The minor league playoffs continued on Saturday, with the Double-A Midland RockHounds and Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters both in Division Series action. The Hounds were facing elimination and took it down to the wire, but an 8th-inning rally saved their season and forced a Game 5 on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Lake Monsters won their playoff opener and now need only to split the next two games to reach the Finals.
Here’s a look at each series.
Midland RockHounds vs. San Antonio Missions (Padres)
League: Double-A Texas League
Best-of-5 Division Series
Series tied 2-2
For seven innings, it looked like the RockHounds might end their season in the most painful fashion. They were getting on base at will, with not a single 1-2-3 frame in the entire game and multiple baserunners in each inning from the 3rd on. San Antonio’s pitchers were constantly on the ropes. And yet, Midland could not deliver the knockout punch, managing just one run in the 5th — naturally, on an RBI single by Viosergy Rosa. They eventually trailed 3-1.
And then it all came together in the 8th, not a moment too soon. The Hounds started yet another rally, and this time it turned into a crooked number instead of a missed opportunity. Walks to Sheldon Neuse, Tyler Ramirez, and Jordan Tarsovich loaded the bases with one out, and a double by Jorge Mateo cleared them, giving Midland the big hit they’d been looking for and their first lead of the evening. Max Schrock followed with another walk, and both runners ultimately stole their way to second and third. A single by Jermaine Curtis and a groundout by Rosa drove them both home for a bit of insurance.
Jorge Mateo, SS: 3-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 runs, 2-for-3 SB
Sheldon Neuse, 3B: 2-for-3, BB, run
Viosergy Rosa, 1B: 1-for-4, 2 RBI
Schrock, Murphy, & Ramirez: 2-for-9, 2B, 3 BB, 2 runs
The pitching staff dug an early hole but kept things close enough to pull off the late-inning comeback. Starter Heath Fillmyer allowed a two-run rally in the 1st, forcing Midland to play from behind all night long. Another big jam in the 5th cost him a third run, though with the bases loaded and one out it could have been worse. By the time he departed he’d taken his lumps but gutted through a quality outing. Brandon Mann and Kyle Finnegan teamed up for the final seven outs, striking out half of the eight batters they faced.
Heath Fillmyer: 6⅔ ip, 3 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 9 hits, 89 pitches (63 strikes)
Game 5 tonight will feature Joel Seddon on the mound for Midland. He last pitched in Game 1, in relief of A.J. Puk, allowing a pair of runs in as many innings. His last start came on July 27, lasting four innings, and he hasn’t completed even three frames in a game since then. Bullpen game, or Puk coming on in relief if/when needed? A win Sunday gives them the chance to play for the 4-peat, and a loss brings on the long winter.
Vermont Lake Monsters vs. Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians)
League: Low-A New York-Penn League
Best-of-3 Semifinal Series
Monsters lead series 1-0
Game 1: Monsters 8, Scrappers 3 (box score)
Game 2: Mon. 9/11, 4:05 p.m., at Mahoning Valley
Game 3: Tue. 9/12 4:05 p.m., at Mahoning Valley
In their first playoff appearance since 2011, the Lake Monsters started with a splash. Like Midland did in their game, Vermont trailed for most of the evening and then roared into action in the late innings. A sac fly by top hitter Greg Deichmann gave them an early lead in the 1st, and they put runners on base in every frame, but they spent most of the contest down 3-1.
After seeing their share of ill-fated rallies, the Monsters finally came through in the 7th thanks to a gift from Mahoning Valley. A fielding error put Javier Godard on base, and 2017 draft picks Will Toffey and Ryan Gridley both walked to load ‘em up. Then the stars delivered: Logan Farrar launched a grand slam, and Deichmann made it back-to-back with a dinger of his own. Suddenly Vermont led 6-3, in an uncanny parallel of Midland’s game. Godard added a two-run homer in the 8th to seal the deal.
Greg Deichmann, OF: 1-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, BB, sac fly
Logan Farrar, OF: 1-for-5, HR, 4 RBI
Will Toffey, 3B: 1-for-2, 3 BB, 2 runs
Javier Godard, 2B: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs
The pitching started shaky but then tightened up throughout the evening. Parker Dunshee, he of the 0.00 ERA through 38⅓ innings in the regular season, finally cracked against the Scrappers. After working around trouble in the 1st, four straight singles in the 2nd plated a pair of runs to give Mahoning Valley the lead.
Next up was Brian Howard, he of the 29.0 K/BB ratio, but he was greeted rudely with a solo homer in his first frame. He settled down from there, though, facing just one more batter over the minimum through the 6th inning. Fellow 2017 draftees Logan Salow, Heath Donica, and Josh Reagan held serve the rest of the way while the lineup made its comeback (3 ip, 0 runs, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits).
Parker Dunshee: 2 ip, 2 runs, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 5 hits
Brian Howard: 4 ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 2 hits
Heath Donica: 1⅓ ip, 0 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 0 hits
The series continues on Monday, with Jesus Luzardo taking the hill for Vermont. The teenage lefty was the prize of the Doolittle/Madson trade, and he put up a strong line in five starts for the Monsters: 2.00 ERA, 18 ip, 20 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 12 hits.