Quakes clinch first-half South Division title

Quakes logoEntering the day needing either to win or get a loss from Lancaster, the Quakes got both.
The Quakes (40-29) clinched the California League South Division first-half title with a 5-2 victory at Visalia on Saturday night.
It is the Quakes’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and also was the team’s first half-division title since winning both halves in 2011. Visalia (42-27) had already clinched the North Division first-half title.
On Saturday, Tyler Ogle had two hits, including his 13th home run and drove in three to lead the Quakes. It was Ogle’s two-run homer in the seventh that snapped a 2-2 tie. Brandon Dixon also homered for the Quakes.
Luis DePaula, A.J. Vanegas, Michael Johnson (4-1), Daniel Tillman, and Ramon Benjamin (fourth save) combined on a five-hitter for the Quakes.
Although Lake Elsinore’s game at Lancaster started about an hour before the Quakes’ game at Visalia, the Quakes’ game ended first, followed by Lancaster’s 12-8 loss to Lake Elsinore. The Quakes entered the game leading the first-half race by two games with two to play.

The High Desert Mavericks’ World Series connection

When you’ve had as many affiliations as the High Desert Mavericks have had over the years, they are bound to have connections with players from a multitude of organizations.
Since moving from Riverside in 1991, the Mavericks have had seven different affiliations, and are about to embark on their eighth, when the Texas Rangers come to town for 2015. And that doesn’t include the two years they were a co-op team in 1994-95 and had players from several organizations on their squad.

The California League is for players early on in their career path and that’s how two of this year’s World Series opponents: San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler ended up there.

But Bochy was there in 1991, as a manager for the San Diego Padres’ affiliate trying to work his way up. He had a successful career as a player, but was just starting out as a manager.
It was actually his second season in the league, having managed the predecessor to the Mavericks, the Riverside Red Wave to a 64-78 record in 1990. In 1991, he was back, led the Mavericks to a decent but not overwhelming 73-63 record, then led them to an impressive playoff run (sound familiar?), by beating Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez and the Bakersfield Dodgers (85-51) amnd then beating the Stockton Ports in the finals, who had beaten 92-44 San Jose in the semifinals.
I covered that team. It was my first real beat and I loved it. Bochy was patient with me (I was still in college and didn’t really understand how the minor leagues worked). While I was aware of how good Bochy was, most of my focus was on the rest of the team. But while Matt Mieske, Jay Gainer and J.D. Noland will be remembered by fans of the ’91 Mavs, they aren’t remembered for their careers. As it turned out, Bochy was the best prospect on that team.

Billy Butler was with the Mavericks in 2005, in their first season of a two-season affiliation with the Royals. Butler was a young 19-year-old kid with a ton of power (25 home runs in 379 at-bats), but no position to play. They tried him at third base, but that didn’t last long. He made 18 errors in 41 games at third, including four in one game that I witnessed personally. Shortly thereafter, they moved him to left field, where he could hit, but still couldn’t field: Among players with at least 18 games played in the outfield, he was last with a .932 fielding percentage. But he could still hit, and he had a decent eye, with 42 walks in 92 games and a .348 batting average his OPS of 1.054. As it turned out, his power was not High Desert-created. It was legit. And like Bochy, he was the biggest prospect on the team.

Now they’re facing each other. The 6-4, 245-pound Bochy and the 6-2, 225-pound Butler. Opponents in the World Series. Forever connected by Adelanto.

66ers close in on playoff spot

The second-worst team in the California League needs just 1 win in its final two games to make the playoffs.

That’s all the 66ers need Sunday or Monday at Lancaster to guarantee at least a tie for the South Division second half title. And a tie would not require a one-game playoff, but send the Sixers to the best-of-3 first round against Lake Elsinore.

The Quakes have a much longer road. Not only do they need the Sixers to lose their final two games, but they need to make up a one-game deficit to High Desert.

While the Sixers’ second half record is only 35-33, it would be remarkable to make the playoffs after going 25-45 in the first half, and losing their best position player, shortstop Jose Rondon, to Lake Elsinore in a trade.

Cal League South Division scenario update with 3 games left

After Friday’s games, the three-team race for the final South Division playoff spot has gotten tighter with 3 games left.

The 66ers beat Lancaster 12-8, the Quakes beat Lake Elsinore 9-0 and San Jose beat High Desert 12-3.

