Homers that helped
Every long ball that was hit during the Triple-A Final Stretch resulted in a $50 donation to that club's designated charity. The team that finished with the most dingers received an additional $5,000 for its charity, and after riding a seven-homer game on Friday, Omaha earned the distinction of Final Stretch home run champs. The Storm Chasers finished with 24 long balls -- Erick Mejia provided the final roundtripper with a solo blast on Sunday -- for a total donation of $6,200 to B&B Sports Academy. Indianapolis (nine games) and Round Rock -- following a four-dinger barrage Sunday -- both finished with 19 homers. Albuquerque and Toledo rounded out the top five with 15 taters apiece.
Put it in the books
The inaugural season for the Worcester Red Sox ended on a high note with a five-game series sweep of Lehigh Valley on the road. Worcester concluded the Final Stretch with an 8-2 mark -- just behind champion Durham (9-1) and Buffalo (8-1), whose season finale was canceled due to rain on Sunday. Nashville (7-2) and Omaha (6-2) rounded out the top five. The WooSox closed out the year at a season-best 20 games above .500 (74-54). The club also connected on six long balls during the Final Stretch for a $300 donation to its designated charity, Why Me & Sherry's House.
A grand contribution
Triple-A Nashville wrapped up the Final Stretch with its final charitable home run of the season -- and it was of the grand variety. Pablo Reyes mashed a grand slam to left in the seventh inning Sunday to add $50 to the Sounds' contribution to Nashville RBI. The long ball brought the club's final tater tally to eight for a donation total of $400. It was the fourth home run for Reyes in 34 games with the Sounds this year.
A grand finale
The Final Stretch was good to Oswaldo Cabrera. The 16th-ranked Yankees prospect hit safely in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's final nine games, concluding the stretch with a grand slam. The 22-year-old accounted for all the RailRiders' runs Sunday with his jack in the opening frame. It was the fifth long ball in the past eight games for Cabrera. The infielder finished 15-for-30 with four doubles, 20 RBIs and 13 runs scored in the Final Stretch.
Supplying a grand donation
Triple-A Sugar Land powered up a three-spot to its charitable donation with a trifecta of long balls. The loudest came off the bat of Robel Garcia, who bashed a grand salami in the fourth inning. Earlier in the frame, fourth-ranked Astros prospect Jeremy Peña continued his scorching streak at the plate with his 10th dinger since being promoted to Sugar Land on Aug. 28. The 24-year-old’s nine taters in September paced the Triple-A West Division as well as the top levels of the Minors. Taylor Jones capped the Skeeters scoring with a solo shot to left in the fifth. The effort upped the club’s donation to its designated charity, Sugar Land Little League, by $150. Sugar Land has mashed 11 homers so far in the Final Stretch.
Creating some separation
Coming off of an electric seven-homer game to catapult to the top of the Final Stretch tater tally, Triple-A Omaha added to its dinger lead with a pair of long balls. That increased the club's donation to its designated charity, B&B Sports Academy, an additional $100. Third-ranked Royals prospect Nick Pratto mashed a three-run blast to right for his 36th homer of the season, and Emmanuel Rivera clubbed his 19th with the Storm Chasers -- a three-run shot in the fifth. Omaha has connected on 23 long balls during the Final Stretch, while second-place Indianapolis remained at 19 after its Saturday game was canceled due to unplayable field conditions at Victory Field.
Sprinting to the finish
Triple-A Durham continued its charge to the Final Stretch title by clinching at least a share of the championship with a 5-3 come-from-behind road triumph over Norfolk. The victory was the club's 11th straight and gave the team a perfect 9-0 mark in the Final Stretch with the series finale set for Sunday. With the game tied in the final frame, fourth-ranked Rays prospect Josh Lowe belted a two-run blast to left-center with two outs to provide the difference for Durham. The Bulls boast a league-best 86-43 record.
