The triple-A national championship game is tonight

7 Comments

You’re likely not aware of this because hardly anyone pays attention to triple-A baseball beyond what it means for the prospects of the big league teams, but tonight is the triple-A national championship game. Squaring off: my hometown Columbus Clippers — the defending triple-A champs — against the Omaha Storm Chasers.  Yeah, they really stuck with that name. I was rather shocked to be honest.

The format is weird for baseball — it’s a one-game, winner-take-all kind of thing — but it’s probably asking too much for a neutral site to fill a ballpark up seven times for minor league baseball. That neutral site is Albuquerque this year. After spending several years in a single location it rotates year-by-year now.  I can’t think of what else I’d rather do if I were in Albuquerque this evening.

Mitch Talbot gets the start for Columbus.  Sean O’Sullivan goes for Omaha. As is obviously the case with minor league baseball — especially triple-A baseball — there are a lot of guys here who weren’t on the teams during the regular season and vice-versa.  No Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas, for example. And each team has some ringers. Kila Ka’aihue is one for the Chasers. Nick Johnson for the Clippers. Yes, he’s healthy.

The game will be televised on Versus starting tonight at 8PM.  Yes, I would be writing about this even if I didn’t work for the company that owns Versus. Columbus represent, ya dig?

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.