The PLAYOFF PICTURE:
YUMA and NEW ENGLAND are in, on the verge of clinching their respective divisions.
CAROLINA, BROWNSVILLE and ST. FRANCIS have clinched at least a wild card.
The only thing unsettled? Whether BROOKLYN (85-67) or FROSTBITE FALLS (82-70) will prevail and earn the final wild card in the Cactus Division.
By prevailing 6-5 on Game Day 151 against the Grapefruit Division-leading Yankee Stompers, the St. Francis Kansans clinched a spot in the 2015 playoffs. After stumbling to a .500 mark approaching the trade deadline, the Kansans acquired 3B Danny Valencia and LH reliever Sean Doolittle in a pair of unheralded deals and quietly went on a run, winning of 19 of 26 to earn a post-season berth. In the clinching win, rookie Brandon Finnegan (2-2, 5.23) allowed just two earned runs in a spot start, Valencia had a sac fly, and Doolittle overcame a solo HR by Yasmany Tomas to earn his third save with St. Francis.
“We can breathe a bit easier,” admitted owner Scott Hatfield. While New England holds a seven-game lead with 11 games to play, St. Francis’s 83-70 mark ensures that neither Casselton or Worcester would be able to overtake the Kansans, who have now made the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. But St. Francis’s odds of either winning the division or catching Brownsville for the first playoff spot are at best poor. In all likelihood, Scott Hatfield’s troops will have to go on the road in order to advance in the postseason.
At the same time, the Brooklyn Moabs swept a pair from the Kansas City Rebels, who (despite frequent moves) seemed determined to cement their position as the league’s perennial doormat. The Moabs prevailed in the double dip by beating Kansas City’s two best starters, first staying close to Brett Anderson (4-12, 4.09) and coming back in the ninth against Edward Mujica to win 3-2, then hanging around against an effective (7.2 IP, 3 ER) Ubaldo Jiminez, who fell to a league-worst 5-21.
With the wins, Brooklyn put some breathing room (three games worth) between themselves and Frostbite Falls with ten games to play, but they have to be concerned: both of their shortstops (Troy Tulowitzki and Jung-Ho Kang) are sidelined with injuries, putting pressure on rookies Rougned Odor and Jake Lamb to “hold down the fort”. Tulowitzki’s contributions (.325, 36 HR, 115 RBI) are especially missed.
Meanwhile, the sweep at the hands of the Moabs dropped the Rebels (51-101) further in the Cactus Division cellar, and set a new mark for futility in BARB. For the fourth straight year, an organization overseen by the charismatic Ronald Melkonian would lose 100 or more games.