The 66ers and Lancaster are tied for 1st in the second half race. It’s as simple as this for the 66ers: If they win 2 of the final 3 games against Lancaster, they are in the playoffs. They could still tie for the second half title with LE, but as stated in a previous post, that would be enough to get the Sixers in. There would be no 1-game playoff.

Should the Sixers lose at least 2 of the next 3 games, the last spot would go to High Desert or the Quakes. After Friday’s games, those teams are tied for the last spot.

They COULD have a 1-game playoff. And it would be at High Desert on Tuesday, because HD won the season series, 13-11.

California League playoff scenarios with 4 games left

I just had an exchange of e-mails with Matt Blaney from the California League office to clear up the potentially confusing playoff scenario in the Cal League’s South Division w.

So far, Lancaster and Lake Elsinore are in the playoffs, but the 66ers, Quakes and High Desert are still in the running for the division’s last playoff spot, with 4 games remaining, including tonight.

Here’s how it breaks down.

  • The 66ers (tied for 2nd with LE, 1 game back of Lancaster), need to win the 2nd half to make the playoffs. BUT, they only need to tie for the 2nd half title. Matt said that if the 66ers tie with Lake Elsinore (they can’t tie with Lancaster, because they are playing Lancaster), for the 2nd half title, there would be NO 1-game playoff, because Lake Elsinore is already in the playoffs. The 66ers would get in and play Lake Elsinore in the first round.
  • The Quakes and High Desert can only get in if the 66ers are not involved in the 2nd half title. They WOULD have a 1-game playoff if the 66ers aren’t involved and if the Quakes and HD are tied. HD leads the Quakes by 1 game, with 4 left.
  • Here’s who plays who: 66ers at Lancaster, Quakes at Lake Elsinore, San Jose at High Desert.
  • In the North Division, it’s between Visalia and San Jose for the last playoff spot, with Visalia leading by 3 games. Bakersfield and Stockton are already in.

66ers manager Denny Hocking enjoys all-star experience

It was last week  that 66ers manager Denny Hocking managed the California League all-stars to a win over the Carolina League and he enjoyed the event.
“You never know when you’re going to be able to coach one of these again,” said Hocking. “It might’ve been different if I didn’t get to see my family all the time, but I really enjoyed it.”

Hocking managed the team and his coaching staff was his all-star staff) because the 66ers won the league title last year, even though Hocking wasn’t the manager. He is from Southern California and as a result is able to see his family all the time, so the all-star game didn’t keep him from seeing his family for one of the few times all season.

Hocking really liked the camaraderie the team showed.

“The guys really came together. It wasn’t like, a group of Lancaster players over here, Lake Elsinore players over there. They all came together as a team,” he said. “And i got a chance to learn a little bit more about some of the guys in the league.”

Jose Rondon, Corey Seager and Julio Urias named to Futures Game

Corey Seager, who just played in the California League/Carolina League All-Star Game last week, will be playing in yet another all-star game, the Futures Game.

He’ll be joined by fellow Quake Julio Urias and 66er Jose Rondon, among others. The game is played in the same big league park as the MLB all-star game this year, on the Sunday before that game. So this year, it’s July 13 in Kansas City.

Seager, a shortstop ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America, was batting .355 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs in 66 games through Tuesday.

Urias is a bit of a surprise for some observers. He doesn’t turn 18 until August, and the Dodgers have been very careful with his innings this year so some didn’t expect him to have the added pressure of an all-star game. In 14 appearances (11 starts), Urias has pitched only 45 2/3 innings, lasting as long as five innings only once.

He is 1-1 with a 3.35 ERA and 48 strikeouts and 21 walks and is the Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect.

Rondon, who had been out with a strained hamstring, was a late addition to the team. He replaced Lancaster shortstop Carlos Correa (Houston’s No. 1 prospect), who suffered a broken right fibula and will miss the rest of the season.

Neither Rondon nor Urias made the Cal League all-star team, but Rondon has been solid, batting .329 with 14 doubles, three triples, 28 runs scored and 20 RBIs,

Before he had returned from the injury last weekend, Sixers manager Denny Hocking said he hoped Rondon would be rewarded with a spot in the Futures Game. Rondon is ranked as the Angels’ No. 12 prospect.

The format for the Futures Game is a U.S. vs. World, so Seager will play for the U.S. team and Urias (Mexico) and Rondon (Venezuela) will play for the World team.