09/08/2006 3:47 PM ET
Florida State League Playoff Preview
St. Lucie Mets vs. Dunedin Blue Jays
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
St. Lucie Mets vs. Dunedin Blue Jays
The Mets took five of the eight meetings, including taking three of four last month in Dunedin. The two teams were very evenly matched, though, with neither one enjoying a huge advantage statistically from a pitching or offensive standpoint.
St. Lucie vs. Dunedin
Enrique Cruz hit .368 in six games, but Caleb Stewart and Jesus Flores provided much of the Mets' power. Stewart only played in four games vs. Dunedin, yet hit .385 (5-for-13) with two homers and five RBIs. Flores played in seven, and though he hit just .250, he also had a pair of homers and five RBIs. Carlos Muniz, who had 31 saves during the regular season, picked up two of them against the Jays. The starters were 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA, but those numbers were skewed by Jose Sanchez's effort. He went 0-2 and allowed 16 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. Remove him from the equation and the starters were 4-1 with a 0.72 ERA.
Dunedin vs. St. Lucie
Ryan Patterson was devastating in the four games he played, hitting .556 (10-for-18) with a pair of RBIs. Robinzon Diaz kept pace in his six games, batting .476 (10-for-21) and negotiating a pair of walks. Scott Dragicevich, Chris Gutierrez and Josh Kreuzer combined to hit .382 (13-for-34) with two homers and five RBIs. Eric Fowler started a pair of games and won them both, striking out 13 in 14 innings. Overall, the starters were 2-4 with a 4.24 ERA but, like St. Lucie, those numbers were skewed by the performance of one starter. Take away Orlando Trias' two games, and Dunedin starters would be 2-2 with a 2.87 ERA.
ON THE MOUND
Deolis Guerra will get the nod in the opener after going 7-8 with a 2.53 ERA in a combined 19 starts for St. Lucie and Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League. He was 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA in a pair of regular-season starts for the Mets. Blake Eager was 6-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) combined at St. Lucie, Double-A Binghamton and in the Gulf Coast League. Slated to start Game 2, he has been brilliant over his last nine outings with the Mets, going 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA. Jose Sanchez, who started and won the playoff opener, will go in Game 3. He allowed one run on two hits over six innings in topping Palm Beach. Sal Aguilar will start a fourth game if need be. He started the clincher against Palm Beach, but received a no-decision after allowing one run over five innings. No Game 5 starter has been determined. Carlos Muniz, who had 31 saves during the regular season, saved both semi-final victories.
Kurt Isenberg will start Game 1 after going 2-3 with a 3.30 ERA over 11 appearances (eight starts) for the Blue Jays. The 24-year-old left-hander spent a large chunk of the season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Double-A Eastern League, where he went 3-9 with a 5.67 ERA over 87 1/3 innings. Game 2 will most likely go to Russ Savickas, who went 6-4 with a 4.11 ERA for Dunedin, and also logged time with the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League, as well as the Triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs. Game 3 will go to Eric Fowler, who pitched the Division Series opener against Fort Myers and allowed five runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits over six innings in a game Dunedin eventually lost, 6-5. If a fourth game is necessary, Jesse Litsch will get the nod. The 21-year-old earned the win in Game 2 of the Division Series, allowing a run over five innings. If the series goes to five games, Orlando Trias will take the hill. The 22-year-old worked seven strong innings in Thursday's series winner over Fort Myers.
AT THE PLATE
The Mets certainly had no problems scoring runs in the opening round, picking up 12 in two games against the Cardinals. Caleb Stewart was 4-for-8 with a pair of RBIs while Jose Coronado, Fernando Martinez and Alhaji Turay each had three hits. Enrique Cruz added four walks and stole a base to help pace St. Lucie, which hit .323 (21-for-65) in the two games. Corey Coles, who hit .341 to win the batting title during the regular season, was 1-for-8, picking up only a single. Jonathan Malo, who had seven homers with 33 RBIs in 89 games during the regular season, belted a three-run homer in the clincher over Palm Beach.
The Blue Jays hit .264 and slugged .358 against Fort Myers in the opening round. Eric Nielsen was the best overall performer, as the 25-year-old right fielder hit .417 and drove in a four of the Jays' 12 runs. Juan Peralta collected four hits in 10 at-bats, while Carlo Cota hit .308 (4-for-13). Ron Davenport was the star, however, as he homered and drove in the winning in Dunedin's 11-inning victory over Fort Myers in Game 3.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Dunedin, which has never won a league title, was swept by Tampa in the opening round of the 2004 playoffs and by Lakeland in last season's opening round. ... Despite playing only a half-season with the Blue Jays, Ryan Klosterman was named to the FSL postseason All-Star team. ... Dunedin is the only team in the FSL playoffs with a losing record in one-run games. ... The Mets captured titles in 1988, 1996, 1998 and 2003. ... Dunedin and St. Lucie met in the 2003 FSL finals, with the Mets winning the series, 3-1.
SERIES COULD TURN ON
Starting pitching. If the Mets get the kind of effort from their starters they did during the opening round, it will be difficult for Dunedin to get on the board early. And, since St. Lucie's bullpen has been exceptional at protecting leads late, the first few innings should set a tone.
St. Lucie made short work of Palm Beach. It has the pitching to have similar results against the Dunedin. The Mets in four.
Benjamin Hill contributed to this report.
Kevin Czerwinski 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.