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Texas League playoff preview
09/05/2005 12:58 AM ET
Tulsa Drillers vs. Arkansas Travelers
(Best 3-of-5)

REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Tulsa won series, 16-12. The Eastern Division rivals have met 28 times, most recently in a four-game set from Aug. 27-30. The teams split that series. The other 24 meetings went somewhat according to who won each half. Tulsa went 9-5 against Arkansas in winning the first-half title. The Travelers, who wrapped up the second-half crown, fared better later in the season, going 7-7 against the Drillers.

HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS

Tulsa
Tony Miller hit .337 and slugged .663 (nine homers) in 98 at-bats. ... Ryan Spilborghs played 14 games and hit .333 with three homers and 15 RBIs. ... Starter Sandy Nin and reliever Judd Songster killed the Travelers, going a combined 6-0. Nin had a 2.25 ERA in four starts, while Songster has a 2.76 ERA in 11 outings against Arkansas. Starter Enmanuel Ulloa has been the other big winner, going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts.

Arkansas
Howie Kendrick hasn't been in Double-A all year, but he enjoys facing Tulsa, hitting .378 with a pair of homers and six RBIs in nine games. ... Catcher Mike Napoli leads the Travelers in homers (five) and RBIs (20) while slugging .554 and hitting .293 in 26 games against the Drillers. ... Erick Aybar has eight steals and a team-leading 21 runs scored in 28 games vs. Tulsa. ... Arkansas posted a 4.81 ERA against the Drillers. ... Reliever Aaron Pullin recorded three of the team's 12 victories. Closer Alex Serrano, who began the year with Tulsa, has four saves against his former mates.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Game 1: Arkansas at Tulsa
Steven Shell (10-8, 4.57 ERA) vs. Sandy Nin (10-6, 3.19 ERA)

Game 2: Arkansas at Tulsa
Kasey Olenberger (9-7, 3.71 ERA) vs. Jon Asahina (12-10, 4.19 ERA)

Game 3: Tulsa at Arkansas
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-5, 5.43 ERA) vs. Jered Weaver (3-3, 3.98 ERA)

Game 4: Tulsa at Arkansas, if necessary
Enmanuel Ulloa (8-3, 2.96 ERA) vs. Daniel Davidson (12-5, 4.58 ERA)

Game 5: Tulsa at Arkansas, if necessary
Zack Parker (11-10, 3.96 ERA) vs. Willie Collazo (1-5, 6.78 ERA)

AT THE PLATE

Tulsa
Tony Miller, OF: The center fielder leads the Drillers in homers (18) and stolen bases (26) from the top of the lineup. He is second in the league with 102 runs scored and he's saved his best work for last, hitting .341 with five homers and five steals in August.
Joseph Koshansky, OF: Promoted from Asheville specifically for the playoff push, Koshansky has serious power and has shown glimpses of it since joining the Drillers with two homers and 11 RBIs in 11 games. He hit 36 homers and slugged .603 in the South Atlantic League before he got moved up two levels.
Sean Barker, OF: He hasn't hit for average, but Barker provides some power (14 homers, team-leading 76 RBIs) and some speed (15 steals) to the Drillers' lineup.

Arkansas
Howie Kendrick, 2B: Since being promoted from the California League, Kendrick has hit .335 with seven homers, 42 RBIs and 12 steals in 45 games. His .364 combined average is the second-highest mark in the Minors.
Kendry Morales, 1B/DH: The Cuban defector has been one of the hottest hitters in the Minors and is batting .301 with 17 homers and 52 RBIs in 73 games. He hit .364 in August with 10 homers and 22 RBIs in 28 games.
Mike Napoli, C: The average (.237) is a tad low, but the power is not. Napoli leads the TL in homers (30) and RBIs (98).
Erick Aybar, SS: The catalyst for the big boppers, Aybar's 46 steals are second in the league (though he leads with 22 caught stealing). The flashy shortstop is also third with 100 runs scored while hitting .303.

HISTORY LESSONS

Arkansas was named Texas League champion in 2001 when the Travelers had a 2-0 lead over Round Rock in the best-of-7 final. The series was canceled after the terrorist attacks and Arkansas was given the title. ... Since joining the league in 1966, Arkansas has won six championships. Tulsa has not won a TL title since 1998 and also won in 1988 and 1982. They lost the title in 1999 and 2002.

SERIES COULD TURN ON...

Keeping the Travelers' lineup in check. Arkansas leads the Texas League in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs and stolen bases, while the Travs finished second in OBP and runs scored to Midland (see below). Some of that firepower arrived midseason, with Kendrick and Morales joining Aybar, Napoli and company to form a very potent lineup, particularly 1-6. If the Drillers' staff can contain them, as they did in the final two meetings during the regular year (five runs in two games), Tulsa would have the upper hand.

