Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spotlight on: Monterrey

We've already taken a look at the Fargo squad that will be playing for the World Series title. They will be playing the Monterrey Sultans

Monterrey at a glance:

Team: Monterrey Sultans
Payroll: $92.4 million
Stadium: Estadio Monterrey
Capacity: 27,000
Dimensions (LF-LCF-CF-RCF-RF): 325-363-400-363-325
Season 1: 105-57 (Won AL South, lost in World Series)
Season 2: 108-54 (Won AL South)

Season 2 Postseason:
Round 1: BYE
Round 2: Def. Louisville 3-1
Round 3: Def. Milwaukee 4-3

Monterrey has taken a much different road to get to this point than Fargo has. Far from sweeping through the playoffs, they won a four-game set with a tough Louisville team and then survived an epic 7-game battle with the talented Milwaukee squad. Let's relive what probably has been the best playoff series in this league's history.

Game 1: Milwaukee jumped all over Monterrey starter Max Jacquez right from the beginning. Luis Martinez led off the game in the bottom of the first with a solo homerun, and Homer Treadway followed with a 2-run shot. Jacquez was done in the third, as Milwaukee batted around in that inning and tacked on 5 more. Five different Manic Maulers hit home runs. That was far more than Vin Solano needed, as he gave up 1 run in 8 strong innings of work. Milwaukee cruised to a 12-2 victory.

Game 2: As in game one, the pace was set in the first inning. But this time it was Monterrey establishing the lead. Felipe Ortiz hit a 3-run homer in the top of the first to add to a Haywood McDonald RBI single for a 4-0 lead. Milwaukee cut that lead in half on a Bert Stevenson 2-run bomb in the bottom of the inning, but the story after that point was the starting pitching. Woody Hiller and R.J. Toca both settled down after that, with Hiller keeping his team in the ballgame but Toca coming up with the win for the Sultans. The final score was 5-3 and the series was tied at 1 as they moved to Monterrey.

Game 3: We go south of the border for games 3, 4, and 5. Game 3 saw a solid, if unspectacular, pitching performance by Sultans starter Dennys Fox, who held the Manic Maulers to 6 hits and 2 runs over 6 2/3 innings. The offense gave him just enough offense to win. Torey Diaz (who will be heard from again in this series), hit a solo home run and scored another run in a 4-2 Sultans victory.

Game 4: Just when it seemed Monterrey was in the driver's seat for this series, this wild game evens things up. In a 1-1 game in the 6th, Cody Lincoln hit a solo home run to put the Sultans up 2-1. That score held until the 9th, when Philip Allensworth, going for the complete game, gave up a 2-out home run to Homer Treadway. Allensworth, amazingly, pitched the 10th; neither team scored until the 12th. In the 12th, an error by Marcus Reboulet in right field opened the door for Andre Eckenstahler to step to the plate with 2 on and nobody out; he promptly hit a 3-run home run to left center field. Monterrey scratched out a run in the bottom of the inning off Quinton Hughes (a feat in itself), but still lost 5-3. The key to the game was actually Milwaukee's bullpen: Julio Navarro, Glen Kelly, and Nerio Branson pitched 6 consecutive scoreless innings (from the 6th to the 11th) to give the offense time to win the game. So after 4 games we had a 2-2 tie.

Game 5: Another great pitching performance by Vin Solano put Milwaukee on the precipice of the World Series. Solano went 6 innings, giving up only 2 hits and no runs. Navarro came in for the last 3 innings to shut the door completely on Monterrey. Solo home runs by Luis Martinez, Burt Stevenson, and Homer Treadway (back-to-back-to-back in the 4th) and by Bailey Bigbie (in the 8th) helped fuel a 5-0 victory. Milwaukee only needed one win at home to advance.

Game 6: In a potentially clinching game, Milwaukee starter Woody Hiller just didn't have it. Howard Murray led off with a solo homer and that set the tone for the game. Monterrey added 2 in the 2nd and 2 in the 3rd to leap out to a 5-0 lead. Milwaukee got 2-run shots from Luis Martinez and Andre Eckenstahler to cut the lead to 1, but Hiller couldn't stop the bleeding; Moose Coleman tagged him for a 2-run HR to make it 7-4. The difference was Max Jacquez; after getting bombed in game 1 and giving up the 4 runs, he settled down and only gave up 1 run the rest of the way. Howard Murray, Marcus Reboulet, and Moose Coleman, the 1-2-3 hitters in the Monterrey lineup, drove in 8 runs and scored 6 times in an 11-5 laugher.

Game 7: Game 7s are never a laughing matter. This one will go down in the annals of baseball history as one of the greatest games ever. Vic Chavez drew the pitching assignment for Milwaukee and he was opposed by R.J. Toca. Milwaukee struck first in 3rd with back-to-back RBI singles from Bob Malone and Luis Martinez. Monterrey tied the game in the top of the 4th on an RBI groundout by Cody Lincoln and an error by Bob Malone, allowing Moose Coleman to score. Ray Buchanan's RBI groundout in the bottom of the 4th gave Milwaukee the lead back at 3-2. Lincoln led off the top of the 6th with a solo homer to tie the game, but Andre Eckenstahler struck again in the bottom of the inning with his own solo home run to reclaim the lead at 4-3. And then, in the 8th, Torey Diaz stepped up with 1 on and 1 out against reliever Navarro, who had been brilliant in the series. Diaz hit the ball to dead center field, and it left the park! With one swing of the bat, the game and the series had changed. Milwaukee could not manage to score against relievers Ed Adkins or Larry Stokes, and Monterrey eked out a 5-4 victory to advance to the World Series. Diaz was named the MVP of the series. To their credit, the disappointed Milwaukee fans still applauded their team for a great season.

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