Redbirds topple Cats as PCL champs
Memphis made it 6-for-6 in playoff games Friday, capping an impressive run to the Pacific Coast League title with a 6-0 blanking of the two-time defending champion Sacramento River Cats.
"We've got the will to win, that's for sure," said Evan MacLane, who did not allow a run in two playoff starts. "There's nothing else I can say. Everybody did their part, they knew their role."
MacLane's left arm made sure the Redbirds' will produced a championship. The Minor League veteran struck out eight over 8 1/3 dominant innings, helping complete a sweep of the best-of-5 Finals.
MacLane scattered nine hits but hunkered down with men on base to effectively stop the River Cats. Sacramento stranded eight runners and didn't have an answer for his devastating curve and meticulous control.
"I just had to go out there and throw my game," said MacLane, who has strung together six consecutive quality outings. "I'm not an overpowering pitcher; I've got to throw for strikes."
The 26-year-old made good on his pregame mantra and didn't issue a walk in a 111-pitch performance.
The offense did the rest as Memphis scored in the first inning and never looked back. Jarrett Hoffpauir and former second-round pick Jon Jay each had three hits and scored twice, while Brian Barden delivered a two-run single. David Freese, who provided a series of game-winning hits in the Redbirds' closely contested playoff wins, chipped in an RBI single.
"We've battled through good times and bad and got through," MacLane said of a Memphis team that clinched the American North Division title, despite owning a road record that was six games under .500. "Everything came together [Friday night] and this whole series."
And arguably the entire postseason.
The Redbirds flew into the playoffs after a strong finish to the regular season and parlayed that hot streak into a three-game semifinal sweep of Albuquerque. The underdog squad hit its stride in that series, batting .333 while compiling a 1.33 ERA. MacLane hurled seven shutout innings in last week's semifinal clincher and the Memphis staff had a 24-inning scoreless streak going until the fifth inning of Wednesday's Game 2 win, in which Adam Ottavino set a franchise playoff record with nine strikeouts.
The Redbirds twice shut out the high-powered River Cats and held Sacramento -- which totaled 36 runs in its four-game semifinal win over Tacoma -- to a grand total of two runs.
"The mood stayed the same throughout the whole [postseason]," MacLane said. "We just had the confidence. Every day we just kept the same attitude, the same focus. We didn't get too up or to down."
Memphis will look to up its playoff win streak to seven when it takes on the International League champion Durham Bulls in Tuesday's winner-take-all Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game in Oklahoma City.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com.