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Pacific Coast League playoff preview
09/06/2005 10:33 AM ET
Sacramento River Cats vs. Tacoma Rainiers

REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Sacramento and Tacoma split series, 8-8. Trying to find any advantage here may be a waste of time. Tacoma won three of four from Sacramento to end the season, but the Rainiers were playing for a playoff spot and the River Cats were just making sure to be ready for the playoffs. Two of the series were split, with Sacramento winning three of four in a late-April series.

HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS

Sacramento
Shawn Garrett enjoyed hitting against Tacoma to the tune of a .390 average. Mike Rouse led the club with 11 RBIs in 13 games. The River Cats hit .263 over the 16 games against the Rainiers. ... Sacramento had a 3.87 team ERA in the season series. Seth Etherton had a 1.93 ERA over two starTs, though he lost both decisions. Mike Saipe had a 2.61 ERA in three apperances, striking out 11 in in 10 1/3 IP.

Tacoma
The Rainiers hit .268 against the River Cats, topped by Ramon Santiago's .349. Shin-Soo Choo hit .273 and Ryan Christianson hit .321 in six games. Abraham Nunez led the club with eight RBIs. ... Tacoma finished with a 4.04 ERA in the 15 games. Veteran Andrew Lorraine, now pitching out of the 'pen, made four appearances and posted a 1.88 ERA. Bobby Livingston, the Game 2 starter, won his lone start, tossing seven quality innings and striking out 14.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Game 1: Sacramento at Tacoma
Adam Johnson (1-0, 6.23 ERA) vs. Damian Moss (9-7, 3.73 ERA)

Johnson, the one-time No. 1 pick by the Twins (second overall) in 2000, recently joined the River Cats after pitching for the Puebla Parrots in the Mexican League earlier this season. His lone win came in his last start against Fresno, when he went seven innings and allowed three runs on 10 hits. Moss, the former Braves prospect, finished with a flourish, going 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in six August starts.

Game 2: Sacramento at Tacoma
Ryan Glynn (3-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Bobby Livingston (6-2, 4.70 ERA)

Glynn began the year with Syracuse in the Blue Jays' system, came to Sacramento, and got called up to Oakland (0-4, 6.88 ERA) before coming back to the River Cats in late July. In his last start, he blanked the Rainiers over five innings. Livingston got bumped from San Antonio to Tacoma in mid-July. He dominated Sacramento in his final regular season start, striking out 14 and giving up just one run in seven innings.

AT THE PLATE

Sacramento
Jack Cust, OF: Cust was at it again, striking out 153 times, walking 115 times and homering 19 times to lead the River Cats. He carries a hot stick into the playoffs, hitting .302 in August and walking more (27) than he's struck out (24).
Brant Colamarino, 1B: The first baseman has some serious pop, hitting 11 homers in 74 games since joining Sacramento midseason. On the year, the seventh-rounder from the famed 2002 draft has hit 21 homers, driving in 92 runs and hit a combined .276.
Shawn Garrett, OF: Garrett has played all over the outfield and even some at first base and has hit all over the lineup, finishing with a .295 average 17 homers and driving in a team-best 82 runs.

Tacoma
Shin-Soo Choo, OF: The Futures Game star hit .282 (.383 OBP) on the year with 11 homers and 19 steals, tops on the team.
Abraham Nunez, OF: Nunez led the Raniers in homers with 17 and RBIs with 86 while swiping 12 bases and hitting .274.
T.J. Bohn, OF: Since joining the Rainiers from San Antonio a few weeks ago, Bohn has hit .321 in 22 games with four stolen bases, providing a nice boost from the bottom of the lineup.

HISTORY LESSONS

Sacramento rejoined the PCL in 2000 and became the first team since 1997 to win back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. No team has three-peated since the Albuquerque Dukes won three straight from 1980-1982. The River Cats have won five straight Pacific South Division crowns. ... The Sacramento Solons won PCL championships in 1938 and 1939. ... Tacoma has been a part of the PCL continuously since 1960, the past 11 as a Mariners' affiliate. The Rainiers last won a title when it shared the title in 2001 with New Orleans after beating Sacramento in the division playoffs. The club -- then the Tacoma Tigers -- did the same thing in 1978, sharing the championship with Albuquerque. Other titles came in 1961 and 1969, though they lost in the championship in 1971 and 1981.

SERIES COULD TURN ON...

Andre Ethier. In two teams so evenly matched -- not only did they split the season series, they finished with identical 80-64 records, it could be the contribution of just one player that could turn the tide one way or the other. Enter Ethier, the Double-A Texas League Player of the Year. After a tremendous season in Midland, Ethier got called up to Sacramento to help the club in their quest to three-peat. He got four Triple-A games under his belt, all against Tacoma. At least he'll be comfortable in their ballpark. How he adjusts (he went 4-for-15), especially with Matt Watson now up with Oakland, could tip the scales in Sacramento's favor.

