Note: I had planned on doing a Championship Series preview, however, when it comes to detailed knowledge of the American Association, there is none better than Goldeyes, radio play by play man, Steve Schuster.
© Steve Schuster and the Winnipeg Goldeyes
WINNIPEG, MB – The Winnipeg Goldeyes and Wichita Wingnuts begin the 2016 American Association Championship Series at Shaw Park on Wednesday night.
The Goldeyes host Games One and Two in the best-of-five series, Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Both contests begin at 7:05 p.m. Tickets for the first two games are on sale now by calling 1-855-GOLDEYE, visiting www.ticketmaster.ca, or visiting the box office at Shaw Park.
The Series shifts to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kansas for Game Three on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.. The “if necessary” Games Four and Five also take place in Wichita on Sunday (5:05 p.m.) and Monday (7:05 p.m.).
The series is a rematch of the 2012 American Association Championship Series in which the Goldeyes swept the Wingnuts three games to none to win their first title since capturing the Northern League crown during their inaugural season in 1994.
The Goldeyes (58-42) clinched the American Association wild card on the final day of the regular season and earned their ninth league final berth in franchise history by defeating the St. Paul Saints in a thrilling, five-game Division Series. The five contests were decided by a combined seven runs, with the Goldeyes clinching the series in a 3-1 victory at CHS Field on Monday night. It was Winnipeg’s first victory in the fifth game of a postseason series since 2003, and their first game five road win since 2002.
The Wingnuts won the American Association South Division by tying for the best record in the league (61-39), and are appearing in the Championship Series for a fourth time in the last five years. The four Championship Series appearances are now an American Association record, as are the Wingnuts’ seven playoff berths since the franchise started in 2008. Wichita beat Sioux City three games to one in their Division Series.
Wednesday’s series-opener marks the four-year anniversary of the Goldeyes’ 8-3, championship-clinching win at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in 2012. Interestingly, the Wingnuts have been eliminated from postseason play on September 14th three times in the last four seasons (2012, 2013, and 2015).
Both teams feature plenty of offensive fire power. During the regular season, the Goldeyes led the American Association in runs scored (594), ranked third in batting average (.283), fourth in home runs (85), second in stolen bases (136), and set an American Association with 462 offensive walks. The previous record was 438 walks by the Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2012. Wichita had the best team batting average in the regular season (.288), finished second in runs (581), fifth in homers (82), third in steals (134), and third in walks (410).
All-Star David Rohm led the Goldeyes in the Division Series with an incredible 12-for-19 (.632) clip, and had at least one hit in all five games against the Saints. Josh Romanski paced Winnipeg with four RBI. On the mound, Game Five winner Mikey O’Brien allowed just one earned run in 14.0 innings over two playoff starts. Victor Capellan and Eric Eadington were stellar in relief, combining for 18 strikeouts in 10.1 innings, and allowing only one earned run. Overall, the Goldeyes’ pitched to a 2.86 ERA against a potent Saints’ lineup that was fourth in the league in runs scored.
Harrison Kain, who finished second in the regular season batting race to his teammate Matt Chavez, led the Wingnuts with a .529 average in the Division Series. Wichita had five players drive in four or more runs against the Explorers’ pitching staff, including former Major Leaguer Brent Clevlen who also hit a pair of homers. Clevlen was the American Association’s 2014 Most Valuable Player. Chavez’s .359 regular season average was best in the league and netted the first baseman 2016 Rookie of the Year honours. Chavez is the Wingnuts’ sixth American Association batting champion in the team’s nine-year history. Wichita’s pitchers worked to a 2.97 ERA against an Explorers’ offence that finished second in team batting average (.287). Relievers Mike Devine, Chase Johnson, Chad Nading, and Luis Pardo combined for 11.0 innings without giving up an earned run. Veteran outfielder Nick Van Stratten returned to Wichita in August and is hitting .471 in the playoffs. Van Stratten’s .355 career batting average in the American Association is the second highest in league history among hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances.
Edwin Carl earns the start in Game One for the Goldeyes. Carl picked up the win in Game Two against the Saints last Friday at Shaw Park. Two days later, and after having thrown 107 pitches, Carl worked two-thirds of a scoreless inning in Game Four to help the Goldeyes stave off elimination and force a Game Five. Carl is pitching in the postseason for a fifth time during his six-year professional career. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 21.0 career playoff innings.
The Wingnuts go with right-hander Tim Brown who took a no-decision in Game One at Sioux City last Wednesday. Brown is the only player in American Association history to win three championships (2009 Lincoln, 2011 Grand Prairie, 2014 Wichita). Brown is 3-2 with a 4.63 ERA in eight career American Association playoff starts, and Wednesday will be the fifth time since his rookie season in 2009 that Brown will get the nod in game one of a postseason series.
With each club having secured a title in recent years, the winner of this series will become only the second multi-championship team in league history, and the first since the Fort Worth Cats won back-to-back titles during the league’s first two years in 2006 and 2007 (full list of American Association champions below).
American Association Championship Series Schedule
Game 1 – Wednesday, September 14th – Shaw Park, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 – Thursday, September 15th – Shaw Park, 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 – Saturday, September 17th – Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 7:05 p.m.
Game 4* – Sunday, September 18th – Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 5:05 p.m.
Game 5* – Monday, September 19th – Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching Matchups (regular season statistics)
Game 1 – RHP Edwin Carl (10-6, 4.70) vs. RHP Tim Brown (9-4, 4.12)
Game 2 – LHP Kevin McGoevrn (8-3, 3.56) vs. RHP Alex Boshers (12-3, 3.29)
Game 3 – RHP Mikey O’Brien (10-4, 4.34) vs. RHP Jesse Pratt (6-2, 3.48)
Game 4 – TBA vs. RHP Tyler Kane (2-1, 1.69)
Game 5 – TBA vs. RHP Tim Brown (9-4, 4.12)
American Association Champions
2006 – Fort Worth Cats
2007 – Fort Worth Cats
2008 – Sioux Falls Canaries
2009 – Lincoln Saltdogs
2010 – Shreveport-Bossier Captains
2011 – Grand Prairie AirHogs
2012 – Winnipeg Goldeyes
2013 – Gary SouthShore RailCats
2014 – Wichita Wingnuts
2015 – Laredo Lemurs
Tickets for Games One and Two of the 2016 American Association Championship Series are on sale now by calling 1-855-GOLDEYE, visitingwww.goldeyes.com, or stopping by any Ticketmaster location, including the box office at Shaw Park. For information on 2017 season tickets, 10-Game Mini Packs, or group outings, call the Goldeyes’ office at (204) 982-2273.