Previously known as the Bricktown Showdown and played in Oklahoma City since 2006, the Triple-A National Championship will be played tonight in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the home of the Isotopes. The Championship pits the Pacific Coast League champ against the International League champ for a winner-take-all game. The game will be televised live on Versus beginning at 8pm ET.
The Omaha Storm Chasers took the PCL crown after not reaching the postseason for 13 years. The Columbus Clippers, the reigning Triple-A champions, blew away the competition from the beginning en route to their second consecutive IL championship.
PCL Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza was expected to start for Omaha, but will instead be making the start for the KC Royals on Tuesday. Sean O’Sullivan will be making the start for Omaha. O’Sullivan last started in the division series clincher against Round Rock, where he carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning before giving up a game-tying two-run homerun.
Zach McAllister had started Game 1 of Columbus’ previous two series, but instead of starting the Triple-A Championship, he will be making the start on Tuesday for the Cleveland Indians. Veteran Mitch Talbot will be making the start for the Clippers (my dad was hoping to see Joe Martinez get the start after his 13 strikeout domination of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last week). Talbot is 2-0 this postseason with a 1.69 ERA.
UPDATE: Apparently my dad gets his wish because Joe Martinez will be starting for Columbus. Not sure why the change from Talbot to Martinez but it’ll still be an exciting matchup.
Despite all the turnover, both teams used good pitching and timely hitting to capture titles. Omaha has powerful left-handed hitters in Clint Robinson and Kila Ka’aihue. (Kila has eight RBIs this postseason). Outfielder Lorenzo Cain has been hot, going 14-for-32 with four RBIs and seven runs scored. Closer Kelvin Herrera could be key to Omaha’s chances of winning, as he can go multiple innings. The Future’s Game All-Star started the year in High-A Wilmington before forcing his way up to Omaha. The Storm Chasers also have the advantage of playing in Albuquerque this season.
Last year’s Triple-A Championship MVP, Jerad Head, returns to hopefully help Columbus win another title. In last year’s game, Head went 3-for-4 with two doubles, four RBIs, and two runs scored. He has struggled a bit in the postseason this year for the Clippers. The Clippers offense has been a little inconsistent in the postseason, but they have had a different hero every night. Catcher Luke Carlin, who platoons with Paul Phillips, leads the team with five RBIs. Outfielder Chad Huffman has been hot, as he went 2-for-4 in the clinching game against the IronPigs (overall he’s hitting .370 in the postseason).
The Clippers postseason has been dominated by its starting pitching, as only three relievers have been needed. Their bullpen has faced the most turnover as of late, as their three closers (Josh Judy, Nick Hagadone, and Zach Putnam) have all been promoted to Cleveland over the last few weeks. IL manager of the year Mike Sarbaugh has relied on setup man Chen Lee (who spent part of the season with Double-A Akron), who has had a great postseason (a 1.80 ERA). The rest of the bullpen is a host of Double-A promotions.
There are some people out there who don’t like the idea of a one game overall Triple-A Championship. The two teams have to travel great distances just to go all-out for one game. I don’t understand why the west always gets the championship game. The real title is their league title because it has taken so much hard work and perseverance to accomplish that goal. I like the idea just because the game is televised and the pressure is off for the players to just have fun (and sure they want to win).
I’m excited to watch the game to see the two teams I picked to win their league titles face off.