Manny Machado was on fire in the rubber match, with a home run and three RBI

Worcester opened the scoring in the rubber match of the Grapefruit Wild Card series, but could they hold on and advance to face Yuma in the divisional series?

Indeed, the Eliminators, after a 6-1 thrashing of host Brownsville in Game 2, put the first run on the board in the finale. In the first inning, in fact, George Springer walked and stole second. With two down, Robinson Cano lined a single through the middle, nearly decapitating Yu Darvish, and Springer came home.

Big lefty Jordan Montgomery held the one-run advantage through two solid frames, giving up just a Manny Machado double, but in the third the Cutters jumped on him to take the lead. Montgomery’s first offering of the frame nicked Tyler Flowers, and Darvish dumped a hit into center. The pitcher was erased as Javier Baez grounded into a force play for the first out. Next was Machado, and he proved he had Montgomery figured out. The Brownsville third baseman hammered the first pitch he saw the opposite way down the line, the blast just creeping over the wall inside the foul pole to give the Cutters a 3-1 lead.

The very next inning, the hosts added one to their lead. After Montgomery thought he’d stemmed a rally with a double play, Michael Taylor turned around an 0-2 pitch and lifted it far over the left-field fence.

The 4-1 game held until the sixth, when Cano lined a hanging breaking ball out of the park to straightaway center. Montgomery gave that right back in the home half, walking Aaron Judge and allowing advance on a wild pitch. Judge later scored on a deep sacrifice fly off the bat of A.J. Pollock.

The book on Montgomery’s night came to a close when Carlos Gonzalez pinch hit in the top of the seventh. With one out and the bases empty, Gonzalez took a 2-0 Darvish offering deep to right-center. It was the last pitch Darvish threw, as Carl Edwards took over and finished the inning with a pair of strikeouts to hold the 5-3 lead.

Worcester drew another run closer on a Nelson Cruz blast in the eighth, but with no one on base the Cutters remained in the lead.

One run is as close as the Eliminators got. Their bullpen, short on healthy arms entering the playoffs, faltered and gave up five runs in the bottom of the frame. Judge opened with a walk and later scored on a Pollock double. Taylor drove in a pair with another two-bagger, and Baez finished the barrage with a bases-loaded double.

Wade Davis was the Brownsville choice to finish it off. After a single, Davis induced a double play. Finally, he struck out Trea Turner and the Cutters took the field in celebration.


With the win, Brownsville punched their ticket to the divisional round. Their prize? A best-of-five with the best team in the league: the Yuma Firebirds.



Eddie Rosario 's home run and two RBI were instrumental in keeping Brooklyn alive

A pair of former Frostbite Falls rotation-mates matched up in the second game of the three-game set. Would Julio Teheran pitch the visiting Flying Squirrels into a matchup with St. Francis, or would the spotlight shine on Carlos Martinez, who was dealt before the 2016 season for Paul Goldschmidt, trying to extend the series for Brooklyn at The Launch Pad?

The first few innings passed quietly, with both teams stranding runners on second base. In the bottom of the third, with two out and the bases empty, Teheran issued a pair of walks to bring up Francisco Lindor. The shortstop shot the first offering into right field. Bryce Harper picked up the ball and rifled a throw home. Christian Yelich, hustling the moment the bat connected, was waved home. Harper’s cannon sent the ball on a line toward Gary Sanchez, in tim…NO! DROPPED! They Flying Squirrels had Yelich dead to rights but couldn’t quite complete the putout, and the host Moabs took a 1-0 lead.

After Frostbite put two men on in the fourth but suffered a pickoff and double play, Eddie Rosario blasted his first home run of the playoffs, a solo shot, to give Brooklyn a two-run advantage.

Ender Inciarte duplicated Rosario’s feat with a leadoff bomb in the fifth, and with Martinez continually stranding single runners, it appeared all but certain this series would go to a rubber match.

That possibility was cemented in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Musgrove, in his second inning of work, allowed back-to-back screamers from Lindor and Freddie Freeman before issuing a walk and giving up a single that got him pulled from the game. Adam Ottavino induced a slow groundout, but a Rosario line drive caught in medium-deep center brought in Brooklyn’s sixth run.

Frostbite Falls made the game interesting in the top of the ninth, when a pair of walks and two-out Josh Reddick triple knocked Martinez from the contest. Jeurys Familia got the call and allowed a run-scoring double to Alex Bregman, bringing the game to 6-3. Even though the potential tying run was still in the on-deck circle, Brooklyn management went to their closer. Roberto Osuna was tasked with facing one of the best players in the game and the Flying Squirrels leadoff hitter, Mike Trout. The battle lasted five pitches, with Trout eventually chasing a high fastball in a 2-2 count to secure the Moabs victory.

So the Cactus Wild Card series, just like the Grapefruit series, would see a third and deciding game the next day to determine who moved on and who went home.




Lance McCullers, Jr., was elated after carrying the Eliminators on his back with eight strong innings

Needing a win to keep their season alive, the Worcester Eliminators put Lance McCullers, Jr., on the hill. The second-generation big leaguer was up to the challenge, but could he outduel his esteemed opponent, Jacob deGrom, on the latter’s home field?

The two righties matched pitch-for-pitch for two innings, but in the third Worcester broke through – the blow coming off the bat of McCullers. Scooter Gennett opened the frame by kicking a routine grounder off the bat of Kyle Seager, who scampered to second as the ball trickled into no man’s land. After a pop out, McCullers navigated a roller through the box and into center to allow Seager to streak home with the game’s first run.

The visitors nearly extended their lead in the fifth, but George Springer grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to stall the threat.

The fifth inning was simply a precursor to the one to come. While McCullers was working on a no-hitter, deGrom was playing with fire…that burned him in the top of the sixth. deGrom labored to full counts on three of the first four hitters in the frame, allowing a pair of singles, a double and a walk to open the Worcester lead to two and load the bases. Seager was next and capitalized with a double down the right field line to plate a pair.

With Brownsville’s bullpen heating up in a hurry, Jonathan Lucroy put the final nail in deGrom’s coffin with a smash up the middle to score the final two, making the total five in the inning and extending Worcester’s lead to 6-0.

McCullers, handed the new cushion, turned in one final 1-2-3 inning before A.J. Pollock broke up the no-no with a single through the left side opening the home half of the seventh. Despite a double play, the Cutters still broke through in the frame with their only run of the game. Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds both drew full-count walks, and Manny Machado dumped a single to center to score Judge. A baserunning blunder cut the potential rally short, however, as Machado tried to make too much happen and was thrown out going for second.

The game cruised from that point on, with McCullers closing the books on a strong eight innings and Craig Kimbrel striking out two in a perfect ninth. The season would extend for one more day for both Brownsville and Worcester, with the winner of the next contest advancing to the divisional round.