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Eastern League Championship Preview
09/09/2013 2:57 PM ET
 

Harrisburg Senators
77-65, 1st Place In Western Division
Washington Nationals Affiliate
vs.
Trenton Thunder
74-67, 2nd Place In Eastern Division
New York Yankees Affiliate


HOW DID THEY GET HERE? 

Trenton: Trenton finished in 2nd place in the Eastern Division then swept the first place Binghamton Mets 3 games to none to advance to the ELCS. 

Harrisburg: The Senators beat the Erie SeaWolves for first place in the Western Division by just a single game in the standings. After splitting a pair of close games at Erie in the Division Series, the Sens cruised to a couple of victories on their home field to advance to the ELCS.  

 

STARTING PITCHERS:

Game 1 - Tuesday, September 10 at Trenton
Trenton's Nik Turley (11-8, 3.88) vs. Harrisburg's Blake Treinen (6-7, 3.64)

Turley has not pitched in the playoffs and most recently pitched in a ballgame September 1st at Portland. He allowed two runs on seven hits over five innings while striking out five. He has not allowed more than 2 ER in 6 of last 8 starts since July 26th and his season ERA has lowered from 4.50 to 3.88.
 
Game 2 - Wednesday, September 11 at Trenton
Trenton's Bryan Mitchell (0-0, 1.92) vs. Harrisburg's A.J. Cole (4-2, 2.18)

Mitchell's last start of the regular season was against New Britain in which he went 7.1 innings and allowed one unearned run on four hits while striking out 10. The 10 K/0 BB game was just the third of its kind thrown by a Thunder starting pitcher since 2005 and the first since Ryan Pope on August 7, 2009. In Game 1 of the EDCS vs. Binghamton he allowed two earned runs (three runs) over five innings for a no-decision as he battled the New York Mets' No. 1 prospect Noah Syndergaard.

Game 3 - Thursday, September 12 at Harrisburg
Trenton RHP Shane Greene vs. TBA

Game 4 - Friday, September 13 at Harrisburg (if nec)
Trenton RHP Mikey O'Brien vs. TBA

Game 5 - Saturday, September 14 at Harrisburg, (if nec)
Trenton RHP Scottie Allen vs. TBA  


HEAD TO HEAD: The Thunder and Senators faced each other 9 times this season with Harrisburg winning 5 of the games. In the most recent series, August 13-15 in Trenton, the Thunder took two out of three.


THREE TO WATCH:

Trenton

Nik Turley, SP: Turley, the lone Eastern League All-Star in the rotation for the Thunder, is coming off three starts to end the regular season where he allowed five earned runs over 18.0 IP (2.50 ERA). Those three starts include a start August 27th vs. New Britain where Turley allowed one unearned run over 7.1 innings while striking out seven on just 98 pitches. Turley has not appeared in a ballgame since September 1st and will be the Game 1 starting pitcher for Trenton.
 
Tommy Kahnle, RP: Kahnle converted 15-of-16 (94%) save opportunities in the regular season for the Thunder and held opponents to just a .182 batting average against. Down the stretch of the regular season he was 0-1 with a 8.59 ERA and 3.27 WHIP in his final five appearances (7.1 IP, 11 H, 7 R (7 ER), 13 BB). However, in the 9th inning of Game 2 with the Thunder leading 2-1, the righty fireballer struck out a pair to secure Trenton's win.
 
Ali Castillo, SS: Castillo was transferred from High-A Tampa September 1st to replace shortstop Carmen Angelini who was injured during the final series of the regular season in Portland. Castillo had not appeared in a game for the Thunder since June 9th, stepped-in seamlessly in the EDCS vs. Binghamton both defensively and offensively. Castillo went 3-for-11 in the series (.273) with a pair of doubles, a run scored and an RBI. In Game 2 it was Castillo's RBI double to right-center field broke a 1-1 tie in Trenton's 2-1 win, and his two-out double in the 5th inning of Game 3 began a two-out rally in which the Thunder struck first for a 2-0 lead.
 

Harrisburg

Billy Burns, OF: Burns, as his last name might indicate, is a blazer on the base paths. He finished 3rd in all of Minor League Baseball with 74 stolen bases, and was caught only seven times (91.4%). In 30 games with Harrisburg he hit .325 while going 20-for-22 in SB and more walks than strikeouts (20-to-17). In three games against Trenton this season, the centerfielder was 6-for-13 with three runs scored.
 
Steven Souza Jr., OF: Souza Jr. played in just 77 regular season games for Harrisburg this season after missing two significant chunks of time with injury. In spite of playing in just 54% of the team's games, the Senators corner outfielder hit a team-best 15 home runs which doesn't include his 9th-inning homer in Game 1 of the WDCS which broke a 4-4 tie and gave Harrisburg a 5-4 win. Souza Jr., who hit .300 during the regular season with a .396 OBP, has appeared in three games against the Thunder going 5-for-10 with two doubles and a home run.
 
Tyler Herron, RP: Harrisburg had one of the best closers in the Eastern League during the regular season in Aaron Barrett, but Barrett went down with injury in August and Herron inherited the closer's role. In the regular season Herron converted five of his seven save opportunities and went 2-for-2 in the WDCS in saves against Erie. He appeared in 33 games during the regular season and posted a 3.11 ERA and struck out 58 batters in 46.1 innings (11.3 K/9).


HOME COOKING: Trenton finished the season with the best home winning percentage in the E.L. and have won the first two game at home to begin the post-season to improve to 45-27 (.625). The Thunder are now 18 games above .500 at ARM & HAMMER Park despite being 8-games-below-.500 baseball on the road.

 
WELL-CHARTED TERRITORY: The Thunder have made the Eastern League playoffs for the second consecutive season, and 7th time in the past 9 years. Under manager Tony Franklin, Trenton has reached the playoffs in five of his seven years including winning the franchise's first two Eastern League Championships in 2007 and 2008. After beating the Binghamton Mets, the Thunder have won the East Division Championship Series and advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series in all five years when they have reached the playoffs with Franklin.


SWEEP DREAMS: The Thunder completed just their second post-season sweep when they won Game 3 at Binghamton Friday night. The Thunder were up 2-0 in an Eastern League playoff series for the third time in 10 playoff appearances (14 series), with the previous time happening in the 2008 North Division Finals against the Portland Sea Dogs and in the 2010 Eastern Division Finals against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The Thunder went on to lose Game 3 to the Sea Dogs but take the series 3-1, but in 2010 Trenton completed what was their lone playoff sweep in franchise history with an 8-1 victory at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.


BENEDICT TOMMY: The Thunder and Harrisburg Senators faced-off in the playoffs one other time-the 1996 Southern Division Finals. Harrisburg, then an affiliate of the Montreal Expos, won the series in four games. After splitting the first two games of the series in Trenton, Harrisburg's Tommy Phelps won 5-3 over the Thunder in Game 3 at Harrisburg. Phelps is now in his fifth season as the Pitching Coach for the Thunder.


FORMER CHAMPIONS: Trenton last won the Eastern League in 2008, the second of back-to-back Eastern League titles for the Thunder. Trenton has two league titles in franchise history (since 1994).  

Harrisburg last won the EL championship in 1999 - their fourth straight league championship (1997-1999) and 9th overall (in EL from 1924-1935 and 1987-present).    


 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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