08/30/2006 10:00 AM ET
Appalachian League playoff preview
Danville Braves vs. Elizabethton Twins
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
Editor's note: All stats are through Aug. 28. Head-to-head stats are completely updated.
Danville Braves (39-27) vs. Elizabethton Twins (41-25)
The teams played all six of their games from Aug. 18 on, with Danville winning the series, 4-2. After the E-Twins took the first game, 9-7, Danville reeled off four victories before Elizabethton edged the Braves in the final game, 4-3. Overall, Danville outscored Elizabethton 45-26. ... The Twins clinched their playoff spot on Aug. 25 when they won the West Division, while Danville wrapped up the East a night later, ironically with a win over Elizabethton. ... The eight-team Appalachian League does not have a semifinal round.
OF Jon Owings batted a torrid .524 in six games with six runs scored, and five RBIs. ... 1B/OF Larry Williams hit .440 with nine RBIs, seven runs scored and four doubles in six games. ... C Phillip Britton batted .471 in five games, with four doubles and five runs scored. ... OF Willie Cabrera hit .500 in six games with two homers and six RBIs. ... RHP Kyle Cofield, who will be available in relief, had a 2.53 ERA over 10 2/3 innings. ... RHP Thomas Hanson, the likely Game 2 starter, allowed one earned run in nine innings over two games, striking out 10 without walking a batter.
1B Joshua Dean hit .357 in four games with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs. ... 2B Brian Dinkelman batted .391 in six games, scoring four runs. ... SS Steven Singleton hit .318 in six games with two triples, a homer, six RBIs and four runs scored. ... RHP Jose Castillo earned the win in his lone outing against Danville, allowing one run in seven innings and striking out eight without walking a batter. ... LHP Jose Lugo allowed two earned runs in seven innings, striking out eight without issuing a walk in the club's series-ending victory. ... Closer Danny Hernandez notched saves in both Elizabethton wins.
Game 1: Elizabethton at Danville
Twins RHP Alex Burnett (4-3, 4.04) vs. Braves RHP Jamie Richmond (7-1, 1.21)
Game 2: Danville at Elizabethton
Braves RHP Thomas Hanson (4-1, 2.09) vs. Twins LHP Jose Lugo (8-4, 3.56)
Game 3: Danville at Elizabethton
Braves LHP Carlos Sencion (0-4, 2.56) vs. Twins RHP Jose Castillo (4-3, 3.31)
ON THE MOUND
RHP Jamie Richmond, a 20-year-old from Toronto, was Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year after going 7-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 67 innings, walking four -- that's right, four -- and striking out 52. He got the start against the E-Twins in the last game of the teams' six-game series but was limited to two perfect innings to keep him fresh for the playoffs. RHP Thomas Hanson barely missed making the Appy leaderboard with 51 2/3 innings, but his 2.09 ERA would have ranked second behind Richmond. He walked just nine while striking out 56. Southpaw Carlos Sencion, who draws the start in the third game, did not face Elizabethton this year. On the season, he was 0-4 but had a 2.56 ERA in 52 2/3 innings, striking out 60 while walking 17. RHP Kristopher Medlen has been dominating in the closer role with an 0.43 ERA and nine saves, 33 strikeouts and only two walks in 21 innings.
RHP Jose Castillo, who is slated for the third game of the series, finished ninth in the league with a 3.31 ERA, going 4-3 and striking out 53 in 68 innings. The E-Twins had three of the league's top five strikeout artists. Left-hander Jose Lugo, who drew the second slot in the playoff rotation, led the way with eight wins, going 8-4 with a 3.56 ERA. He fanned 70 in 73 1/3 innings, which tied for third in the league, one strikeout behind playoff opener Alex Burnett, who fanned 71 in 71 1/3 innings with a 4.04 ERA in 13 starts. Closer Danny Hernandez was an Appalachian League All-Star, posting a 2.96 ERA and a league-high 18 saves, striking out 38 in 27 1/3 innings.
AT THE PLATE
Although the team had just one player in the top 10 in hitting, Danville was leading the league with a .285 average, more than 20 points higher than its closest competitor. All-Star 1B/OF Larry Williams was third in the batting race, hitting .337 with two homers and 44 RBIs. His 88 hits led the league by 17 over teammate Willie Cabrera. ... All-Star OF Cabrera batted .309 with seven homers, 37 RBIs and 13 doubles. ... All-Star SS Chase Fontaine hit .294 with four homers and 24 RBIs. ... C Phillip Britton had 17 doubles, fourth in the league, to go with a .297 average, seven homers and 35 RBIs. ... OF Jon Owings, who torched Elizabethton pitching in their six-game set, was hit .287 and led the team with eight homers. ... 1B Ernesto Mejia batted .303 with 16 doubles. ... OF Concepcion Rodriguez scored 45 runs to rank second in the league.
All-Star 1B/3B Danny Valencia was 10th in the league with a .311 average, adding seven homers, 13 doubles and 28 RBIs. ... 3B Garrett Olson batted .314. ... 2B Brian Dinkelman hit .306 with 11 doubles and 30 RBIs. ... Switch-hitting SS Steven Singleton batted .341 with a .543 slugging percentage. With just 39 games, he did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the league leaderboard. His five triples were tied for the league lead, however.
POINTS OF INTEREST
If this matchup sounds familiar, that's because the same teams also faced each other in last year's Appalachian League finals, with Elizabethton capturing its seventh title. In that series, the Twins pulled out a 5-4 victory in the decisive game as catcher Sean Richardson drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. ... Elizabethton, which has been in the league since 1974, is led by longtime manager Ray Smith, who makes Elizabethton his year-round home. He just won his second consecutive Appalachian League Manager of the Year award, the sixth time he has been honored. ... Danville, which joined the circuit in 1993, has so far been shut out when it comes to postseason glory but led the league in All-Star spots this year with four, including Pitcher of the Year Jamie Richmond.
SERIES COULD TURN ON
In the six-game regular-season series, Danville dominated offensively and will try to continue that trend in the postseason. But Elizabethton has set up its rotation so that the two pitchers who had Danville's number, Jose Lugo and Jose Castillo, will pitch the two home games in the series. Don't necessarily expect Elizabethton's home-field advantage to prove the difference, however. Last year, when these teams met in the finals, the visitors won each game.
Could this be the year the Danville Braves finally win their first league championship? Despite the E-Twins' home-field advantage in the three-game series, Danville's dominance over its rival in the teams' late-season six-game "mini-playoffs" could give the Braves the mental edge they need to take home the hardware at last.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.