AZL Padres vs. AZL Angels
The Padres won the season series four games to three, but the Angels may have the upper hand. After dropping four July games to the first-half division winners, the Angels took all three August games by a combined score of 21-8. The Angels and Padres entered last night's regular-season game in a first-place tie, but the Angels took home the second-half title and forced a three-game playoff series against the Padres with a 1-0 win.
Luis Durango hit .370 and scored five runs against the Angels. ...Cedric Hunter was issued three walks in last night's matchup, and is 5-for-19 with five runs and four RBIs on the season. ... Starter Andrew Miller, who was promoted to Class A Eugene in late July, gave up just four hits and two unearned runs in two starts against the Angels.
Alex Fonseca batted .420 and drove in five runs against the Padres. ... Starters Nicolas Torres and Timothy Schoeninger both held the Padres scoreless in their last outings. ... Norberto Ortiz is batting .281 on the season but is 0-for-15 with four strikeouts against Padres pitching.
AT THE PLATE
Luis Durango, OF: The 20-year-old leads the league in batting with a .378 average, which is actually low considering Durango was hovering around the .400 mark for much of late July and August. He's currently mired in a 1-for-13 slump, but the Padres' leadoff hitter is known for more than just his bat, he's also tied for the Padres' lead with 17 stolen bases.
Cedric Hunter, OF: The Padres "second leadoff hitter" gives the top of their lineup a formidable combination of speed and hitting. Hunter's .369 average is a close second to Durango in the league, and his 44 RBIs (third in the AZL) is not only a testament to Hunter's clutch hitting, but also to Durango's ability to get on base in front of him. The outfielder leads the league with 176 hits and is tied with Durango for the team lead in stolen bases.
Rayner Contreras, 2B: Contreras started the season with Fort Wayne in the Class A Midwest League, but joined the AZL Padres after batting just .105 in 12 games for the Wizards. After a bit of a slow start with the Padres, Contreras has been nothing short of fantastic. The infielder, batting .333, leads the league with 52 RBIs thanks to three five-RBI performances in a little over a month.
Matthew Sweeney, 3B: The 18-year-old cleanup hitter leads his team in almost every offensive category. He's first in average (.341), RBIs (39) and triples (7), and is tied for the lead with five home runs.
Norberto Ortiz, OF: Next to Sweeney, Ortiz brings the most power to the Angels' lineup. Batting .281, he's tied for the team lead with five homers, is second with 31 RBIs and has 10 doubles.
Alex Fonseca, SS: At the ripe old age of 22, Fonseca is one of the oldest Angels, and he's been a consistent "veteran" presence for the team all season. His 13 doubles are first on the team, and his .316 batting average is good for second.
ON THE MOUND
Padres right-hander Pablo Menchaca will most likely get the start against either Alexander Torres or Esmerlin Jimenez of the Angels in Game 1 tonight. Menchaca has not faced the Angels this season but is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA on the year. Torres is 0-3 in four outings against the Padres and is 2-5 with a 4.29 overall ERA. Jimenez has yet to face the Padres' potent lineup, but he boasts a 5-3 record and a 3.57 ERA.
The Padres used their top starter John Hussey in their 1-0 loss last night, so odds are he won't be available for the playoff series. But Yesid Salazar, who's 4-3 with 4.25 ERA, could be ready to go on short rest.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The Angels are by far the best pitching team in the AZL, leading the league in ERA and shutouts while allowing the fewest runs. However, the Padres are the league's top hitting team -- first in average, hits, runs, walks and on-base percentage -- and they touched up the Angels for 27 runs in four July games.
To go with a cliché, good pitching always beats good hitting -- especially in a short series. The Angels are a force to reckon with on the mound, and they're still riding the momentum from last night's win over the Padres.Angels in three.