Unlikely or not, 66ers won Cal League title

Although admittedly I didn’t get to cover many games in the last half of the season, I have been considering how surprising a run it was for the 66ers to win their sixth California League title, sweeping San Jose in the best-of-five finals on Saturday night.

It was the franchise’s first and the first for an Angels affiliate since Lake Elsinore in 1996.

There are some similarities with this team and the last Sixers team to win a title, in 2006 as a Mariners affiliate.

That 2006 team, managed by Gary Thurman, won the first half in bizarre fashion. Poor scheduling left the Sixers a game short in the first half an a half game behind High Desert. So the Sixers’ last game of the 1st half (and High Desert’s first of the 2nd half) was a Sixer victory that tied them for the first half title. So the next game, also against High Desert was another Sixer win, and the first half title, clinching a playoff spot.

Then the team was gutted. Players were promoted and what was left was a rag-tag group primarily of non-prospects.

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66ers take South title, beat Lancaster 4-3 in 15 innings

Given the stakes, it could go down as one of the greatest games in California League history, which began 72 years ago.
Abel Baker’s fifth hit of the game, a double with two outs in the top of the 15th, scored Angel Rosa with the go-ahead run and the 66ers downed Lancaster 4-3 in Game 5 of the South Division Finals.
The Sixers will host San Jose in the best-of-5 South Division Finals beginning Thursday at San Manuel Stadium, after San Jose downed Visalia 9-5 in Game 5 of the North Finals on Wednesday. Game 2 of the Championship Series is also in San Bernardino. Games 3, 4 and 5 are in San Jose Saturday-Monday, if necessary.
Here are some of the remarkable aspects of the game:

  • The game not only lasted 15 innings, but 5 hours, 31 minutes.
  • The Sixers were down to their final out before Brian Hernandez singled home Zach Borenstein from second base in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3.
  • There were plenty of opportunities, but some remarkable pitching (or poor clutch hitting depending on how you look at it). The Sixers had 22 hits but left 22 on base and were 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position. The JetHawks had 13 hits but left 16 on base and were 4 for 16 with RISP.
  • Sixers reliever Ty Kelley (1-1) pitched out of not 1, but 2, bases-loaded, no-out situations, 1 each in the 13th and 14th innings. The first time was a strikeout then a double play, the second time was a double play and then a strikeout.

The Sixers had a losing record in the regular season, but are advancing to the Cal League Championship Series. Is that rare? It is, but not as rare as you might think. Lake Elsinore did that in 2011 en route to winning the league title, the San Bernardino Stampede did it in 1997 before falling in the finals. Bakersfield did it in 1984 before losing in the finals.

A look at the 66ers-Quakes playoff matchup

The Quakes and 66ers open the California League playoffs on Wednesday in a best-of-3 series against each other. Game 1 is in Rancho Cucamonga, Games 2 and 3, if necessary, are in San Bernardino.

Here is a look at the teams:

HEAD-TO-HEAD HISTORY
Last time the franchises met in the playoffs: 2004, 66ers won best-of-3, 2-0
Last time Dodgers and Angels’ affiliates met in the playoffs: 2000, San Bernardino Stampede (Dodgers) def. Lake Elsinore (Angels) 2-0.
66ers-Quakes all-time in playoffs: 66ers are 4-0
66ers-Quakes this year: 66ers won season series, 16-8.
Team head-to-head statistics: 66ers .281 BA, 16 errors, 4.08 ERA,; Quakes .256, 36 errors, 5.02 ERA.
Top head-to-head players on current roster: 66ers — Brian Hernandez (24 G, .407, 2 HR, 24 RBIs), Zach Borenstein (15 G, .466, 4 HR, 15 RBIs), Alex Yarbrough, (24 G, .321, 18 RBIs), Eric Cendejas (8G, 3-0, 1 SV, 1.69 ERA); Quakes — Bobby Coyle (9 G, .333, 5 HR), Chris Jacobs (14 G, .286, 4 HR, 10 RBIs), Scott Schebler (.22 G, .271, 3 HR, 13 RBIs), Darnell Sweeney (24 G, .293, 1 HR, 12 RBIs), Scott Wingo (.326); Matt Shelton (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R), Daniel Coulombe (1.93 ERA, 12 K, 9 1/3 IP)
OVERALL IN 2013
Records: 66ers 69-71, Quakes, 65-75
Pitching ranks: 66ers 4.64 ERA (fifth), Quakes 4.90 (seventh)
Runs scored: 66ers 675 (ninth), Quakes 728 (fourth)
Errors: 66ers 122 (fewest), Quakes 198 (most). Sixers infield of 1B Michael Snyder, 2B Alex Yarbrough, SS Eric Stamets and 3B Brian Hernandez lead the league in fielding percentage at their respective positions
Cal League postseason all-stars: 66ers — OF Zach Borenstein (MVP, .337, 28 HR, 95 RBIs), 1B Michael Snyder (.280, 25 HR, 92 RBIs), 2B Alex Yarbrough (.313, 11 HR, 80 RBIs, 14 SBs), P Mark Sappington (11-4, 3.37 ERA, promoted); Quakes — OF Scott Schebler (.296, 27 HRs, 91 RBIs).

MANAGERS PLAYOFF HISTORY
Quakes’ Carlos Subero: first time in playoffs in 4 years as Cal League manager
66ers’ Bill Haselman: 1st time in playoffs in 3 years as Cal League manager

 

Arizona Fall League rosters announced

The Arizona Fall League rosters for this year were announced and several current or former Quakes or 66ers were selected to play.

The Mesa Solar Sox, which includes minor leaguers from the Angels, A’s, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers, includes several former or current 66ers. Current 66ers include: league MVP OF Zach Borenstein, P R.J. Alvarez, and P Cam Bedrosian. Former 66ers include: C Jett Bandy, P Mike Morin, 2B Taylor Lindsey and 1B C.J. Cron.

The Glendale Desert Dogs, which includes minor leaguers from the Dodgers, Marlins, Twins, Reds and White Sox, has a few current or former Quakes. Current Quake coach Johnny Washington is on the coaching staff, and current Quakes C Pratt Maynard, C Chris O’Brien and 3B Corey Seager as well as ex-Quake OF Brian Cavazos-Galvez.

66ers have clinched a playoff spot

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.

Quakes outlast Mavericks 18-16 in 13 innings

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.

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Velasquez knocked out in fourth inning of Cal League debut

Vincent Velasquez, a Garey High product who was the 58th overall pick by the Houston Astros in the 2010 draft, made his California League debut on Tuesday for Lancaster.

After allowing three baserunners and no runs in the first three innings, the right-handed Velasquez ran into trouble against host Lake Elsinore.

In the fourth, he allowed 10 men to come to the plate as the Storm scored five runs on a home run, two walks, five singles and a wild pitch. He was replaced with two outs.

His final line: 3 2/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, four strikeouts, one hit batter and one wild pitch. He threw 79 pitches. He also took the loss in a 5-4 Lake Elsinore win.

Trevor Hairgrove released by Angels, Chance Ross rejoins team

Trevor Hairgrove

Trevor Hairgrove

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.

2014 California League schedule is released

Here is the 2014 Cal League schedule, if you click on the link below. Quakes open at home on April 3, play the 66ers for the first time, at home on April 7, and 66ers open at home on April 10.

66ers will host on July 4, Quakes on July 3.

2014 California League Schedule(1)