09/04/2007 11:13 AM ET
California League South playoff preview
Inland Empire opens at home before playing two at Lake Elsinore
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
David Freese, who finished third in the league in runs (104) and seventh in RBIs (96), is part of a potent Lake Elsinore offense. (Mike Huffstatler)
Lake Elsinore vs. Inland Empire
Storm (74-65) vs. 66ers (72-67)
(Best-of-3 series begins Wednesday, Sept. 5)
The road to a repeat begins here for Inland Empire. Of
course, the personnel has changed, with the 66ers
becoming a Dodgers affiliate after the 2006 season
(they won the '06 title as part of the Mariners organization).
Inland Empire won the season series, 14-11. Lake
Elsinore seemed to have the edge late, going 9-4 at
the end of July through August. But the Storm took two
of three in the final series of the season to clinch the No. 2 seed. Matthew Buschmann had a 1.16 ERA in six
outings, but won't start in this series.
Lake Elsinore: The Storm hit .261 in the
25-game series. David Freese led the way with a .316
average, four homers and 20 RBIs, playing in all 25
games. Kyle Blanks hit .287 with three homers and 14
RBIs, while Craig Cooper hit .318. ... Lake Elsinore
had a respectable 3.73 ERA in the series, despite
going 11-14. Stephen Faris' two wins in the California
League both came against Inland Empire. Steve Garrison
went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts while Nathan
Culp went 1-2 with a 4.80 ERA in his three outings.
Inland Empire: The 66ers hit .277 as a team
against the Storm. Adam Godwin hit .324 in 20 games,
driving in nine runs and stealing five bases. Russell
Mitchell hit five homers and drove in a team-high 17
runs. Shane Justis hit .388 in 20 games with a pair of
homers and 14 RBIs. ... The Indland Empire pitching
staff posted a 4.11 ERA in the series. Alberto Bastardo
went 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA over six appearances, four of
them starts. Jesus Castillo didn't fare nearly as
well, going 2-3 with a 5.29 ERA in seven outings, five
starts. Cody White, however, went 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA
in his five starts.
Game 1: Lake Elsinore at Inland Empire
Steve Garrison (2-3, 2.79) vs. Alberto Bastardo (6-5, 4.57)
Game 2: Inland Empire at Lake Elsinore
Jesus Castillo (6-9, 4.78) vs. Stephen Faris (2-0, 4.09)
Game 3: Inland Empire at Lake Elsinore (if necessary)
Cody White (2-3, 3.90) vs. Nathan Culp (4-4, 4.91)
ON THE MOUND
RHP Matthew Buschmann has been an anchor for
the Storm staff, going 12-6 with a 2.89 ERA. That
places him third in the league in ERA and wins. He's
tenth with 115 strikeouts, but he's also only allowed
26 walks in 149 1/3 innings. Unfortunately for the Storm, he won't
be available for this opening-round series. ... LHP
Nathan Culp has gone 5-4 with a 4.81 ERA in 12
outings since joining Lake Elsinore, but the Padres'
fourth-round pick in 2006 has a 3.34 ERA in August and
September, including wins in the playoff clincher and
the game that earned the Storm the No. 2 seed. ...
LHP Steve Garrison has a 2.79 ERA in seven
starts since joining the Padres system via a trade
with the Brewers. Overall, the 2005 10th-round pick is
10-7 with a 3.25 ERA.
LHP Alberto Bastardo is 6-5 with a 4.57 ERA
overall, but has been particularly good down the
stretch. He had a 2.70 ERA in five August outings,
striking out 30 in 26 2/3 innings. ... LHP Cody
White has a 3.90 ERA in 12 starts for the 66ers.
Overall, he's 10-8 with a 3.14 ERA combined between
Great Lakes and Inland Empire. ... Closer Kyle
Wilson has 14 saves and a 1.09 ERA, striking out
30, walking just five in 33 innings and keeping
hitters to a .210 batting average against.
AT THE PLATE
1B/DH Kyle Blanks has had an impressive year,
hitting .301 with 24 homers, 100 RBIs and even 11
steals, though he's struggled a little bit in the
final month of the season. Still, he's tied for sixth
in home runs, seventh in SLG (.535) and fourth in RBIs
in the league. ... Fellow 1B Craig Cooper has
also been productive, hitting .317 (good for seventh
in the league) with 10 homers, 78 RBIs and a .398 OBP
(tenth). 3B David Freese hit .302 with 17
homers and 96 RBIs, good for seventh in the league.
Not sure how much he'll play, but Padres 2007
supplemental first round pick, C Mitch Canham
joined the roster recently after making his debut in
Eugene. He hit .293 in 116 at-bats there.
C Lucas May finished tied for second in the
California League with 25 home runs. His 89 RBIs were
10th. ... OF Ryan Rogowski finished third in
the league with 39 stolen bases and went 20-for-22 in
stolen-base attempts in the second half. ... OF
Jamie Hoffman was ninth in the league with a .312
batting average. He also drove in 81 runs, second
on the team.
Since joining the California League in 1994, the Storm
has gone to the postseason eight times before this
season. They won their first title as an Angels
affiliate in 1996 and were declared co-champions in
2001, the first year of the team's affiliation with
the Padres. In both 2002 and 2005, the Storm lost in
the championship. ... Since the team became the
Indland Empire 66ers in 2003, it's won two titles, in
that inaugural year as well as last season, when the
66ers beat Visalia in five games. As the San Bernardino Stampede, they won back-to-back championships in 1999 and 2000. The first title in town came as the Spirit in 1995.
SERIES COULD TURN ON
Who wins Game 1. It's crucial for Inland Empire to
take the one game it hosts in this first round of the
postseason. Otherwise, the 66ers will face an uphill
battle trying to win two in Lake Elsinore. The Storm
went 46-23 at home during the 2007 season, second only
to Lancaster among California League teams.
The winner of this series has the unenviable task of
facing the Lancaster JetHawks, who won the division
title in both halves. In the end, Lake Elsinore's
combination of offense, which scored the second-most runs in the league in 2007, and
pitching, which finished with the second-best ERA in
the circuit, will be too much for the 66ers to
overcome. Lake Elsinore in three.
Jonathan Mayo 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.