PREDICTION

It could seriously come down to home-road splits. Talk about friendly confines...The Rainiers have a 48-24 in their park, 32-40 on the road. Having the first two games in Tacoma could be huge, giving the Rainiers a good shot of heading to Sacramento up 2-0, lessening the pressure of trying to win on the road. That's exactly what happens, with the Rainiers finishing off the River Cats' three-peat dreams. Rainiers in four.

Oklahoma RedHawks vs. Nashville Sounds

REGULAR SEASON SERIES

Nashville won series, 9-7. After splitting an early April four-game set, the Sounds won six of eight in the next two meetings between the clubs. Oklahoma answered back by taking three of four in an August series. Does that give them some momentum? Runs are never hard to be found, with double-digits being reached by at least one team in six games.

HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS

Oklahoma
Gerald Laird went off on Nashville pitching, hitting .442 with a pair of homers and eight RBIs in 11 games. Too bad he got called up when rosters expanded. Marshall McDougall was right behind him with a .378 average and a team-leading 16 RBIs, while Esteban German hit .339 and stole seven bases as the RedHawks hit .298 against the Sounds this season. ... Pitching was another story, as the Oklahoma staff posted a 6.23 ERA in the series.

Nashville
Dave Krynzel was the hitting star for the Sounds against the RedHawks with a .327 average, two homers and 10 RBIs. Brad Nelson hit .349 in 12 games while Steve Scarborough led the team in homers (three) and RBIs (16). ... Oddly, Nashville had an even worse ERA -- 6.53 -- against Oklahoma than the RedHawks had against the Sounds.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Game 1: Nashville at Oklahoma
Gary Glover (6-4, 3.03 ERA) vs. Derek Lee (5-2, 3.86 ERA)

Glover has plenty of big-league experience under his belt, including close to 50 IP this season with the Brewers. Lee has been Oklahoma's ace down the stretch, going 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA in August.

Game 2: Nashville at Oklahoma
Mike Meyers (7-4, 5.31 ERA) vs. Miguel Tejera (3-2, 3.79 ERA)

A battle of converted relievers in the making. Meyers has made seven starts, all but one of them in August and September. He's gone 3-1 with a 4.93 ERA. Tejera has made only two starts, but both came at the end of the season. He's allowed just two earned runs in 9 1/3 IP as a starter.

Game 3: Oklahoma at Nashville
Josh Rupe (6-7, 6.25 ERA) vs. Dennis Sarfate (0-1, 2.25 ERA)

Rupe has found Triple-A much more challenging than the Double-A Texas League (4-3, 3.74 ERA), but he did finish the season on a good note, with a six-inning, two-run victory on Saturday. Sarfate joined Nashville late after making 24 starts for Double-A Huntsville (9-9, 3.88 ERA). He made one start, a seven inning gem on Sunday.

AT THE PLATE

Oklahoma
Ian Kinsler, 2B: Kinsler had a very productive season, hitting 23 homers, driving in 92 runs and stealing 19 bases and, after a tough start, got his average up to .274 by season's end
Jason Botts, OF: Botts led the RedHawks with 25 homers, 101 RBIs and a .527 SLG.
Esteban German, INF: Playing all over the field, German finished with a .309 average and stole 42 bases to lead the PCL.

Nashville
Dave Krynzel, OF: Krynzel didn't fare well average-wise (.254), but showed some power with 11 homers and stole 23 bases.
Trent Durrington, Utility: Durrington picked up his 30th stolen base over the weekend, joining the promoted Corey Hart in the 30 steals club. He also hit .300 and got on base at a .386 clip.
Tony Zuniga, 1B/3B: Since joining the Sounds in June, Zuniga has hit .323 with seven homers, 43 RBIs and five steals in 65 games, including a game-winning two-run single in the 10th inning of Sunday's playoff-clinching win.

HISTORY LESSONS

Oklahoma joins the playoff fun for the third time in four years. This was its fourth PCL division crown since 1999 and sixth overall. The RedHawks lost in the opening round last year in a five-game series against Iowa and were swept by Salt Lake in 2002. ... The Sounds joined the PCL in 1998. They made the playoffs just once before this year, advancing to the championship in 2003, but losing to Sacramento.

SERIES COULD TURN ON...

Whether anyone can stop the RedHawks offense. Even with Gerald Laird and Adrian Gonzalez now in Texas, that task is easier said than done. Oklahoma led the PCL in runs scored by a comfortable 70+ run margin and the 'Hawks still have Botts and Kinsler, who have hit a combined 48 homers and driven in 196 runs. Throw in German's speed, newcomers like Will Smith (.339, eight HR, 36 RBIs in 47 games) and a veteran like Chris Richard (.298, 14 HR, 66 RBIs in 97 games) and they still have one of the most potent lineups in the PCL

PREDICTION

Even though the Sounds won the season series, they did much of their damage with guys like Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart in the lineup. All three are in the bigs now. Sure, Oklahoma has been hurt by promotions as well, but not like Nashville. Look for this series to be a slugfest, and it's hard to see the RedHawks losing a shootout. RedHawks in four.

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