When examening why the 66ers were able to beat the Quakes 6-4 on Saturday to create a tie for the South Division’s final playoff spot with two games remaining you don’t need to look any further than batting with runners in scoring position.
The Quakes were 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The one hit? Abel Nieves’ single in the first inning that didn’t score Peter Bourjos from second but set up Hank Conger’s RBI groundout a batter later. The Quakes went hitless in their next 15 at-bats with RISP, but scored three runs on home runs.
The most excruciating part for Quakes fans came in the ninth inning after Conger singled with one out and Efren Navarro doubled him to third. With the tying runs in scoring position, Sixers closer Paul Koss earned his 14th save by striking out Drew Toussaint and Ryan Mount swinging.
The Sixers, meanwhile, had only seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, but had three hits: Tommy Giles’ three-run homer in the fifth, Esteban Lopez’s RBI single in the sixth, and Giles’ RBI double in the ninth.
It’s now down to the final two games. The pitching matchups seem to favor the Quakes, with Michael Anton (6-5, 5.63) and Sean O’;Sullivan (15-8, 4.80) going for the Quakes and Tim Sexton (5-12, 6.07) and Steven Johnson (3-5, 6.94) but the Sixers’ bullpen has been better than the Quakes’ of late, so it should be interesting.
Although it looked for a while like the 66ers and Quakes might both make the South Division playoffs, we now know that only one will make it.
It will all be on the line starting Saturday at the Epicenter, as the Quakes take a one-game lead over the Sixers entering the final three games.
If the Quakes win at least twice in the series, they will clinch that last spot and open the playoffs at home against Lake Elsinore on Wednesday.
If the Sixers sweep the series, they win the playoff spot and will play Lake Elsinore on Wednesday. But if the Sixers take two out of three, then the teams are tied with the same overall record. That would make for a one-game playoff at Arrowhead Credit Union Park on Tuesday between the teams. The Sixers would host that one-game playoff because they own the season series between the teams (the Sixers lead 13-11 entering this weekend).
Although there have been one-game playoffs for the first half titles (2007 and 2006 South) there hasn’t been a one-game playoff to end the regular season since Visalia defeated Bakersfield in 2002 in the North Division. There hasn’t been one in the South since 1999, when the San Bernardino Stampede defeated the Mavericks. But that game only decided home field advantage in the first round not who got in.
I was at Petco Park on Wednesday for the Sixers-Lake Elsinore game. Lake Elsinore gets to play one game at the home of the San Diego Padres every year since the park opened. It’s a great PR move — both for the Padres (who get to showcase future Padres) and for the Storm (who can showcase a team that’s just up the road). And, minor leaguers get to play in a big league stadium — invaluable experience.
Why don’t more teams do this? Sixers general manager Loren Foxx was in attendance on Wednesday and loved the whole concept. He would gladly give up a home game for a chance for his team to play at Dodgers Stadium as part of a doubleheader with the Dodgers, although he would prefer to give up a weekday game (like this year’s Lake Elsinore game) rather than a weekend game.
The Quakes could do the same thing with the Angels. It’s really a win-win situation. Yes, the big-league club is spending a little bit more for security and to keep concession stands open, without much added revenue. But the goodwill created is more than worth it.
If you’re a long-time 66ers fan, you know Mike Saeger. He’s been the voice of the San Bernardino Spirit/Stampede/Inland Empire 66ers since 1995.
He’s an institution for 66ers baseball, so much so that a Saeger card was included in the all-time San Bernardino card set that was given away on Saturday night at Arrowhead Credit Union Park.
Saeger’s wife J’leen is pregnant with the couple’s first baby. Like her husband, J’leen is a baseball fan. They are considering a baseball-themed name, after Mike vetoed the idea of naming the baby Saeger Saeger.
So far, the baseball names J’leen likes are names of stadiums: Shea, Ebbets, Camden and Wrigley. Mike, a life-long Dodger fan, doesn’t like two of those, but I won’t say which ones.
We want to hear your input on those names or your own nominations, either posted to this blog or e-mailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. They don’t have to be stadium names, but they need to be baseball names. If we get enough nominations, maybe we can have a vote.
With the Quakes’ victory over San Jose and Lake Elsinore’s victory over the 66ers Friday, it kept the Quakes in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 wild-card spot, one game ahead of Lake Elsinore. Lake Elsinore leads the 66ers by two games for the final spot. There are nine games remaining.
The 66ers have only three home games remaining beginning tonight (Saturday) against the Quakes, but I have a feeling this playoff race is going to come down to the final weekend, if not the final day.
