For as close as the race to claim a playoff berth in the American Association Champion Series was, the two spots were snatched up fairly quickly as the clock ticked down to the close of the season.
The Sioux Falls Canaries had not even gotten a whiff of the playoffs since 2010. In fact, that season they made the playoffs was the last time that the team had a winning record. The Birds did not seem like they were destined to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday night. Starter Tanner Anderson had gone only three innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits. However, on the other end, Chicago Dogs starter Justin Goossen-Brown did not fare any better, allowing the same amount of earned runs in 2.2 innings of work.
But the Birds came back - and hard - in the sixth inning. Dogs reliever Paul Schwendel finished off the fifth inning and came back to pitch the sixth and could not mustar(d) an out. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back singles resulted in one run and a bases-loaded opportunity for Jabari Henry. He took advantage and slapped a grand slam to put up a crooked number and give the Canaries an 11-7 lead.
A two-run homer by Victor Roache in the next inning would inch the Dogs closer, but Sioux Falls closer Keaton Steele came in to shut the door for his 16th save of the season. Carter Woodiel, voice of the Canaries, was on the call for the final out of the game that sealed the deal for Sioux Falls (tweet courtesy of Steve Schuster, voice of the Winnipeg Goldeyes):
It took an extra-innings contest for the first place Milwaukee Milkmen to earn their first playoff berth in its second season of existence. The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks struck first on Saturday in a game that they needed to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. The top of the third saw F-M with runners on second and third with one out when a passed ball by Milkmen catcher Christian Correa allowed Sam Dexter to score and bring Alex Boxwell to third. Boxwell was able to score on a 4-3 putout off the bat of Forrestt Allday.
Both starting pitchers kept their teams in the game; David Holmberg was tagged with the one earned run in 7.1 innings of work, allowing three hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts. The reigning Pitcher of the Week, Matt Tomshaw, countered with nine innings of work, allowing only five hits, no walks, and tallying 13 strikeouts. He could be in consideration for Pitcher of the Year. But with that line came two earned runs: a solo homer by Logan Trowbridge in the bottom of the eighth and another solo bomb, this time off the bat of former Minnesota Twins minor-leaguer Adam Brett Walker II.
The two teams traded zeros briefly before the bottom of the 11th, when Ryan Flores got into a jam with the bases full of Milkmen. The winning run was scored on an error by left fielder Brennan Metzger, and Milwaukee was left waiting for one more game to finish up before clinching a playoff spot. Sure enough, the St Paul Saints lost their game and the ticket was punched to the big dance.
Even though the Canaries and Milkmen have clinched playoff spots, it’s yet to be determined as to who will get home field advantage throughout the series. Milwaukee currently leads Sioux Falls by 1.5 games going into tonight’s contests. The team that is at the top of the standings by the end of play on Thursday will host games one and two as well as six and seven, if those two games are necessary. The AA Championship Series will be a best-of-seven for the first time in its existence; it is typically a best-of-five bout.
Mike Devine is another pitcher that will be in top consideration for Pitcher of the Year. The Saints starting pitcher earned his third Pitcher of the Week honors, the first time for any American Association player to complete this feat since former Saints pitcher and Twins farmhand Mark Hamburger did the same back in 2016.
Devine got the call twice this week and struck out 13 batters each game. That’s it. That’s the paragraph.
I’ll go on, though. Along with the 26 punch-outs, he recorded 15.2 innings of work, allowing two earned runs, nine hits, and two walks. Unfortunately, the offense did not help him last Tuesday as he was tagged with the loss in a 1-0 defeat against Milwaukee when he threw 138 pitches in 8.1 innings. On the other hand, he earned the win against Winnipeg on Sunday, throwing 110 pitches in 7.1 innings of work.
Tyler Ladendorf earned Batter of the Week honors. The Dogs infielder went 8-for-22 (.364), belting four homers (one grand slam) and notching 11 RBI. He also scored in all six games that Chicago played during the week, scoring nine times. If his name is familiar, your memory serves you well: Ladendorf was drafted in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft. He was traded in 2009 to the Oakland Athletics for Orlando Cabrera.
As mentioned before, the Milkmen and Canaries will look to clinch home field advantage. Milwaukee will have to stave off Sioux Falls by playing Winnipeg while the Canaries will play four games against the Dogs.
Fargo-Moorhead and St Paul will have some fun in a three-game set at CHS Field to close out the regular season.
The American Association Finals will start this Saturday.
|Sioux Falls Canaries*||31-25||1.5|
|St Paul Saints+||28-29||5.0|
|* = clinched playoff berth|
|+ = eliminated|