Ladies and gentlemen (probably just gentlemen), we have a winner! The Monterrey Sultans have finally given the AL, losers of both All-Star games and last season's World Series, some bragging rights by taking down the cream of the NL crop, the Fargo Dirtbags. Here's how it happened:
Game 1: Cash Field was sold out for game 1 of this series. Fargo's fans became accustomed to watching great pitching performances, and they were treated to Philip Allensworth and Javier Henriquez do just that. Allensworth gave up a mere 2 hits in 7 innings, while Henriquez yielded only 4 in 8 innings; neither starter allowed a run. The scoring held off until the 10th, when Torey Diaz hit a 2 out, 2 run pinch-hit home run off of Fargo closer Bert Price. Larry Stokes closed the door on Fargo in the bottom of the inning, and Monterrey stole game one with a 2-0 victory. Monterrey leads 1-0
Game 2: To borrow the old Herman's Hermits line, "Second verse, same as the first". Two great pitchers shutting the offenses down, Monterrey gets a 2-run shot to provide the offense, Fargo gets nothing, Monterrey wins 2-0. Max Jacquez replaces Allensworth as the master over the Fargo offense, Jim Arnold replaces Henriquez as the hard-luck loser, and Sammy Castro replaces Diaz as the hitting hero. Diaz was aboard for the home run this time. The Sultans win 2 at Fargo. Monterrey leads 2-0
Game 3: As the series shifted to Monterrey, Dirtbag fans were wondering if their team could score a run, never mind win a game. All of Fargo was pleased to watch their team do both. After going 19 scoreless innings in Fargo, the Dirtbags led off the game with a Greg Burkhart double and an Ed Mullin single to score before starter R.J. Toca recorded an out. An Andy Maddox error and a sacrifice fly by Cody Lincoln gave Monterrey 2 runs in the bottom of the inning. Things went from bad to worse for the Dirtbags in the bottom of the 3rd inning when starter Sammy Pierce dislocated his shoulder after a routine groundout to short. But the game turned again in the 4th when DH William Bolling hit a 2-run shot off Toca to give the Dirtbags a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish. Tyler Wilson was great out of the Fargo bullpen and Bert Price nailed down the victory with a scoreless 9th. The Dirtbags were on the board with a 3-2 win. Monterrey leads 2-1
Game 4: So now that we had established that Fargo could indeed score a run, the next question was if the home team could win a game. Again, the question was answered in the affirmative. Monterrey got a 2-run Haywood McDonald HR in the 2nd off of Henriquez, a Benito Tavarez single to score Torey Diaz (there's that man again!) in the 7th, and a Sammy Castro 2- run homer off reliever Christopher Siddall for 5 runs. Kurt Christenson's solo home run in the 4th wasn't nearly enough, as that was the only mistake starter Albert Gonzalez made in this pivotal game. He gave up 4 hits, walked nobody, and stuck out 10 on his way to a complete game 5-1 victory. Monterrey leads 3-1
Game 5: Things couldn't have looked better for the Sultans. They were at home, had 3 shots to win the title, and had game 1 hero Philip Allensworth on the mound to try and close it out. Things don't always work out according to plan. Fargo again struck in the top of the 1st, this time with a leadoff home run by Greg Burkhart. The teams traded runs, so Fargo led 2-1 when Stan Pederson stepped to the plate. A couple of pitches in to the at-bat, Allensworth went down, and the trainers rushed the field. Allensworth was later diagnosed with a torn groin (ouch!). Dennys Fox finished the at-bat and got Pederson to ground out. Torey Diaz (again!) stepped up in the 4th and tied the game with a solo homer. The key was the 6th inning, when Fargo scratched for 2 runs against Fox; Burkhart manufactured a run by walking and stealing second (after which Kurt Christenson drove him in) and a Peterson fielder's choice with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Siddall and Price again shut the door for a 4-2 Fargo victory. Monterrey leads 3-2
Game 6: After games 1 and 2, we should have expected another pitcher's duel. We ended up with a wild affair, starting in the 1st inning. It started with a simple ground ball. With a man on second and 2 outs, Fargo 2B Greg Burkhart booted a Cody Lincoln ball for 1st and 3rd. The next batter was Felipe Ortiz and he also grounded one to Burkhart; Burkhart again couldn't make the play. The good news for Fargo was the next ball was not hit to Burkhart. The bad news was it was hit over the fence; Haywood McDonald hit a 3-run home run. It was only the first, but a team that couldn't score in the first two games at home now needed four runs! In the bottom of the 3rd they got all four with one swing of the bat. With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Kurt Christenson hit a ball which reportedly got picked up on radar by Hector International Airport to tie the game at 4. But Monterrey wasn't finished. A walk and 4 straight singles in the 7th scored 2 runs and would have scored 3 had Benito Tavarez not been thrown out trying to score. A fielder's choice plated another run, and the Sultans tacked on another run in the 8th when Hideki Tanaka singled home Torey Diaz. That was too much to overcome, and when Howard Murray threw out Andy Maddox on a slow ground ball to end the game, reliever Ed Adkins found himself mobbed on the mound. The celebration was in full swing after an 8-4 victory to wrap up the series. Torey Diaz was named World Series MVP and in his postgame interview stated that he is declaring for free-agency. A classic move from the book How to Play Amazing Baseball and Still Tick Your Own Fans Off by Alex Rodriguez.
Yet another wonderful season wraps up with a well-played, exciting World Series. Congratulations to ACEROTHSTEIN and the World Series champion Monterrey Sultans and to kjmulli and the NL champion Fargo Dirtbags. Hope to see everyone back for Season 3.