Omaha's not chasing anymore
Talk about a flex. Triple-A Omaha entered action on Friday with 14 total home runs during the Final Stretch -- trailing Indianapolis by three for the lead. But after a seven-homer barrage by the Storm Chasers as part of a 22-run, 18-hit performance against Iowa, Omaha jumped to the top power spot. Edward Olivares clubbed a pair and finished with a team-high five RBIs, while third-ranked Royals prospect Nick Pratto, Lucius Fox, Angelo Castellano, Nick Dini and Dairon Blanco all found the seats. The Indians mashed two taters on Friday, so Omaha leads, 21-19, with two games remaining for each club.
Triple-A Durham remained the only undefeated team in the Final Stretch after a 2-1 victory in 10 innings over Norfolk. An RBI knock from Jordan Luplow in the third opened the scoring and an RBI groundout to short by Ryan Boldt in the 10th proved to be the difference. Five pitchers provided 4 2/3 perfect frames of relief and a smooth combo play in the field from Mike Brosseau and Luplow sealed the victory to guaranteee the club at least a share of the Triple-A title.
The Mud Hens brought their homer total in The Final Stretch to 13 after a pair of a LOUD blasts. First, second-ranked Tigers prospect Riley Greene sent a whopper to center in the third -- a go-ahead two-run shot. Then in the seventh, Aderlin Rodriguez connected on a monster grand slam to left -- his 29th tater of the season. The long balls added $100 to Toledo's charity contribution, The Boys & Girls Club of Toledo, and brings the club's total donation to $650 with two games remaining.
Tacking on the Green(e)
A two-run shot from Riley Greene opened the scoring for Triple-A Toledo in the third inning and provided another $50 for the club's designated charity, Boys & Girls Club of Toldedo. The second-ranked Tigers prospect has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, raising his batting average to .310 over 30 games with the Mud Hens. The blast was his eighth roundtripper since joining Toledo and extended his hitting streak to seven straight games.
Since joining Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sept. 22, Oswaldo Cabrera has been hitting the cover off the ball. The 16th-ranked Yankees prospect has not only hit safely in all eight games with the RailRiders, but the 22-year-old has found the seats four times -- his latest a 434-foot two-run blast to center, meaning another $50 for the team's designated charity, Wyoming Valley Challenger Baseball. Cabrera is batting .542 with six extra-base hits, 10 runs scored and seven RBIs at the Minors' highest level.
Down the stretch they come
Durham may be the last undefeated team in the Triple-A Final Stretch, but that doesn't mean there isn't some excitement in the last weekend of the season. There were a trio of 5-1 clubs entering play Thursday -- Albuquerque, Buffalo and Nashville. As the night comes to a close, only the Bisons and Sounds can still make that claim. Buffalo extended its winning streak to six after rallying past Syracuse, 8-5, while Nashville rebounded from a crushing loss on Wednesday to roll past Indianapolis, 8-3. Out west, Albuquerque jumped ahead of Sacramento 2-1, but couldn't hold the lead. The River Cats scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to hand the Isotopes their second loss in the Final Stretch. With just three games remaining, Durham remains one game ahead of Buffalo and Nashville, and now two ahead of Albuquerque.
A homer that helps almost everyone
There is Homers that Help and then homers that help. Sam Huff provided a little bit of both for the Express. Round Rock entered the ninth inning of their matchup with Sugar Land down, 1-0. Ryan Dorow evened things up with his 15th long ball of the season. Rangers' No. 2 prospect Josh Jung doubled and Huff followed with his 16th home run and third in four games. The two ninth-inning taters increased Round Rock's total in the Homers that Help charitable endeavor to 12, five behind Indianapolis, which added one home run to its total in a loss to Nashville.
Durham refuses to lose. With three games remaining in the Triple-A Final Stretch -- and the season -- the Bulls remain the sole undefeated team after blanking the Tides, 8-0, on Thursday afternoon. Five different players drove in runs, highlighted by a three-hit, three-RBI performance from Garrett Whitley. The pitching has been on point as well, tossing three shutouts in the first seven games of the Final Stretch. Thursday's star was Rays No. 18 prospect Tommy Romero, who struck out six and allowed three hits and a walk over five scoreless frames. It's been a total team effort for Durham, which has outscored its opponents 30-7 during its last seven games. The Bulls have won nine consecutive games and 14 of their last 15 overall, giving them a Minor League-best 84 victories this season.
