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Appy League playoff preview
08/30/2005 10:37 PM ET
Regular season series: Danville won series, 4-2

The Braves swept two from the Twins on July 28-29 at Elizabethton, with the third game postponed due to rain. The division winners met for a four-game set on Aug. 9-11 in Danville. After the Braves swept a series-opening doubleheader, the Twins finally struck back by winning the final two contests.

Head-to-head stats

Elizabethton
Dustin Bensko hit .385 in four games against Danville with the team's only home run vs. the Braves this season. ... The Twins hit just .200 vs. the Braves. ... The Twins pitching staff posted a 4.68 ERA in the six games. Ryan Mullins started two games, allowing just two runs over 10 innings (1.80 ERA) while striking out 13 and walking none. ... Brian Duensing and Alexander Smit picked up Elizabethton's victories. Duensing struck out nine in seven shutout innings.

Danville
While Eric Campbell has terrorized most of the Appy League, he did only moderate damage against the Twins, hitting .273 with a homer and six RBIs. Elizabethton's real nemesis was Maximiliano Ramirez, who hit .300 with four homers and eight RBIs in the series. ... Todd Blackford made two starts against the Twins, allowing two earned runs in nine innings. Relievers picked up all four victories during the year, with Bryan Johnson getting two and Glen Richards and Jung Ji Cho recording one apiece. Rudolph Quinonez picked up two saves with two nearly perfect innings. The Braves had a 2.08 team ERA in the six-game series against the Twins.

Game 1: Danville at Elizabethton
Jairo Cuevas (6-1, 1.95 ERA) vs. Ryan Mullins (3-0, 2.18 ERA)

Cuevas finished second in the Appy League with a 1.95 ERA and six wins. He struck out 69 in 55 1/3 innings and was named Pitcher of the Year for his efforts. He's coming off one of his poorest outings, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on four hits in four innings on Aug. 26 against Johnson City. He walked five and struck out six. Cuevas didn't face Elizabethton this season

Mullins, the Twins' third-round pick in this year's draft out of Vanderbilt, is third in the league with a 2.18 ERA. The lefty struck out 60 and walked just 13 in 53 2/3 innings during the season. In two outings against Danville, Mullins didn't get a decision but allowed just two earned runs on six hits in 10 innings, walking none and striking out 13. Unlike Cuevas, Mullins will be building off his best outing of the year, a seven-inning, one-hit shutout against Greeneville on Aug. 20.

At the Plate

Danville
Eric Campbell, 3B: Campbell leads the Appy League in just about every offensive category. The co-Player of the Year has hit .314 with 18 homers, 64 RBIs and 15 steals in 65 games. He tops the league in runs, homers, RBIs and slugging (.636).
Max Ramirez, C/DH: Ramirez shared Player of the Year honors with Campbell by hitting .352, second in the league, posting a .427 on-base percentage (3rd) and a .534 SLG (4th).
Ovandy Suero, 2B/OF: Suero hit .300, which is nice, but his real skill is his speed. The shortstop led the Appy League with 46 steals in 60 games; the next closest speedster had 21.
Jon-Mark Owings, OF: Despite struggling with some injury issues, Owings has 11 homers, second only to Campbell, while slugging .688 in 112 at-bats. He might have the hottest bat on the club, having homered in four straight games through Aug. 29.

Elizabethton
Erik Lis, 1B: The Evansille product who went in the ninth round of the June draft has some pop from the left side. He hit eight homers in 164 at-bats for a .537 SLG while batting .305.
Juan Portes, 2B/OF: Portes leads the Twins with 12 homers and 38 RBIs. The 2004 15th-round pick led the Gulf Coast League in homers and slugging last year.
Yancarlos Ortiz, SS: Ortiz is the Twins' table-setter in the leadoff spot, leading the club with 10 steals. He was red-hot in the final month of the season, hitting .320, getting on base at a .395 clip, stealing six bases and driving in 12 runs in August.

History lessons

Elizabethton last won the Appy League title in 2003. The Twins, part of the league since 1974, also were champions in 1978, 1984, 1989-90 and 2000. ... Danville joined the league as a Braves' affiliate in 1993 and has yet to win a championship. ... This is an Appy version rematch of the classic 1991 World Series, won by the Twins in seven games. Jack Morris was the series MVP after winning two games and going 10 innings in the finale.

Series could turn on ...

Pitching. While the Twins have lost some of the top arms in the lower levels of a deep Minnesota system, most recently Alexander Smit to the Netherlands for the World Cup, they still have some quality on the mound. In a best-of-three series, all it takes is Ryan Mullins and one other pitcher to be on at the right time to stife the Braves' powerful offense.

Prediction

It'd be great to go with the underdog and pick the Twins, and if they had some of the talent that's come and gone -- Kevin Slowey, Matt Garza, Alexander Smit, Steven Tolleson -- they'd have a legitimate shot. These teams are 1-2 in hitting and pitching. Danville has the best batting average in the league, but clearly outstrips No. 2 Elizabethton in runs scored and slugging. The Twins have the best Appy League ERA, with the Braves right behind (though their staff took a hit with the trade of Todd Blackford to the Cubs on Monday). In the end, though, the bats of Campbell, Ramirez and Owings will be too much for the pitching left in Elizabethton. Braves in three

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.