Yes, the 66ers are trying to get by minus some of the big guns that carried them to the playoff hunt (Carlos Santana, Austin Gallagher), but I have a feeling they will win enough during the final six games to have a shot at the playoffs. Yes, they might be three games back entering that final weekend against the Quakes, but that is still a shot.
For a Sixers team that seemed overmatched much of the year, that’s not a terrible position to be in.
The Quakes did an outstanding job of pitching on Thursday night — to four players.
San Jose’s No. 4 hitter Matt Downs was 0-for-3 with a sacrifrice fly, and the Nos. 7-9 hitters were a combined 0-for-14. Sounds like a good pitching night, right?
It could’ve been, but Brad Boyer went 4-for-5, Brock Bond, Brett Pill and Bobby Felmy had three hits apiece and Mike McBryde had two. No Giant hitter had just one hit. That’s how you get 15 hits when four go hitless and that’s how you win 7-1.
For Quakes starter Sean O’Sullivan, he’s come back to earth after an unbelievable July. Since winning the Angels Pitcher of the Month award for July, he’s 2-3 in his last five starts, allowing four or more earned runs three times.
The Quakes could really use a win in the series finale. First, it’s big for the playoff race. Second, if San Jose and the Quakes meet in the Championship Series, a win Friday will provide some momentum. It would give them their only series win, improving them to 3-6 this season against San Jose.
The South Division in the first half might have been one of the worst halves ever for a division, with only a late surge by Lancaster making one of the teams above .500.
With only 11 games remaining for most teams, the South still has only one of five teams above .500. Yet, in the second half, the South is much better against the North.
On Wednesday, the Quakes beat San Jose, Lancaster beat Bakersfield, and the Mavericks beat Visalia, ending a 10-game losing streak. That 3-0 night for the South vs. the North gives the South a 38-30 second-half record against the north. That bodes well for a possible championship series, and by the way, the playoff race is heating up. The Mavericks are out of it (eight games back of the final playoff spot), but the Quakes are two games up on Lake Elsinore and the 66ers, who are tied for the South’s final playoff spot.
Both the Quakes and 66ers lost on Saturday, but the Sixers are in much worse shape.
After all, the Quakes still lead the South Division by a half game after a 6-3 loss to Lancaster.
However, when Javy Guerra allowed three unearned runs in the final two innings to drop an 11-9 decision to Lake Elsinore on Saturday at Arrowhead Credit Union Park it put the Sixers two games back of Lake Elsinore for the final playoff spot.
The Sixers received other bad news Satuday. Infielder Austin Gallagher, slumping of late but still an important part of the offense, will be out for the rest of the season after breaking his right ring finger while fielding a ground ball on Friday.
Bridger Hunt took Gallagher’s place at third base, while Fumimasa Ishibashi was activated as the third catcher to fill Gallagher’s roster spot. That left Ishibashi as the only healthy player on the bench on Saturday. Outfielder Trayvon Robinson remains active but out of action with a strained quad.
The Sixers also lost reliever Brandon Tuten to Triple-A. The team is expected to get another infielder today when the team travels to Modesto for a three-game series and hopefully another pitcher as well.
Although it looked like for a while that four teams in the South Division would battle for the final two playoff spots, now it looks like three.
After Thursday’s action, the Quakes lead the South Division in the second half by a half game over Lancaster, which is already in after winning the first half. The Quakes are in if they win the second half, regardless of other teams’ overall records.
Lake Elsinore leads the wild-card spot with a 59-64 overall record, a game ahead of the 66ers (58-65), who beat the Storm 8-4 on Thursday. The Mavericks (53-70) are six games back of Lake Elsinore. The Mavs still have a shot to get back in the race, but they’re not in the race at the moment.
The Sixers have 17 games remaining, including 14 against the Quakes and Lake Elsinore, so they won’t have to do much scoreboard watching, if they take care of business.
When Carlos Santana was traded by the Dodgers to Cleveland last month, he was leading the 66ers and California League in RBI.
Recently, Stockton’s Chris Carter surpassed Santana as the league leader in RBI when he hit his 97th of the season.
When Santana was traded, he told me that a big regret wasn’t that he wasn’t going to lead the league in RBI, but it was that he hadn’t reached a big milestone: 100 RBI, with one team. He really wanted that 100 milestone in the Cal League, but had to settle for 96.
Entering play Wednesday, he was still leading all of the minors in RBI, with 103. WIth Kinston of the Single-A Carolina League, Santana is batting .367 with three home runs and seven RBI in 15 games.