It may not look like it on the surface but after emails with the league office and some computations, the 66ers have already clinched a playoff spot, entering play on Monday, even though they are only up on High Desert by 6 1/2 games and the Quakes by 7 games with 8 66ers games remaining. The top 2 teams from that group will make the playoffs.
Here’s how. If the 66ers lose their final 8, they are 67-73. Because the Quakes and High Desert play each other three times this week, they can’t both go undefeated. If one of them went undefeated and the Sixers went 0-8, the Sixers would still get in as the 2nd wild card.
If the 66ers went 0-8, the Quakes went 2-1 against High Desert and the Quakes and High Desert won all the rest of their games, there would be a three-way tie for two playoff spots, at 67-73.
What is the tie-breaker? Head-to-head against the other teams. Entering Monday, the Sixers are a combined 31-17 against the other two teams, giving them the tiebreaker advantage and leaving the Quakes and High Desert to play a one-game playoff next Tuesday for the final spot.
While that scenario is highly unlikely, a two-way tie between the Quakes and High Desert for the final spot is a very real possibility. The host team for that one-game playoff is based on head-to-head. High Desert leads the head-to-head 11-9, so the Quakes would have to sweep this week in order to get to host a one-game playoff.
Even in a place that is prone to crazy games, this one was especially crazy.
The Quakes rallied from an eight-run deficit, blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning, before scoring four times in the top of the 13th and held on for an 18-16 victory over the High Desert Mavericks before 738 fans in Adelanto late on Wednesday night.
The victory moved the Quakes (59-69) to within a half game of the Mavericks (59-68) for the South Division’s final playoff spot. The runs and the hits (22) were both season-highs for the Quakes. The game took 5 hours, 8 minutes.
The 66ers have changed utilitymen as the Angels released Redlands East Valley High product Trevor Hairgrove, and replaced him with Chance Ross. Hairgrove, who batted .194 in 51 games for the Sixers, was given his release on Monday, when the team returned from a road trip to Visalia. Hairgrove was 2 for 4 with a double in his final Sixers game.
Ross had spent time with the Sixers in May, when Hairgrove had a temporary assignment with Double-A Arkansas. With the Sixers, Ross was 7 for 29 (.241) with one home run and three RBIs. Most recently, he was with low Single-A Burlington, where he batted .250 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 40 games. He also played one game for Triple-A Salt Lake in May.
In other news, another Redlands East Valley product, Tommy Hanson, is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start for the Sixers at home at San Manuel Stadium on Thursday vs. Lancaster.
Zach Borenstein, who hadn’t played since June 15 with a strained hip flexor after hitting .315 with 16 home runs and 50 RBIs in 65 games, finally returned to the 66ers lineup on Wednesday. He was activated off the disabled list and had RBI singles in each of his first two at-bats at Lancaster. The Sixers had an open roster spot so they did not need to make another move.
Not so for the Quakes, who needed to find room for former big-league closer Carlos Marmol. Since Marmol is technically a minor leaguer and not on a rehab assignment, the Quakes needed to make room for him. The room was made with Pedro Baez, in his first year as a pitcher, getting promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. Baez was 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA and two saves in 32 appearances for the Quakes.
“Double-A will challenge him to make more progress,” Quakes manager Carlos Subero said. “It will help in his development.”
The Quakes and 66ers each made roster moves in advance of their series finale on Tuesday at San Manuel Stadium.
The Sixers had yet another pitcher go down with an injury, as right-hander Daniel Tillman went to the DL with a strained flexor tendon in his pitching arm. Tillman, who pitched for the Sixers the last two years, had made only two appearances since rejoining the team, the last time on July 4. In his place, the Sixers got right-hander Jairo Diaz. Diaz was 0-3 with a 3.97 ERA and eight saves for low Single-A Burlington before joining the Sixers.
The Quakes, meanwhile, brought outfielder Bobby Coyle off the disabled list. Since joining the team from Double-A Chattanooga a week ago, Coyle had been on the disabled list with an illness. Although he batted just .141 at Double-A, he did hit .288 with two home runs in 18 games with the Quakes earlier this season. To make room for Coyle, outfielder Devin Shines was placed on the disabled list.
The 66ers added yet another pitcher to the disabled list, as left-handed reliever Eswarlin Jimenez (2-5, 5.65 ERA) was placed on the seven-day DL. The Sixers currently have seven pitchers on the disabled list.
“He had some shoulder weakness,” Sixers manager Bill Haselman said. “His velocity was off.”
Haselman said they will have no idea how serious the injury is until they get a report on Jimenez back from the doctor.
In Jimenez’s place, the Sixers got left-hander Matt Hernandez, whom the Angels drafted in the 23rd round this year out of the University of Houston.
Hernandez had a 3.12 ERA in 8 2/3 innings in the rookie-level Arizona League, but in his last three outings (7 2/3 innings), he allowed three hits, no runs while striking out six.
66ers held on to defeat the Quakes 4-3 on Monday night but not without help from some bad Quakes baserunning you may never see in a game again.
There were six players thrown out on the bases Monday night, but two plays in particular stand out.
In the second inning, the Quakes had runners on first and second with one out. Casio Grider strayed off of first and catcher Abel Baker threw down to first to pick him off. Scott Wingo on second decided to take off for third and was thrown out at third to end the inning. A 2-3-5 double play without a pitching being thrown
But the doozie came in the seventh inning. With the Quakes trailing 4-2 Webster Rivas on first, Bladimir Franco belted a double to right-center. Rivas was in the process of scoring easily as the relay throw to the plate was wide. But Scott Wingo, the on-deck hitter, was standing on the third-base side of home plate and got in catcher Baker’s way as he tried to go after the ball. Rivas was called out on Wingo’s interference. I believe it is a violation of MLB Rule 7.09 (D) that states: “It is interference by a batter or a runner when — Any member or members of the offensive team stand or gather around any base to which a runner is advancing, to confuse, hinder or add to the difficulty of the fielders. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate or teammates.”
The other baserunners thrown out were more normal. Darnell Sweeney thrown out trying to steal second in the first inning. Scott Schebler thrown out (1-6) trying to steal second without a pitching being thrown in the sixth inning. The next batter, Sweeney, was easily thrown out at third trying to stretch a double to a triple.