Flexing their muscles for charity
Not only did Oneil Cruz hit an equalizing home run that led Triple-A Indianapolis to an eventual win, but MLB's No. 52 overall prospect also added to his club's tally for Homers That Help. The competition will dole out $50 for each long ball hit to a charity of that team's choice. Thanks to Cruz and teammate Diego Castillo, Indianapolis upped their Triple-A-leading total in the competition to 16, two more than Omaha. Toledo checks in at third with 11 home runs. The club that finishes with the most round-trippers will earn an extra $5,000 for its charity.
And then there was one
As the second half of the Triple-A Final Stretch got underway on Wednesday, there were two unbeaten teams: Durham and Nashville. Only one remains. The Milwaukee affiliate carried a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning, but home runs by Oneil Cruz and Diego Castillo evened the score. A fielding error in the 10th allowed Indianapolis to eke out a 5-4 win while dealing Nashville its first loss of the Final Stretch. That leaves Durham as the lone remaining unbeaten squad after its 4-1 victory over Norfolk. Baseball's No. 21 overall prospect Vidal Brujan homered, drove in two runs and swiped his 44th base of the season for the Bulls. Durham has outscored opponents 22-7 during its winning streak and has surrendered two or fewer runs in five of those contests.
Let's check the leaderboard
All 30 teams are not just vying for the best record over the Final Stretch, clubs also are involved in Homers That Help, which will parcel out $50 for each dinger to a charity of that team's choice. The club finishing with the most homers will pick up an extra $5,000. And as we enter the Final 5, Indianapolis (14), Omaha (12) and Toledo (11) lead the pack as the only clubs with double-digit roundtripper totals. The Indians are mashing for Indianapolis RBI, the Storm Chasers are donating to the B&B Sports Academy and the Mud Hens are benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Toledo.
As the Triple-A Final Stretch heads into the homestretch, Durham and Nashville remain the only unbeaten teams with five games remaining. The Bulls' pitching has carried the Rays affiliate during its winning streak -- twirling a pair of shutouts while not allowing more than two runs in four of the five games against Gwinnett. Durham's offense hasn't been wanting either, outscoring opponents, 18-6, during this span. Meanwhile, Nashville has flexed its way to this point. The Brewers affiliate scored 30 runs over its first four games and edged out Columbus, 1-0, on Sunday to complete the series sweep. After completing their respective home series, both clubs hit the road for the final five.
It's a familiar tale
He huffed and he puffed and he blew that homer over the Dell Diamond wall in right-center field. Sam Huff homered in his second straight game for the Express on Monday -- netting $50 for Round Rock's charity Austin RBI. The fifth-ranked Rangers prospect, who has gone yard 15 times this year, upped his team's total in the Homers That Help race to eight.
Keep on climbing
The Isotopes came into Monday's action in fourth place in the Homers That Help chase for an extra $5,000 for the winning club's worthy cause. Colorado's No. 4 prospect Elehuris Montero increased the Albuquerque number over the Final Stretch to nine homers by putting the looooong in his 27th long ball of the year (his fifth at Triple-A). Sorry, that one only counts once toward the final tally.
The man with many tools
There are so many ways Alek Thomas can hurt an opposing ballclub. Last week, he put together two four-hit nights as part of an eight-game 21-for-36 hot stretch. From Sept. 14-18, the third-ranked D-backs prospect went yard in four consecutive games for the Aces. The long ball was back in play Monday night against the Isotopes as Thomas walloped his 18th of the season, eighth for Reno. And one Homer That Helps worth $50 to the Aces' designated charity, District 1 Little League.
If you're scoring at home...
There are two parts to the Triple-A Final Stretch competition. All 30 teams are vying for the best record over the final 10-game span, five coming at home and five on the road. The top winning percentage will determine the champion. The clubs also are involved in Homers That Help, which will parcel out $50 for each dinger to a charity of that team's choice. The club finishing with the most homers will pick up an extra $5,000 donation.