Braves, River Cats battle in Bricktown

IL, PCL champs square off in Tuesday's second annual Triple-A showdown

(Brent Asay/MLB.com)

By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com | September 17, 2007 7:32 AM

WHAT: Richmond Braves vs. Sacramento River Cats in the second annual Bricktown Showdown

WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and BaseballChannel.TV

WHERE: AT&T Bricktown Ballpark on Mickey Mantle Plaza, Oklahoma City

ON THE MOUND
Richmond
Blaine Boyer gets the ball for the Braves to cap off a year that saw him split time between the bullpen and rotation in Richmond, as well as pitch in five big-league games in early June. Boyer had a 3.10 ERA as a reliever for Richmond in nine regular-season games. In 12 starts, he had a 4.75 ERA, but got stronger as the season wore on, as evidenced by his 3.55 ERA after the All-Star break and 1.74 ERA in four August outings (two starts).

Much of this season was about him building up arm strength. The right-hander had a fine rookie season in Atlanta's bullpen, with a 3.11 ERA in 43 games back in 2005, but shoulder surgery wrecked his 2006 campaign after just two appearances. He had a strong spring this year, but was optioned to Richmond. An oblique strain in April slowed him down further until he returned in the beginning of May. He pitched well enough in his brief big-league stay this season, allowing two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of relief, but couldn't stick. He also missed a chunk of time with a forearm strain in the beginning of August, but pitched well down the stretch.

He made two playoff outings, starting Game 2 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the first round and getting a no-decision after allowing three earned runs over five innings. In the International League Championship, he again went five and allowed three runs in his start, but this time got saddled with the loss in Game 2 of that series, giving him a 5.40 postseason ERA.

Overall, Richmond had a 3.11 ERA during its playoff run. Closer Joey Devine was a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities, though he did yield 12 hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Sacramento
The River Cats will rely on the Hawaiian Punch-out, Shane Komine, to deliver on Tuesday. The right-hander had a bit of a rough 2007 season, finishing with a 5-12 record and 4.87 ERA. Like Boyer, though, he was at his best late in the year, with a 3.73 post-break ERA and 3.00 mark in five August starts. Komine has had brief stays in the big leagues over the past two years and made two relief appearances for Oakland in 2007, yielding four runs in 7 2/3 innings.

Komine made two playoff starts for Sacramento, winning one. He pitched a total of 11 innings, giving up 12 hits and eight earned runs for a 6.55 ERA. He started Game 1 of the opening round against Salt Lake and allowed six runs over five innings, though he didn't figure in the decision, a River Cats' loss. He was much better in the opener of the PCL championship vs. New Orleans, getting the victory after giving up two runs on four hits over six innings.

Overall, the Sacramento pitching staff had a 3.88 ERA in its eight postseason games, second among the four playoff teams. Jerry Blevins, who was called up to Oakland on Saturday, picked up a win and two saves, yielding just four hits and two walks while striking out 20 over nine innings, all in relief. Brad Ziegler also picked up two saves in two chances while posting a 2.45 ERA in five relief outings.

AT THE PLATE
Richmond
The Braves hit .276 in their nine playoff games. Brandon Jones, perhaps the best position player prospect in the system, hit .333, but won't be in Oklahoma City. He got called up to the Braves for the stretch run. Brent Lillibridge continued his hot hitting by going 14-for-37 (.378). Larry Bigbie hit .333 and drove in six runs in eight games while West Timmons hit an even .300.

Sacramento
The River Cats hit .272 in their postseason run, with a PCL-best 48 runs scored over eight games. Daric Barton was white hot in the first round, hitting .550 and driving in 10 runs over five games before getting called up to the bigs. Nick Blasi, who was named Sacramento's postseason MVP, has helped pick up the slack by hitting .457 over the course of the playoffs with a pair of homers, three stolen bases and 12 runs scored. Lou Merloni hit .323 with three homers and six RBIs in eight games. Danny Putnam had three homers and seven RBIs and Jorge Piedra drove in eight, but the pair hit just .217 and .188, respectively.

POINTS OF INTEREST
Tidewater won the Triple-A World Series in 1983 when it was a round-robin event with the Pacific Coast League and the now-defunct American Association. From 1988-1991, the International League lost all four Triple-A Classics to the American Association. ... The Triple-A World Series was revived from 1998-2000 as a best-of-5 series between the IL and PCL, held in Las Vegas. New Orleans beat Buffalo in 1998 in four games, with Lance Berkman earning MVP honors. The PCL won again in 1999, with the Vancouver Canadians topping the Charlotte Knights in five games. Terrence Long was the MVP of the series. In the final Series, in 2000, the Indianapolis Indians gave the IL a title by beating the Memphis Redbirds in four games. Santiago Perez took home the MVP award. ... Last year, Tucson beat Toledo, 5-2, in the inaugural Bricktown Showdown, with Scott Hairston being named MVP. A total of 12,572 fans poured into AT&T Ballpark in Oklahoma City to watch the game.

GAME COULD TURN ON
The age-old question of rest vs. momentum. Forgive us if it's cliche, but this one will be a good test of that axiom. Sacramento cruised into Bricktown with a three-game sweep in the PCL finals and will have three full days off heading into Tuesday's game. Richmond was more taxed, going a full five to get past Durham, but the Braves rallied from being down 2-1 to win the last two games to earn the right to go to Oklahoma City riding high.

PREDICTION
Usually, the hot hand -- in this case, Richmond -- gets the nod in a situation like this, but here's a hunch that Komine comes up big and delivers a big start for the River Cats, giving the PCL a 2-0 Bricktown edge.

Jonathan Mayo 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.

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