River Cats repeat as champs
Yanks steamroll to first Cup
Shelley Duncan's player page
Video: Jonathan Mayo chats up Duncan
Complete Bricktown Showdown coverage
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The first two Bricktown Showdowns produced some exciting games and big crowds at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. But if you listened to some of the players and coaches who participated in either affair speak privately, the impression was that the game was more of an exhibition rather than a contest to be taken seriously.
Well, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has no such reservations about why they are heading to Oklahoma City. The one-game Bricktown Showdown against Pacific Coast League champ Sacramento -- which will be televised live on ESPN2 on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET -- may have a mythical "best team in Triple-A" title attached to it, but it's a moniker the Yankees want to take with them back East.
"You know what," Yankees slugger Shelley Duncan said. "The preliminary take is that this is a big deal for us. We set this game as one of our goals a while back and we're excited to be here. We want to go out and win and play the best we can. We don't know what the overall feel of the game is in general but that's how we feel.
"I think what you're seeing from us now is the consistency that we've played with all year. This team has been unbelievable. If we're not hitting, we're pitching. If we're not pitching, we're hitting. We're always doing something to win games. That's what you see in great teams. We pick each other up and it's been happening all year long."
If the Yanks are going to finish up as that great team, they are going to need a big game from Duncan. He hit only .156 in eight IL playoff games while striking out nine times in 32 at-bats. Granted, one of the five hits he had was a series-winning homer against Pawtucket, but he'll need to provide some more of that magic in the middle of the lineup for SWB to outlast an equally consistent Sacramento squad.
The Yankees scored 47 runs in eight playoff games, but 20 of those runs came in the clincher against Durham. They've had trouble pushing across runs and jumping out to big leads but have been able to overcome because of some fabulous starting pitching. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starters have pitched to a 1.47 ERA in 49 playoff innings. Overall, they have a 2.15 ERA as a staff, so if Sacramento is going to do any damage, it's going to take some effort.
"Games like that last one, just in general, I'm not a fan of," Duncan said. "I like being part of the closer ones. When a game gets out of control, you get hot tempers and the game doesn't get played the same. It just gets played to get it finished.
"I don't think it was a relaxing feeling on the bench. We just kept grinding until it was over. We accomplished one of our goals, though."
Now their goal is to prevent Sacramento from repeating in Bricktown.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (88-55) vs. Sacramento River Cats (82-60)
Obviously the two teams have never met, but that doesn't mean there isn't a little bit of history working on both sides of the ledger. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's victory over Durham on Friday night gave the franchise its first Governors' Cup title. Though the team actually plays in Moosic, Pa., it has ties to both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, hence the team name. The last time a team from the area won a title was 1951, when the Scranton Red Sox swept Elmira to win the Eastern League title. This marks the seventh time in 11 seasons that SWB has reached the postseason.
Sacramento has won the last two PCL titles and four of the last six, earning crowns in 2003 and 2004. Vancouver, Sacramento's predecessor, won the PCL championship in 1985, '89 and '99. The River Cats were the first PCL team to win consecutive crowns since Edmonton in 1996-97. Sacramento's victory in Sunday's PCL clincher also gave the franchise a 10-0 record in championship clinching games.
The Pacific Coast League has also won both Bricktown Showdowns. Tucson took the crown in 2006. The International League last won a postseason matchup with the PCL in 2000, when Indianapolis defeated Memphis in four games to win the Las Vegas Triple-A World Series. New Orleans and Vancouver won in 1998 and '99, respectively, to give the PCL crowns those years.
The IL also didn't fare well in the Triple-A Classic against the now-defunct American Association, losing four consecutive years (1988-91). Tidewater (now Norfolk), however, won the round-robin Triple-A World Series in 1983, edging Portland from the PCL and Denver from the AA. The IL has also produced 14 Junior World Series winners, nine Little World Series winners and two Eastern Championships (versus the Eastern League).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: The Yanks will be without starter Phil Hughes and reliever Dave Robertson, who were called up to New York following Friday's victory, though having Hughes on the roster wouldn't have mattered anyway. He started Friday's clincher against Durham and would have been unable to start. Robertson had a 6.23 ERA in three playoff appearances. It would seem likely that the Yanks would stick with their rotation and start Chase Wright (2.53 ERA in two playoff starts). But Ian Kennedy (0-1, 1.50 ERA) and Kei Igawa (1-0, 1.35 ERA) would be available on extra and normal rest, respectively. Scott Strickland is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 10 strikeouts and a save in seven playoff innings. Juan Miranda hit .265 in the IL playoffs but had 11 RBIs in eight games. Chris Basak was 6-for-18 (.333) with three RBIs. Shelley Duncan, Bernie Castro and Matt Carson combined to hit .163 (13-for-80) in the IL playoffs, though Duncan and Castro each had game-winning hits in extra innings. Eric Duncan struck out 13 times in 31 at-bats.
Sacramento: Wes Bankston hit only .235 in eight playoff games but had a homer and 10 RBIs in 34 at-bats. Chris Denorfia hit .486 (17-for-35) with four homers and six RBIs, while Carlos Gonzalez hit .406 (13-for-32) with two homers and eight RBIs. Donnie Murphy hit .296 with four homers and nine RBIs. They all contributed to the 61 runs Sacramento scored in eight games (that's 7.6 runs per game if you want to get technical). The River Cats don't match up in terms of pitching with SWB, posting a 5.38 ERA. Brett Anderson was 2-0 in three games, including two starts. He had a 3.94 ERA and allowed 17 hits and six walks in 16 innings. Ryan Wing didn't allow a run in 5 1/3 innings of relief.
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.