top of the 12th inning off
Tacoma reliever Cha Seung Baek to give the Sounds a 5-2 win in game
three. Nashville reached the finals by recovering from a 2-0 deficit in
the semifinals by taking three straight games from Oklahoma (Rangers),
while Tacoma did the same to defending champion Sacramento (Athletics).


The Akron Aeros (Indians) took three of four games from Portland
(Red Sox) to win the Eastern League title, giving manager Torey
Lovullo, who managed high Class A Kinston to the Carolina League title
in 2004, his second straight title. Righthander Jake Dittler fired
seven shutout innings in a 4-1 win in Game Four, while outfielder Nate
Panther went 4-for-4, finishing the four-game series with a .500
average and taking home playoff MVP honors. Akron reached the finals by
taking three out of five from Altoona (Pirates), while Portland held
off Trenton (Yankees) by the same result after winning the first two
games of the series, but losing two straight clinching opportunities.


The most prospect-laden team won the title in the most
prospect-laden league, as the Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) took three of
four from West Tenn (Cubs) to win their third title in the last ten
years. Righthander Justin Orenduff, making his first postseason start,
allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings in a 3-1 victory for the victory in
Game Four, while closer Jonathan Broxton, who pitched seven shutout
innings over four postseason games, pitched the final two frames for
the save. Pitching was the story of the postseason for the Suns, who
won six of seven games while compiling a team ERA of 1.57. The
highlight occurred in Game Two of the semifinals, when righthander Chad
Billingsley and Broxton combined on a no-hitter in a 2-0 win as the
Suns went on to sweep Birmingham (White Sox).


After winning both halves of the Western Division, the Midland
Rockhounds (Athletics) won their first Texas League title by taking
three of four games from Arkansas (Angels). Rockhounds catcher Jeremy
Brown had a huge postseason, batting .419-3-15. Midland reached the
championship round by taking three of five from San Antonio (Mariners),
while the Travelers used their powerful offense to sweep Tulsa
(Rockies) in three games.


After finishing the regular season with a league-best record of
85-55, San Jose (Giants) recovered from a 2-0 deficit to win three
straight games against Lake Elsinore (Padres) for their third
California League championship. Outfielder John Bowker, who was named
series MVP, laced an RBI single to begin a three-run rally in the
seventh inning of a 3-1 win in game five, while Jason Waddell, pitching
on two days rest after starting game three, struck out seven over three
shutout innings for the victory. All of the drama overshadowed a
tremendous first-round performance from High Desert (Royals) outfielder
Chris Lubanski, who went 13-for-15 with seven runs and nine RBIs in
just three games, including hitting for the cycle.


The Frederick Keys (Orioles) won their first Carolina League title
since 1990, winning the Mills Cup by taking three of five games from
defending champion Kinston (Indians). Series MVP Brian Finch fired five
shutout innings in a 2-0 Game Five victory while 2005 draftee Garrett
Olson, who delivered 10 shutout innings in the postseason, held onto
the lead with two more scoreless frames. Both Fredrick and Kinston
reached the finals with two game sweeps in the semifinals, with the
Keys eliminating Lynchburg (Pirates), and Kinston sending home
Winston-Salem (White Sox).


After finishing with the best record of any full-season team at
85-48, Lakeland (Tigers) was upset in the Florida State League
championship by Palm Beach (Cardinals) who took three of five games to
win their first league title. Trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning of the
deciding game five, Cardinals outfielder Reid Gorecki homered off
Tigers’ reliever Chris Homer to force extra frames. In the top of the
10th, second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir, who failed to hit a home run in
226 regular season at-bats for the Cardinals, went deep for what
provide to be the game-winning run.


Being one of the few minor leagues with a three-round playoff system
meant little to the South Bend Silver Hawks (Diamondbacks) and
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Mariners), as the two teams that won both
halves of their respective division met in the finals, with South Bend
winning three out of five games to win their first league title. The
Silver Hawks won game five behind the arm of righthander Stephen
Jackson, who tossed eight shutout innings in a 4-0 win. South Bend, who
won their first six postseason games, including two game sweeps of
Southwest Michigan (Devil Rays) and West Michigan (Tigers) before the
finals, were led offensively by first baseman Cesar Nicholas, who hit
.424-2-10 in nine games.


The Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) took three out of four games
from Hagerstown (Mets) to win their first-ever league title. Jack
Egbert and Garry Bakker combined on a six-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory
in the clinching game, as shortstop Ryan McCarthy homered, drove in two
runs and scored twice. The Intimidators, who had a team ERA of 2.22 in
the postseason, reached the finals with a two game sweep of Charleston
(Yankees) in the semifinals, while Hagerstown won two of three against
Delmarva (Orioles).


Doing their parent club proud, the Staten Island Yankees are
creating a dynasty of their own, winning their third league title in
the last six years after finishing in last place for two straight
seasons. Outfielder Reggie Corona singled home Joseph Burke in the
ninth inning to win the title as the Yankees went a perfect 4-0 in the
postseason, sweeping Williamsport (Pirates) in the first round, and
Auburn (Blue Jays) in the finals–holding their opponents to just seven
runs in the process.


Spokane (Rangers) became just the second team with a losing record
to walk home with the title, winning their seventh Northwest League
title since 1987 by winning the final two games of a five game series
with Vancouver (Athletics). Game Five was a close affair until the
eighth when the Indians broke open the game with four-run eighth inning
for an 8-3 victory as Jonathan Higashi went 3-for-3 with three RBIs.


The Elizabethton Twins won the Appy League title, winning two of
three games from the Danville Braves. After the Twins won Game One 5-4
on eighth inning RBIs from Erik Lis and Caleb Moore, the Braves bounced
back with a 15-2 shellacking to force a decisive game three. Danville
led Game Three 4-2 until the seventh, when Twins outfielder Mark
Robinson’s two-run single tied the game and catcher Sean Richardson’s
RBI single in the eighth put the Twins up for good.


Playing their first season as the Orem Owlz, the Angels affiliate
won their second straight Pioneer League title with a two-game sweep of
Helena (Brewers) in the championship series. The Owlz reached the
finals by taking two of three games from Ogden (Dodgers), while Helena
swept a pair of games from Billings (Reds).


There were only three postseason games in the GCL this season, and
the Yankees won all three of them, defeating the Red Sox in a one game
playoff to reach the finals, where they swept a pair of games from the
Mets. The Yankees outscored their opponents 17-4 in the three games and
has a team ERA of 1.00.


The AZL Giants won their second straight league title by winning
both halves of the season, eliminating the need for a one-game playoff.