IL Championship Series Preview09/10/2006 4:10 PM ET
By Kevin Czerwinski / MLB.com
Rochester Red Wings vs. Toledo Mud Hens
Toledo took five of eight games despite being outscored by the Red Wings, 30-28. The clubs haven't faced each other since June, when the Mud Hens won three of four in Rochester. The Hens hit only .192 in the eight games, but in four of their five victories allowed two runs or less.
Josh Rabe, now with Minnesota, was the most offensively productive Red Wing, hitting .381 with a homer and three RBIs in five games. Terry Tiffee saw action in four games and hit .353. Despite having a 2.39 ERA, Rochester starters went 1-4 in the series. J.D. Durbin didn't receive a decision in two starts, but posted a 1.38 ERA and fanned 14 in 13 innings. The bullpen ERA was 3.00.
As the .192 team batting average would indicate, there wasn't a great deal of productivity. When the Hens needed runs, however, they got them. Tike Redman was one of the few offensive bright spots, hitting .333 (9-for-27) with an RBI, while Jack Hannahan had three hits in 10 at-bats. Josh Phelps hit .290 with two homers and eight RBIs. Toledo starters went 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA, but promotions and injuries have left the starting staff with a different look since the last time these teams met. The Hens' bullpen had a 5.40 ERA in the series.
ON THE MOUND
Mike Smith, who started and won the semifinal opener, will start Game 1. He allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. He was 11-5 with a 3.88 ERA during the regular season and hasn't lost since Aug. 12. Manager Stan Cliburn is going bold in Games Two and Three, starting Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins, respectively. Slowey, who just returned from Cuba where he helped pitch Team USA to victory in the Olympic Qualifier, was 8-5 with a 1.88 ERA in 23 combined starts at Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. Shortstop Donaldo Mendez was put on the temporarily inactive list to make room for Slowey. Perkins, a former first-round draft pick, also shoehorned his way into the mix with a sterling effort in the clincher against the Red Barons, allowing a hit over six scoreless innings. Overall, he was 4-12 with a 3.85 ERA in 24 starts between Rochester and New Britain. He is 1-1 in two outings, including one playoff game, with an 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 innings for the Red Wings. The Rochester bullpen allowed four runs in 20 innings against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a 1.80 ERA.
Colby Lewis tossed seven shutout innings against Indianapolis last Tuesday in a one-game playoff. He will be going on a full week's rest in the opener. Lewis' ERA on the road this season (5.84) is significantly higher than it is at home (1.74). Chad Durbin pitched a complete game, allowing only two runs on four hits against Charlotte. He is slated to start Game 2 on Wednesday. Durbin led the league with 149 strikeouts and was fifth in ERA at 3.11. Eulogio De La Cruz got the start in Game 3 of the semis in his second Triple-A outing of the season. He rose to the occasion, allowing just two runs in seven innings. He'll get the Game Three start this time around as well. Brian Boehringer was nearly as impressive in his start, allowing two runs on three hits over six innings against the Knights. He is the likely candidate to start a fourth game if needed. Toledo's 2.15 ERA was the best among the four teams during the semis and the bullpen didn't allow a run in 21 innings.
AT THE PLATE
Paced by Garrett Jones and Quinton McCracken, each of whom hit .533 (8-for-15) in the opening round, the Red Wings are getting hits in big situations, collecting the most hits (42) and the most runs (22) among the four semifinalists. While they have been a bit overzealous on the bases at times, manager Stan Cliburn applauds their aggressiveness and encourages it. The all-out style provided trouble for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the opening round. Andres Torres, who hit .353 (6-for-17) and walked once, had three stolen bases in four attempts. The concern over Rochester's catching scenario prior to the series proved to be valid, at least at the plate. Jose Morales and Kyle Geiger combined to go 1-for-11 (.090), though Morales did have a pair of RBIs.
The Hens scored 17 runs in the semis, all coming in the final three games. Including the playoff game against Indianapolis, Toledo is hitting just .184 in the postseason, and that won't get it done against Rochester pitching, particularly the bullpen. Ryan Ludwick, who had 20 homers, 80 RBIs and a .266 batting average during the regular season, is hitting .048 (1-for-21) during the playoffs, the one hit a home run. Ryan Raburn hit .275 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs during the year but is hitting .150 (3-for-20) against the Indians and Knights. Only Josh Phelps is producing at the pace he maintained during the regular season, hitting .278 with two homers and two RBIs.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Rochester only made one error in the opening round. ... The Red Wings haven't been in the Governors' Cup finals since 1997, the last year they were league champions. ... The winner of the series advances to the Bricktown Showdown to face the Pacific Coast League champ for the Triple-A title. ... Scranton/Wilkes-Barre stole four bases in five attempts off the Morales/Geiger catching combo. ... The Mud Hens, the defending league champs, were forced to win a one-game playoff with Indianapolis just for the chance to play Charlotte.
SERIES COULD TURN ON...
The middle of the Rochester lineup could have the biggest impact. If McCracken and Garrett continue to hit at their torrid pace, the Red Wings will score runs. McCracken's veteran presence has been a big help and will be needed against the experienced Toledo squad.
It's tough to count out the Mud Hens, especially since they've walked such a tightrope the last few weeks and continue to come out ahead. While Rochester won't have Francisco Liriano around this series, it will still have Perkins and perhaps Slowey, making them a tough team to beat. Rochester in five.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.