The playoff races: Wichita clinches berth

The Wichita Wranglers on Sunday laid claim to their first postseason appearance in three years, and today RC takes a look at all of the Royals' minor league races. Between the six minor league affiliates, four teams are in good position to make the playoffs in their respective leagues.


Wranglers clinch playoff berth

With an 11-4 win over the Springfield Cardinals on Sunday, the Wichita Wranglers guaranteed their first postseason appearance in three seasons. The win, which pushed the Wranglers overall season record to 71-61, eliminated Springfield (62-69) from playoff contention, and set up a postseason date with first half North Division champion Tulsa.

The Wranglers also moved one step closer to securing the Texas League North Division's second-half title. With seven games remaining on the schedule, the Wranglers hold a five-game lead over the Drillers, and they can clinch a tie tonight with a win and a Drillers's loss. Although the second-half title will have no effect on the postseason schedule at this point, the Wranglers have decided not to "officially" celebrate until they clinch sole possession of the second-half crown.

The Wranglers put on an impressive display of power in Sunday's contest, which was delayed for more than two hours by rain. Left fielder Chris Lubanski led the way by going 4-for-6 with two home runs (15), a triple, and four RBIs, and third baseman Alex Gordon added four more ribbies on three hits, including his 29th home run. Center fielder Mitch Maier raised his season batting average to .303 with a 3-for-5 performance, including two doubles and a home run, and Junior Herndon picked up his 11th win of the season with seven strong innings.

Among Lubanski's four hits on Sunday were two home runs.

Lubanski's four-hit game was his second in his last five contests, and the 21-year-old prospect seems to be in the midst of his customary late season surge. Lubanski hit .327/.414/.618 with six home runs in July, and over his last 10 games, he's 15-for-42 (.357) with three homers, two doubles, and two triples. On the season, his numbers now stand at .282/.368/.481, and although it hasn't been officially reported yet, it is our understanding that he will report to the Arizona Fall League this fall.

Other playoff races:

  • The High Desert Mavericks have played just .500 ball for the last few weeks, but with seven games remaining, they stand in good position to make their second-straight playoff appearance. They are currently in fourth place in the California League's South Division, but they trail division leader Lancaster by just two games in the second-half race.

    The second-half champion earns an automatic playoff berth, but even if the Mavs fall short of that, they are currently 1.5 games ahead of Lake Elsinore for the South Division's wild card. The wild card is claimed by the team with the best overall record (excluding first- and second-half champions), and at 69-64, the Mavs control their own destiny.

  • By winning five of their last six games, the Idaho Falls Chukars put themselves back in front of the Ogden Raptors in the race for a playoff berth in the Pioneer League. Although the Chukars trail the Raptors by three games and the Orem Owlz by four in the second half standings, they are in a good position. If the Owlz hold on to claim the second half title, their opponent in the championship series will be the team with the second-best overall record (combined first half and second half record), since they also won the first half title.

    With 11 games remaining, the Chukars (34-31) lead the Raptors (33-32) by a game in the overall standings. The Chukars must rely on the Owlz to do their part by continuing to win games, but much of their destiny is still in their own hands. They conclude the season with a crucial three game series in Ogden from September 5-7.

  • The Arizona Royals lost a key game to the Arizona Angels on Sunday, and they now trail the rookie Halos by 1.5 games with two games to play. The Royals must win both of their remaining games, and the Angels must lose both of theirs, in order to earn the right to play the first half champion Arizona Padres in a one-game championship match-up. Worth noting is the strong play of 2006 15th round pick Nick Francis, who has gone 16-for-44 (.364) over his last 10 games while raising his overall season totals to .295/.358/.404.

    Francis has been on fire of late

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