What: The Triple A National Championship
A single game playoff between the champions of the two MLB-affiliated leagues that make up the AAA classification in the United States, the Pacific Coast League and the International League.
Memphis will be trying to avenge a loss to Durham in 2009 and win their first National Championship. That version of the Redbirds, which featured David Freese, Allen Craig, and Jon Jay, lost in extra innings on a walkoff HBP.
Where: The game is hosted at a neutral site, and this year will be at PNC Field in Moosic, PA, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Oddly enough, the Redbirds home field, AutoZone Park, served as the site of the 2016 game which was won by the RailRiders, hopefully that is a good omen.
When: Tuesday, September 19th, 6 PM CDT
How to watch: NBC Sports; milb.tv
Who: The PCL Champion Memphis Redbirds and the champs of the International League the Durham Bulls
Memphis was the class of the PCL, finishing 11 games clear of the rest of the league and a full 22 games ahead in their division. The Redbirds were absolutely loaded before the parent club raided their roster for reinforcements, but they finished the season strong even with so many key contributors aiding the Cards in their September playoff push. To get here, Memphis got past the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in a pretty wild 5 game series, that included a game with 31 total runs scored, before squeaking past the El Paso Chihuahuas in the PCL Championship.
If you’re actually reading this, you’re likely pretty familiar with the names you’ll see in the Memphis lineup tomorrow, almost all of them are DFR regulars (O’Neill, Wisdom, Valera, Garcia, Martini, Edman, Jeremy Martinez) plus former and current Future Redbird, Aledmys Diaz.
Texas League Pitcher of the Year Dakota Hudson will get the start for start for Memphis. He will be backed by incredibly unlikely PCL championship Game 2 hero Kevin Herget, who will be on full rest, and Ryan Helsley who will be on 3 days rest. Redbird manager Stubby Clapp will also have a relatively fresh bullpen at his disposal coming off of a travel day. It will likely be an all hands on deck game, so if things get sideways early Clapp will have plenty of options available.
The Durham Bulls tied for the best record in the International League with 86 wins. The Tampa Bay Rays top affiliate won both of their postseason series 3-1.
The Bulls lineup is led by two top 100 prospects, SS Willy Adames, and 3 corner bat Jake Bauers. Former Cardinal farmhand Shane Peterson (traded for Matt Holliday) will also be in the lineup tonight. Peterson has had one of his best seasons batting .286/.313/.504 with 34 XBH in 300 plate appearances and 10 steals in as many tries. 2013 4th round pick, and brother of Kolton Wong, Kean Wong, turned in a solid first season at AAA and will get the start at 2B. Wong is a plus defender at second, and an averagish hitter who’ll take a walk, doesn’t strike out much, has gap power and will swipe an occasional base. Which seems about right.
Durham will send lefty Ryan Yarbrough and his plus changeup to the mound. Presumably, top 15 prospect Brent Honeywell, who is also on full rest, will be lurking in the bullpen.
This isn’t the type of postseason baseball Cardinal fans hoped for at the beginning of the season, but it should be a good time nonetheless. It is an elimination game played by professional ballplayers, it will be the last game in the organization for some of these guys, and Tyler O’Neill has gone berserk in these playoffs. You should watch, it will probably be fun.