The 2013 Pacific Coast League (PCL) Championship is set to begin in Omaha on Tuesday night. The best-of-five series features the Salt Lake Bees, who are seeking their first PCL Championship (the Salt Lake City Gulls did win the PCL Championship in 1979), and the Omaha Storm Chasers, who are seeking their second in three years (after winning four titles in the American Association).
This will be the first postseason meeting between the teams.
Salt Lake leads the all-time series 52-44, but are more successful on the road against Omaha (27-21) than at home (25-23). They split their four-game series this season.
How They Got Here
Salt Lake (the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels) won the PCL Pacific North with a 78-66 record, finishing two games ahead of the Tacoma Rainiers. They went on to defeat Las Vegas in the Pacific Conference Championship, three games to one. The Bees finished the regular season with a four-game losing streak, going 4-6 over their final 10 games.
Omaha (the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals) won the PCL American North with a 70-74 record, squeezing by Memphis by one game. Then they stunned the Oklahoma City RedHawks (the team with the best record in the league) by sweeping them in the American Conference Championship. The Storm Chasers won their last two games of the regular season and were also just 4-6 over their final 10 games.
Tale of Two Offenses
The Bees are third in the league in home runs (136) and second in runs scored (809). They are patient at the plate (second in the league in BB with 562) and they get on base (tied for first with a .362 OBP). Even though they lost six of their final ten games, they still scored 61 runs during that span.
Conversely, Omaha has struggled to score runs all season (13th in the league with 621 runs scored) and haven't displayed much power (tied for 12th in home runs with 110). They are in the middle of the pack with 486 walks and 12th with a .335 OBP. Omaha scored 43 runs over its final ten games of the season.
On the Mound
Salt Lake was at the bottom of the league in ERA (5.37), but their starting staff was solid when the chips were down in the playoffs against Las Vegas. Starting pitchers Matt Shoemaker, Tommy Hanson, Jarrett Grube and Billy Buckner posted a combined 3.42 ERA during the four-game series.
Omaha was second in the league in ERA (3.91) and they led the league in strikeouts (1183). The Storm Chasers bullpen has been outstanding in the playoffs. Maikel Cleto, Michael Mariot, Buddy Baumann, Zach Jackson and Spencer Patton tossed 11 2/3 scoreless innings.
Omaha's starting staff was without pitching prospect Yordano Ventura for the conference championship series because he violated an undisclosed team rule. He is scheduled to start Game 2 of the PCL Championship Series.
Both teams lost a number of key players recently due to big league call-ups or injuries.
The Storm Chasers lost Francisley Bueno (3-3, 2.66 ERA), Donnie Joseph (4-3, 3.95 ERA), catcher Brett Hayes (17 HR), infielder Johnny Giavotella (.286, 46 RBI) and shortstop Pedro Ciriaco (.281) to the big leagues before the playoffs began. They assigned RHP Jason Bergmann, RHP Spencer Patton, third baseman Rey Navarro, catcher Mitch Canham, LHP Ryan Verdugo and outfielder Lane Adams to Omaha from NW Arkansas.
The Bees lost catcher John Hester (8 HR) to the Angels. And they lost third baseman Andy Marte (.362, 6 HR in 26 games) due to a shoulder injury he sustained while scoring the game-winning run on a headfirst dive during Thursday's walk-off win. He is not expected to return this season. They also expected to be without shortstop Tommy Field (11 HR, 49 RBI, .303) because the Angels called him up on Sunday, but they optioned him back to Salt Lake on Tuesday. Catcher Stephen McGee has been assigned to Salt Lake from Orem.
Game 1 - September 10 @ Omaha: Matt Shoemaker (SLC) vs. Chris Dwyer (OMA)
Game 2 - September 11 @ Omaha: Tommy Hanson (SLC) vs. Yordano Ventura (OMA)
Game 3 - September 13 @ Salt Lake: Justin Marks (OMA) vs. Jarrett Grube (SLC)
Game 4 - September 14 @ Salt Lake (if nec.): Brian Sanches (OMA) vs. Billy Buckner (SLC)
Game 5 - September 15 @ Salt Lake (if nec.): Chris Dwyer (OMA) vs. Matt Shoemaker (SLC)
The winner of the series will play the International League Champion for the Triple-A Championship at Coca Cola Park in Allentown, Penn. (home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs) on Tuesday, September 17, 2013.
Omaha World Herald writer Rob White has written an excellent article showcasing a list of players to watch in the PCL Championship.