Tuesday, April 28, 2009

League Championship Series- Season 5

The top two seeds in each league advanced to the LCS, setting up two Clashes of the Titans. Who would emerge and advance to the World Series?


#2 Atlanta Bandits vs. #1 Fargo Dirtbags

Game 1 at Fargo saw a pitchers' duel between the two aces. Neither Atlanta's Stephen Michaels nor Fargo's Javier Henriquez were fully rested for their game 1 start, but both were solid. Fargo struck first with an Alex Lim RBI double in the 3rd, promptly followed by an RBI single by William Bolling to give the home team a 2-0 lead. But Atlanta wouldn't give up, and came back with a 2 RBI single by Vicente Romero to tie the game. An Albert Martin RBI groundout in the 6th after a key error by Leo Miller proved to be the difference, as Atlanta took the game 3-2.

Game 2 belonged to Sammy Pierce. The Fargo starter pitched 8 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and striking out 10. Fargo only scratched out 2 runs against Atlanta starter Fred Carter, but that was enough for Pierce. Alex Javier pitched a scoreless 9th to nail down a 2-0 victory.

Game 3 saw the series shift to Atlanta. Stan Starr saw to it that the home fans got into the game early, with a solo homer in the first off of Fargo starter Manny Christians. Chuck Reed doubled the lead with a solo shot of his own in the 5th. Fargo closed to 2-1 in the 6th due to a Bill Taylor bloop single with two outs. In the 9th, Atlanta closer Rico Mangual couldn't hold the lead and blew the save on a 2-out single by Einar Gonzalez. Fargo found themselves in familiar territory (extra innings), but it was Stubby Byrne for Atlanta who stepped up, hitting a walk-off 2 run homer in the 11th. Atlanta won 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 saw the Fargo offense break out. Alex Lim and Arnold Hunter hit back-to-back solo shots in the first off Alex Sanchez to give Fargo an immediate 2-0 lead. A Stan Starr sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning cut the lead to 2-1, but the Bandits wouldn't score again. Tomas DeJesus and Einar Gonzalez added home runs for Fargo, and the Dirtbags pitching staff retired the last 12 Bandit hitters to claim a 7-1 win.

Game 5 featured something most experts didn't expect- a shootout. This game featured more runs than the first 3 games combined. Atlanta opened the scoring on a Romero RBI ground rule double, but Fargo slugged their way to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Javier's turn to blow the save. Stan Starr hit a solo shot to dead center field to tie the game at 6. In the top of the 11th, the top of Fargo's order got the big hits, as Gonzalez led off with a double, and Lim singled him home. Rolando James had been 0 for 4 when he came up next, but changed that with a 2-run shot. Fargo went on to win, 9-6

Needing only one win at home to clinch the series, the Dirtbags decided not to take their chances with a game 7. A 1-1 game in the 6th turned into a laugher as Henriquez helped his own cause with an RBI single, Gonzalez followed with an RBI single of his own, then James hit a grand slam to stretch the lead out to 7-1. Atlanta couldn't get any offense going after that backbreaking inning, and Fargo won the series 4-2 with the 7-1 win.


#2 Milwaukee Manic Maulers vs. #1 Monterrey Sultans

Monterrey fans were hoping that Milwaukee would be tired after a tough series with Louisville; the Manic Maulers showed no ill effects. Milwaukee 1B Burt Stevenson set the tone for game 1 and the series in the first inning with a 3-run homer off Monterrey starter York Burnett. Monterrey came back to tieafter 6 innings, but Milwaukee came out on top after Brian Dunham hit 2 solo shots in the last 3 innings to key a 6-4 win in game 1.

Having lost game 1 and in need of a big-time pitching performance, Monterrey handed the ball to Luther Brush. The Sultans would be very disappointed, as Brush gave up 6 runs in 4 2/3 innings. Milwaukee starter Woody Hiller, on the other hand, pitched 8 scoreless innings as the Manic Maulers won a 9-1 blowout en route to a 2-0 series lead.

Game 3 saw the Cy Young award winner get outdueled. Monterrey's Albert Gonzalez, fully deserving of the award, gave up 3 runs in 7 innings; Milwaukee's Graham Costello gave up only 1 in the same 7 innings. Bob Malone, Louie Chang, and Dunham all had RBI hits (Dunham's was a triple) as Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. Closer King Burns made it interesting, giving up an unearned run, but struck out Bum Casey with runners on first and third to nail down a 3-2 victory. The champs took a 3-0 series lead and it appeared to be over. Could the mighty Sultans actually be swept out of the ALCS?

In a word, no. After Milwaukee had generated enough offense against the more highly touted Brush and Gonzalez, Kelly Downs was just too much for the Maulers to solve in game 4. He pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings, yielding only 3 hits. Vin Solano was just as baffling over 5 innings, but Monterrey got a 2-run shot by Tony Escuela off reliever Seth Faulk, and that would be all Downs needed. The Monterrey bullpen took care of the rest, and Monterrey stayed alive with a 2-0 victory.

In game 5, Monterrey again tried to stay alive, and did just that. It didn't look like it would happen for them after the 1st inning, when Milwaukee got an RBI ground-rule double from Andre Eckenstahler and a run- scoring passed ball for a quick 2-0 lead. But Monterrey used back-to-back RBI singles from Ryan Snyder and Timo Carter in the 3rd to tie the game, then got two more in the 4th on a Howard Murray two-run single. That would be enough for Jocko Keats and the Sultans bullpen, as they escaped with a 4-3 victory.

Game 6 saw Monterrey's attempt at pulling off the trick of coming back from 3-0 (any Yankee fan reading this is now cringing) fall short. Malone got Milwaukee off to a good start with a 2- run homer in the second, but a tough Monterrey team came back with one run in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to take a 4-3 lead. The 8th looked good for the Sultans, as the first two hitters grounded out weakly. But Malone hit a double and was driven in by Chang to tie the game. John Stevenson then hit a double, and Chang was able to score easily for a 5-4 lead. The bullpen held, and Milwaukee won the game and the series. Milwaukee became the first team in either league to make 3 World Series appearances and would attempt to be the first team to successfully defend a World Series title.

No comments: