Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's Playoff Time! (in the minor leagues)

The Trenton Thunder and the Staten Yankees are primed for the playoff hunt. Trenton begins today, while the Thunder will wait a few more games.

Phil Hughes, whose pitch limit has now been loosened to 100 pitches or 7 innings, takes the mound in game 1 against Portland. I feel sorry for Portland. Hughes led the Eastern League by a good margin with a 2.25 ERA and .91 WHIP (Thank you Travis from Pending Pinstripes for the stats). The Thunder have to feel pretty good going into the playoffs with him starting every fifth day. Hughes, barely 20 years old, is the youngest starting pitcher in the AA playoffs.

Hughes is followed tomorrow by 21 year-old Tyler Clippard. Clippard, despite the very rough first half, finished 7th in the league with a 3.35 ERA. He was first in the Eastern League with 175 strikeouts and 4th with 166 innings. Clippard, with no Hughian leash, showed some serious major league potential this season.

Non prospect Matt Childers starts 3rd, and the walk machine Matt DeSalvo or Chris Butto will likely start Game 4. The bullpen will be anchored by Scott Patterson, Jeff Kennard, and Charlie Manning. Justin Pope, the team's closer and bullpen anchor for most of the season, remains sidelined with an injury. No word yet on whether or not J.B. Cox will return from Havana in time for this series.

Staten Island gets to throw George Kontos (2.64 ERA, 78.1 innings, 82 K, 19 BB) and Tim Norton (2.60 ERA, 72 innings, 83 K, 14 BB) back to back, who will (likely) be followed by Angel Reyes (1.40 ERA, 64.1 innings, 61 K, 20 BB, and just a .89 WHIP). The team gets to throw their league best offense which includes Mitchell Hillgross, Colin Curtis, and Wilkens De La Rosa against whomever their challenger may be. Expect the reigning NY-Penn League champs to show up big time.

And now, back to the Bronx...

Update: Phil Hughes dominated Portland tonight, going 6 innings. He allowed one run, five hits, walked one and struck out 13. Trenton won the first game of the series 3-1.