Results tagged ‘ playoffs ’

A New Generation of Cardinals

One of those funny little things about working in Minor League Baseball is that, for the most part, you really don’t get much of a chance to watch a whole lot of Major League Baseball.

I’ve always found this to be a bit ironic. Many people get into the business of baseball in large part because they love the sport and want to be close to it. I’m one of the fortunate ones whose job is to actually watch all of the River Bandits games, but most baseball professionals in non-broadcast positions really don’t get to watch much of their team’s games either.

So, we all have this time of year. September. One month of regular season major league baseball to enjoy before the playoffs hit.

This year, I have really enjoyed watching the Cardinals charge towards the playoffs. Please don’t share this information with anybody that I grew up with in the northern suburbs of Chicago. While I grew up a die-hard Cubs fan – and still am – the opportunity to work with players, coaches and front office staffers from the St. Louis organization has made it impossible not to root for their success.

And at this point, the Cardinals are riddled with former QC’ers at the big league level and throughout the organization.

On Saturday, their 6-3 win in Colorado officially clinched the NL-Central title. Five members of their roster played in the Quad Cities, including outfielders Colby Rasmus (’06) and Rick Ankiel (’05), relievers Kyle McClellan (’05) and Jason Motte (’06), and infielder Tyler Greene (’06).

Rasmus, Ankiel, McClellan and Motte have been on the big league roster all season and have played crucial roles to help the Cards’ to a division title. Greene has been up and down between Triple-A and the majors, and is not the only former QC’er to contribute in St. Louis without an everyday role. Others include infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir (’05), outfielders Shane Robinson (’06) and Nick Stavinoha (’05), pitcher P.J. Walters (’07), and since-traded hurlers Clayton Mortensen (’07) and Chris Perez (’06).

That’s 11 former Quad Cities players that have contributed to the Cardinals’ 2009 NL-Central title, or more than a quarter (28%) of the 40 players that have suited up for the Redbirds in all. Rasmus, who was a Midwest League All-Star in 2006, is in the conversation for National League Rookie of the Year. McClellan, who suffered a Tommy John-inducing injury with Quad Cities in 2005, has been lights out in the bullpen.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly enjoy watching these guys make it to the bigs. And I look forward to watching how far this group of Cardinals can go in the playoffs.

Down to Two

Good morning everyone!

The River Bandits season may be over, but the Midwest League playoffs have been pretty exhilarating. The championship series starts tonight, with Fort Wayne playing host to Burlington at Parkview Field.

It should be a great match-up. Fort Wayne got to this point thanks to a 10th-inning walk-off homer in the deciding game against Great Lakes last night, and is looking to finish up a storybook season. The rebranded TinCaps boasted the best regular season record in all of Minor League Baseball while setting new attendance marks in their brand new downtown ballpark – which is a magnificent facility, by the way. They’ve got the one of the league’s best pitchers in strikeout king Simon Castro, as well as one of the league’s best young players in 19-year-old Jaff Decker.

But don’t look past Burlington. The defending champs have been one of the hottest teams over the last month and are powered by a number of potent bats and one of the league’s best bullpens. Jason Taylor – who was part of last year’s championship squad – hit a two-run homer in the first inning last night, providing all the offense in a 2-1 win over Cedar Rapids in the rubber match of the Western Division finals.

To get to this point, there have been more walk-offs and exciting finishes than I can remember in past years. How about Great Lakes’ Jaime Pedroza? All he did was launch a game-winning homer in the 10th inning of game three to help the Loons past West Michigan in the first round, and then save the day with a game-tying three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth in game two against Fort Wayne to spark a four-comeback, 11-10 win in 11 innings. Or Peoria’s Chris Huseby? With the game on the line against Cedar Rapids, the talented closer issued four walks and hit a batter to force in the game-tying and game-winning runs to end the Chiefs season and help the Kernels move along.

No shortage of action in this post-season. I can’t imagine things will be any different now that the league is whittled down to two. Enjoy!

Gearing up

When the River Bandits returned to the team hotel after Tuesday night’s 4-2 win in Kane County, manager Steve Dillard found a new present waiting outside.

Meet Scott Schneider, a right-handed pitcher from California who was just called up from Batavia. Schneider was a 20th-round pick out of St. Mary’s College in June and blazed through the New York-Penn League, going 2-0 with a sparkling 0.92 ERA and a rediculous 47-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39.1 innings of work with the Muckdogs. He will be plugged into the starting rotation to make his River Bandits debut on Thursday, and Miguel Tapia – after starting tonight in Kane County – will return to the bullpen.

Although I’ll probably regret saying it, this move likely represents the final piece of the puzzle as the River Bandits continue their charge towards the playoffs. Of course, now that I did say it, expect another 14-transaction day any time now. The series of transactions on August 3 revamped the offense, and now the additions of Schneider and Eric Fornataro have solidified the rotation. Combine that with a bullpen that has steadily improved with the likes of Ramon Delgado and Dave Carpenter, and suddenly this team has emerged as one to be reckoned with around the Midwest League.

Did you know that the starting rotation has combined to post a 2.64 ERA while issuing just 13 walks over the last 13 games? That the offense has averaged more than six runs per game since August 3? That closer Dave Carpenter has gone more than two months without blowing a save and has a 1.42 ERA over his last 16 appearances?

Twenty-five games left in the season, and Quad Cities is currenlty tied with Clinton for the Western Division’s second-half wild card spot. Game on.

HUGE homestand coming up at Modern Woodmen Park starting Saturday. In addition to eight key games against the teams the River Bandits are currently battling with for a playoff spot, there is also a ton going on promotionally. I’ll blog about the highlights in the coming days, but can anybody say “dueling pianos”? I love that stuff!

New-look Bandits

A pitchers’ duel went againt the Bandits last night, but we’re back in Burlington for a Sunday afternoon game.

Quad Cities is a whole new team since Monday’s roster overhaul. Xavier Scruggs and Jermaine Curtis are leading a new-look lineup that has averaged 6.2 runs and eight extra-base hits per game since the roster shakeup. Suddenly, this lineup packs a pretty good punch.

The other big thing is that the pitching was already starting to come around. River Bandits starters are 5-3 with a 2.04 ERA and just 10 walks over their last 10 games. The bullpen has been nearly as good. If you haven’t seen Jonathan Gonzalez pitch out of the bullpen yet, he’s shown the ability to throw three pitches for strikes and he hasn’t allowed a hit in six innings since joining the River Bandits.

And remember, Quad Cities is just one game out of a playoff spot with 28 to play. This team figures to play some exciting baseball down the stretch.

Quick injury update: Kevin Thomas had to leave Saturday night’s start in the second inning after getting struck by a line drive. Though he’s got a pretty good bruise to show for it, he will more than likely be able to make his next start on Thursday in Kane County.

I’ve gotta run. Daytime baseball – heat index is 100 degrees in Burlington today – awaits.