Minor League Playoff Preview

The minor league playoff season takes to the field starting Wednesday night (September 9) and the Reading Phillies and Lakewood BlueClaws will both be in action. Both teams start their respective series on the road.

Double-A Eastern League Playoffs

Reading vs. Akron

The Reading Phillies are taking part in the Eastern League Playoffs for the first time since 2001. That season, they were declared co-champions of the league along with New Britain when terrorist attacks first delayed and then postponed the Eastern League Finals. Reading made the postseason this season by virtue of their second place finish in the Southern Division and will open the best-of-five series in Akron with Mike Stutes (8-8, 4.26) going up against Josh Tomlin (14-9, 4.16) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday night.

Playoff rosters had to be set by 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday and the R-Phils added some punch to their lineup with the addition of Michael Taylor and Tuffy Gosewisch from Lehigh Valley and Fidel Hernandez from Clearwater. Unfortunately, they also lost reliever Sergio Escalona, who was recalled by the Phillies because of the injury to Scott Eyre. Taylor won the Eastern League Rookie of the Year Award this season after playing there until mid-July when he was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In 86 games, Taylor hit .333 and had 15 home runs and 65 RBI with the R-Phils. He'll join Domonic Brown, who was playing at Clearwater during the time that Taylor was at Reading. Brown joined Reading about two weeks after Taylor's exit and became a left-handed version of Taylor, hitting 3-20-.279 in 37 games at Reading.

Reading showed consistency throughout the season, finishing every month - except August - at or above .500 and were at least tied for second place in the Southern Division every day since July 29. Manager Steve Roadcap is taking a team to the postseason for the fifth time in his 18 seasons as a minor league manager. Ironically, both Roadcap and Akron manager Mike Sarbaugh are from the Reading area, with Roadcap being born in Pottsville and Sarbaugh making his home in Sinking Spring, just a short drive from FirstEnergy Stadium. Sarbaugh led the Aeros to an 89-53 record and kept them in first place from start-to-finish this season, on his way to being awarded the Eastern League Manager of the Year Award. Reading finished with a record of 75-67.

During the season, Reading was one of just three teams to have a winning record against Akron, going 7-3 in their ten meetings, with Reading winning three-of-four at home and four-of-six in Akron.

The winner of the series takes on the winner of the Northern Division Playoff, matching division winner Connecticut against New Britain. Connecticut is a San Francisco Giants affiliate, while New Britain is affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. The Akron Aeros are an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

Low-A South Atlantic League Playoffs

Lakewood vs. Kannapolis

The Lakewood BlueClaws had to play out the entire second-half before finding out who they would face in the Northern Division Championship Series. It turned out to be the Kannapolis Intimidators, who moved from being four games over .500 in the first-half to 21 games over in the second-half to win the division by four games over West Virginia and 8 1/2 games over Lakewood.

A huge part of the Lakewood offense comes from Anthony Gose. The speedy 19 year old swiped 76 stolen bases, the most by any minor league player this season. As a team, the BlueClaws followed Gose and stole a total of 210 bases, the most of any minor league club. Gose (2-52-.259) and number two hitter Harold Garcia (8-55-.291-42 SB) combined to give opposing teams fits.

"If we can get Gose and Garcia on base, they disrupt everything," said manager Dusty Wathan. "It gives Murphy and d'Arnaud better pitches to hit. It might elevate a fastball just a little bit. The way Murphy and d'Arnaud are swinging the bat right now, I think it's helping them a lot. Gose is in a bit of a funk right now but he's a guy that rises to the occasion."

Jim Murphy (14-67-.279) and Travis d'Arnaud (13-71-.255) have handled their jobs hitting in the third and fourth spots in the order. Over the past 13 games, d'Arnaud has hit safely in 11 of those games and is hitting at a .380 (19-for-50) pace over that span. "Over the past two weeks, I haven't tried to hit home runs every swing, and tried to stay within myself, concentrating more on each at bat," explained d'Arnaud.

Matthew Way, who started the season at Williamsport, will get the start in Game One for Lakewood and will be opposed by Charlie Leesman (13-5, 3.12). With the BlueClaws, Way is 4-1 with a 3.14 ERA. "I wanted to establish myself as one of the better starters here and to be named the first pitcher for the playoffs was one of the things I set out to do and one of the goals I set for myself. It's rewarding," admitted Way.

The best-of-three series opens Wednesday night at Kannapolis and then comes to Lakewood Friday night for Game Two when Trevor May (3-1, 2.56) goes up against Stephen Sauer (6-5, 3.36). If a Game Three is necessary, that would be in Lakewood on Saturday night with Jesus Sanchez (10-6, 3.38) going up against Nevin Griffith (5-5, 3.86).

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