Bees Playing for Title

The Burlington Bees have swept their way into the Midwest League Championship Series, where they will square off against the South Bend Silver Hawks. Inside, check out RC's series preview as the Bees go for their first Midwest League title as an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Championship Series Preview: Burlington Bees (73-65) vs. South Bend Silver Hawks (76-63)

Both the Burlington Bees (43-26) and South Bend Silver Hawks (43-27) rode outstanding second half records to division titles and berths in the postseason after compiling losing records in the season's first half. The Bees quickly dispatched their first two playoff opponents, sweeping both the Kane County Cougars and Cedar Rapids Kernels in best-of-three series. The playoff appearance was the first for the Bees since 2002, and the first time they've advanced past the first round since signing its first player development contract with the Royals in 2001.

The Silver Hawks, meanwhile, have been nearly as efficient as the Bees in reaching the title series, winning their first series against the Clinton Lumber Kings in three games to advance and sweeping the Dayton Dragons to reach the championship round.

Head-to-Head

The Bees and Silver Hawks only matched up for two three-game series this season, one in April and the other in July. The Bees won both series for a 4-2 advantage on the year. Both club's rosters are vastly different than they were during the first series in early April.

Jason Taylor has found the most success against the Silver Hawks this year, hitting .429 (9-for-21) with a home run. Mike Moustakas homered twice in the series in July, and is hitting South Bend pitching at a .318 clip. David Lough also has a homer off the Silver Hawks this season, along with a .320 batting average. Johnny Giavotella, who wasn't yet with the Bees when they matched up with South Bend in April, went 5-for-13 (.384) against the Silver Hawks in July.

On the mound, Alex Caldera is the only pitcher to make two starts against South Bend, going 0-1 with a 4.62 ERA while striking out 11 in 11.2 innings pitched. Matt Mitchell made one start against the Silver Hawks in July, picking up a win by tossing five scoreless innings. Danny Duffy also beat them in July, although it doesn't appear likely that he'll see any more action this season.

Offense

On paper, the Bees appear to have the more dynamic offense, with both more power and speed. In fact, the Bees have four players – Moustakas, Lough, Taylor, and Clint Robinson – who finished the season with more home runs than anyone on the Silver Hawk roster. On the year, the Bees finished third in the Midwest League with 112 home runs, while South Bend finished near the bottom of the league with just 70 round-trippers. The Bees also hold the advantage in team batting average (.258 to .249), team OPS (.722 to .688), and a big edge in stolen bases (156 to 58). South Bend was slightly more proficient at getting on base (.331 OBP to .325 for the Bees), and the two teams scored nearly an identical number of runs this year.

Pitching

The clubs' pitching staffs seem equally matched, as both ranked among the Midwest League leaders in several important categories. The two clubs tied for the fourth-best ERA in the league (3.49), and both staffs were excellent at keeping runners off base. Indeed, South Bend led the league in WHIP (1.21), while the Bees finished with the fourth-best mark (1.26). Bees hurlers struck out nearly 100 more batters than the Silver Hawk staff while issuing four fewer walks, but the South Bend staff did a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark, surrendering 17 fewer home runs.

Schedule

The series kicks off tonight with Daniel Gutierrez (4-4, 2.70) scheduled to take the mound for the Bees against South Bend's Jarrod Parker (12-5, 3.44). Gutierrez last pitched in the playoff opener against Kane County, earning no decision after a solid outing in which he went six innings and surrendered two runs on five hits while striking out six batters. He has not faced South Bend this season.

The rest of the pitching rotation doesn't appear to be set, but we could see Alex Caldera and Kelvin Herrera take the hill in Games Two and Three, respectively.

Game 1: September 10, 6:30 PM – South Bend @ Burlington
Game 2: September 11, 6:30 PM – South Bend @ Burlington
Game 3: September 12, 5:30 PM – Burlington @ South Bend
Game 4: September 13, 11:00 AM – Burlington @ South Bend (if necessary)
Game 5: September 14, 12:30 PM – Burlington @ South Bend (if necessary)


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