The Seattle Mariners are headed toward another season of 90+ marks in the loss column and a fan base mired in frustration and disappointment. There are positives, however. The future is bright, and as M's fanatics have already seen, some of that future is right now.
Felix Hernandez and his "filth" are dominating the league. Yuniesky Betancourt fields everything hit within a mile of him. The biggest question coming into the season about Jeremy Reed was ‘can he play center field?' That has been answered.
More of the club's future stars remain in the minor leagues, where three of the organization's affiliates will compete in the postseason.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will battle in the Midwest League playoffs beginning later this week. The Double-A San Antonio Missions seek their third Texas League title in four years as they begin their series with Midland (A's) tonight. And the Tacoma Rainiers look for six more victories to win their second title in five years.
Wisconsin vs. Beloit (best of three)
The Timber Rattlers went 8-8 versus Beloit during the regular season and with a three-game set in the first round, have very little room for error. For the Rattlers to move on, the starting pitching has to come through as the Wisconsin bullpen is not as deep as it once was.
The starters in games one and two, Mark Lowe and Aaron Jensen maybe the two most important players in the series. If each can hand the bullpen a lead after the sixth inning, the Rattlers may head to the next round without needing a decisive game three.
If Wisconsin and Beloit lock up in a third and final game, Robert Rohrbaugh will get the nod for the Rattlers. Rohrbuagh was a seventh round pick out of Clemson in June and went 5-2 with a 3.84 ERA for Everett this summer.
Rattlers Player to Watch: Brent Johnson, OF
Johnson (.310, 22 SB), went on a hot streak in late June and never let up, ending the year with the club's best batting average. Johnson's work at the top of the lineup (55 walks) is critical for the Rattlers. Setting up Jeff Clement, Thomas Marshall and Mike Wilson in the middle of the order is key to any series Wisconsin may play in the postseason.
Game 1: Wednesday, September 7 at Beloit – RHP M. Lowe vs. K. Aselton
Game 2: Thursday, September 8 at Wisconsin – RHP A. Jensen vs. K. Waldrop
Game 3: Friday, September 9 at Wisconsin – LHP R. Rohrbaugh vs. TBA
ITP Says: Timber Rattlers in three
Wisconsin split the season series with Beloit but have the home field advantage and clinched on Beloit's home field twice this season. The Timber Rattlers won both halves of Midwest League's Western division, and made it official both times in Beloit.
San Antonio vs. Midland (best of five)
San Antonio will send right-hander Rich Dorman (3-0, 0.45, 20 IP, 24 K) to the hill Tuesday night versus Midland Rockhounds' right-hander Shane Komine (2-1, 3.16, 31.1 IP, 33 K).
The Missions went 12-16 versus Midland this season, but won 10 of the final 18 meetings after a 2-8 start. Dorman has been stingy since being sent to AA after struggling mightily in Triple-A Tacoma. The 26-year-old gives the Missions a chance to get the series off to a good start.
In game two, left-hander Thomas Oldham (13-7, 3.67, 154.2 IP, 115 K) will take the pill to the hill versus Midland's Mike Nannini (8-1, 5.71, 74.2 IP, 43 K).
Adam Jones will play shortstop in the postseason before heading to Arizona to work on his outfield skills, and is a key component of the Missions offense in this series. First baseman Jessee Hoorelbeke, outfielders Jaime Bubela and Gary Harris, as well as third baseman Jesus Guzman will play major roles.
Missions Player to Watch: Ismael Castro, 2B
Castro (.264, 9 HR, 51 RBI) came on strong the second half of the year and could provide a much-needed offensive boost for San Antonio.
Rockhounds Player to Watch:Jeremy Brown, C, and RF Jason Perry
After losing league MVP Andre Ethier, Midland will look to catcher Jeremy Brown (.261, 20 HR, 72 RBI) and right fielder Jason Perry (.257, 22 HR, 77 RBI) to carry the load. If Dorman and Oldham are to be successful, they will have to contain Brown and Perry and keep them in the ballpark.
ITP Says: Missions in Five
San Antonio has a slight edge in the pitching department since adding Dorman and Yorman Bazardo. Dorman may get two starts if the series goes five games – advantage San Antonio.
Game 1: Tuesday, September 6 at Midland – RHP R. Dorman vs. RHP S. Komine
Game 2: Wednesday, September 7 at Midland – LHP T. Oldham vs. RHP M. Nannini
Game 3: Friday, September 9 at San Antonio – TBA
Game 4 (if necessary): Saturday, September 10 at San Antonio – TBA
Game 5 (if necessary): Sunday, September 11 at San Antonio – TBA
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
Tacoma vs. Sacramento (best of five)
Tacoma finished the season 8-8 versus the River Cats and both teams ended the regular season schedule with 80 wins. The Rainiers will go with left-hander Damian Moss (9-7, 3.73) versus Sacramento's Adam Johnson (1-0, 6.23).
Moss finished the year with the PCL's fifth best ERA and tied Felix Hernandez for the team lead in wins with nine. If Moss can find a way to limit the free pass he has a chance to get the Rainiers out to a 1-0 lead.
Johnson was the second overall pick in the 200 draft by the Minnesota Twins but never lived up to expectations, compiling a career 4.82 ERA heading into 2005. Johnson was signed by the A's three weeks ago after pitching in five games for the Puebla Parrotts in the Mexican League.
Rainiers Player to Watch: Wiki Gonzalez, C
Gonzalez (.313, 5 HR, 28 RBI) is a key offensive cog for Tacoma, hitting in the middle of the order. With DH Bucky Jacobsen struggling like never before as he rehabs two knee surgeries, Gonzalez often finds himself in the DH role when not catching, just so Rainiers skipper Dan Rohn can get his bat in the lineup.
River Cats Player to Watch: Jairo Garcia, RHP
If Garcia (3-6, 4.47, 48.1 IP, 73 K) gets into the game in the ninth, it's bad news for Tacoma. Not only because the scenario suggests that Sacramento has the lead at that point but because Garcia has been nasty over his past 15 appearances, including his 20th save versus the Rainiers on Saturday (1 IP, 2K).
ITP Says: Tacoma in five
Tacoma's 48-24 home record may just be the deciding factor. If Tacoma gets up two games to none before heading to Sacramento, the River Cats dream of a third straight PCL title will be over.
Game 1: Wedneday, September 7 at Tacoma – RHP A. Johnson vs. LHP D. Moss
Game 2: Thursday, September 8 at Tacoma – RHP R. Glynn vs. LHP B. Livingston
Game 3: Saturday, September 9 at Sacramento – RHP J. Foppert vs. RHP M. Saipe
Game 4 (if necessary): Sunday, September 10 at Sacramento – RHP C. Buglovsky vs. RHP M. Ziegler
Game 5 (if necessary): Monday, September 11 at Sacramento – RHP F. Cruceta vs. RHP S. Etherton
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