PREDICTION

Arkansas has the superior offense, Tulsa the better pitching. Usually in the postseason, good pitching beats good hitting. But that won't be the case in this series. The Travelers have enough pitching with Steven Shell, Daniel Davidson, Kasey Olenberger and Jered Weaver to shut down the worst offense in the Texas League. Even if the Drillers' pitchers do a good job, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Arkansas can't outscore Tulsa. Travelers in four.

Midland RockHounds vs. San Antonio Missions

REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Midland won series, 16-12. The RockHounds won the first six meetings between the teams before the Missions finally picked up two victories. San Antonio swept a four-game series in mid-June. The teams met for the last time from Aug. 23-26, splitting a four-game set.

HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS

Midland
The RockHounds hit .270 against the Missions, led by Steve Stanley (.330, 18 runs scored) and Brian Stavisky (.314, 15 RBIs, 16 runs). ... Andre Ethier led Midland with 21 RBIs against its division rival. ... Daric Barton hit .389 in 10 games. ... Steve Bondurant loves facing the Missions. He went 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA in six starts, leading a staff that posted a 3.32 ERA in 28 games against San Antonio.

San Antonio
Jaime Bubela (.324, six steasls) led a team that hit .271 against Midland during the season. ... Jesus Guzman topped the club with 16 RBIs, while Jesse Hoorelbeke and Jon Nelson each hit four homers. ... The Missions finished with a 4.32 ERA in the series, with Juan Sandoval having the most success. He went 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six starts.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Game 1: San Antonio at Midland
Rich Dorman (3-0, 0.45 ERA) vs. Shane Komine (2-1, 3.16 ERA)

Game 2: San Antonio at Midland
Yorman Bazardo (3-1, 4.28 ERA) vs. Mike Nannini (8-1, 5.79 ERA)

Game 3: Midland at San Antonio
Steve Bondurant (12-9, 4.58 ERA) vs. Tom Oldham (13-7, 3.67 ERA)

Game 4: Midland at San Antonio, if necessary
Brad Ziegler (2-1, 6.86 ERA) vs. Jon Huber (7-8, 4.74 ERA)

Game 5: San Antonio at Midland, if necessary
Drew Dickinson (6-10, 5.64 ERA)vs. Juan Sandoval (9-11, 4.19 ERA)

AT THE PLATE

Midland
Daric Barton, 1B: All the 20-year-old has done since being called up is hit .314 with five homers, 36 RBIs and a .410 OBP in 53 games. Overall, the catcher-turned-first baseman has hit .317 with 13 homers, 88 RBIs and 97 walks (tied for fourth in the Minors).
Jason Perry, DH: A Texas League All-Star, Perry led the RockHounds with 22 homers and was third with 77 RBIs.
Brian Stavisky, OF: Stavisky trailed only Ethier among full-season RockHounds with his .312 average. He also topped the club with 87 RBIs (third in the TL) while hitting 11 homers and posting a .394 OBP.

San Antonio
Jaime Bubela, OF: The veteran outfielder and leadoff hitter has been a stalwart atop the Missions' lineup, hitting .292 with 40 steals (tied for fourth in the league).
Adam Jones, SS: Jones moved up to San Antonio after Yuniesky Betancourt was promoted to Tacoma in the Mariners' parade of shortstops, and the 20-year-old has more than held his own. After batting .295 in the California League, Jones hit .298 with seven homers and nine steals in 63 games for the Missions. For the year, he's got a .296 average with 15 homers, 66 RBIs and 13 steals.
Jesse Hoorelbeke, 1B: The veteran first baseman represents the Missions' top power threat with 22 homers (tied for third in the league) and 81 RBIs (fifth). Both marks lead the team, as do his 151 strikeouts (tops in the TL).

HISTORY LESSONS

This is the first time since 1995 that Midland made the playoffs. The club shared the title in 1975 with Lafayette when the championship series was canceled at 2-2 due to rain. ... The Missions won back-to-back Texas League titles in 2002-03 and have made the playoffs in four of the last five years.

SERIES COULD TURN ON...

Which midseason addition fares better. Both clubs have lost central players to promotion, the most recent being Ethier's call up to Sacramento for the PCL playoffs. The Missions lost Betancourt earlier in the season, while Midland had to deal with All-Star Brant Colamarino's bump up and Omar Quintanilla's trade. Both Barton and Jones turned 20 in August and have made an impressively smooth transition to Double-A ball. While certainly not alone, if one of them steps up in the playoff spotlight, it could make the difference.

PREDICTION

The Missions know what this time of year is all about, having visited the playoffs consistently over the past several years. Manager Dave Brundage and staff will undoubtedly have their team prepared for what Texas League playoff baseball is all about. At the same time, he's likely had more talented teams than the one he'll field against Midland. While the RockHounds are in the postseason for the first time in a decade, their roster has plenty of players from big-time college programs who understand how to play under pressure. The division rivals are separated by only one game in the overall standings, meaning this one could really be a barnburner. In the end, we'll give the edge to the team with playoff expierence (not to mention better pitching staff) and the fact Midland may find it very hard to replace Ethier's presence in the lineup. Missions in five.

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