Last Thursday, Pawtucket captured its first Governors' Cup title
since 1984. On Saturday, Reno topped Omaha for its first ever Pacific Coast League championship
. Both teams have a little work left to be done.
The Red Sox and Aces will meet in the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. This year's matchup takes place at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C., and will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network. Game highlights and a full archive of the action will be available on MiLB.TV shortly after the contest's completion.
The International League and PCL champions have met for a one-game playoff in each of the last six seasons, first in the Bricktown Showdown starting in 2006. The game was renamed the Triple-A Baseball National Championship in 2009. The PCL came out on top in the first three meetings, with Tucson winning in 2006, followed by Sacramento in both 2007 and 2008. The IL bounced back in 2009 as Durham edged Memphis in 11 innings before Columbus won in each of the last two seasons.
Though both Reno and Pawtucket are new to the Championship Game, the matchup will feature several big names. Right-hander Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 Draft, is slated to get the start for the Aces. Bauer is MLB.com's No. 6 prospect and is ranked third among all Minor League pitchers. He posted a 12-2 record and 2.42 ERA in 22 regular season Minor League starts for Reno and Double-A Mobile (which won the Southern League) before going 2-0 with a 0.77 mark in a pair of postseason appearances for the Aces.
"Being on winning teams is a lot of fun," Bauer said. "It's what you hope for every season, to be able to contribute and come out on top."
After pitching 158 1/3 innings this year, the 2011 Golden Spikes Award winner's arm is fine, but the season has taken its toll on the rest of his body.
"I had a groin issue in my second start back in April and was never quite able to get rid of it," he said. "I got hit with two line drives later and then had some knee issues. [The Diamondbacks] shut me down for two starts and I was able to come back strong, though. I've never felt like I was out of gas."
Bauer admitted that he didn't know much about his opponent in Tuesday's game.
"I know they won the International League, that's about it. It should be a good game."
Veteran first baseman Mike Jacobs powered the Aces offense in the playoffs, delivering a league-leading four homers and 12 RBIs in nine games. Leadoff man A.J. Pollock set the table with 14 hits.
Outfielder Bryce Brentz, the Minors' No. 77 prospect, didn't join the PawSox until the very end of the regular season but made his presence felt in the Governors' Cup playoffs. The 23-year-old Tennessee native hit .333 in seven postseason games, with six of his eight hits -- including two home runs -- going for extra bases. Brentz batted .290/.349/.465 with 17 homers and 76 RBIs during the regular season, almost entirely with Double-A Portland.
Third baseman Danny Valencia and outfielder J.C. Linares also stepped up for Pawtucket in the IL playoffs. Both sluggers collected two homers and six RBIs apiece.
Veteran right-hander Nelson Figueroa will start for Pawtucket. The 38-year-old closed out the regular season with a pair of wins -- he was named the IL's final Pitcher of the Week after allowing one run on seven hits over 15 1/3 innings -- and was masterful in the playoffs, winning both of his starts. Figueroa earned the victory in Game 3 of the Governors' Cup Finals as the Sox closed out the sweep.
Reno won the PCL's Pacific Northern Division with an 81-63 record. The Aces outlasted Sacramento in five games in the league semifinals before taking four games to beat Omaha in the Finals. Reno ranked third in the PCL in team batting average with a .297 mark.
Pawtucket, the IL's wild card entry, went 79-65 during the regular season and was also the third best hitting club on its circuit with a .266 average. The PawSox needed four games to beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, then swept Charlotte in three straight for the Governors' Cup.