Momentum, new prospects play role in IL

G-Braves face Yanks; Red-hot Bulls take on Bats in first round

No. 1 prospect Jason Heyward will be joining Gwinnett for the playoffs. (Brian Bissell/

By Kristen Zimmerman / | September 8, 2009 6:00 AM ET

As the 2009 season winds down, follow along with as the Minors' best teams face off in an attempt to take home their league's crown.

Gwinnett vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Best-of-5 semifinals begin Wednesday, Sept. 9
Watch Games 3, 4 & 5 on MiLB.TV



The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees will be out to defend their 2008 International League title against the Gwinnett Braves, who struggled at the end of the regular season and surrendered the South Division title to the resurgent Durham Bulls.

The Yankees enter the postseason without their biggest slugger, league MVP Shelley Duncan, as he was called up to New York on the final day of the International League's regular season. However, their strong pitching staff has guided them through the season, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will need it to continue to do so because of a depleted offense. Newcomer Jason Hirsh has put up an impressive 1.35 ERA in six starts since being traded from the Rockies, and Kei Igawa has become a stalwart in the Triple-A Yankees' rotation.

The G-Braves have brought in a secret weapon to help out a struggling pitching staff that's combined to post an ERA over 4.00 since Aug. 1 and an offense that's batted just .261 this year. Jason Heyward, who was named the No. 1 prospect in baseball by's most recent rankings, was promoted to Triple-A on Saturday and could play a significant role in the postseason despite being just 20 years old.

Durham vs. Louisville
Best-of-5 semifinals begin Wednesday, Sept. 9
Watch every game on MiLB.TV



Momentum often plays a large role in postseason baseball, and the Durham Bulls are hoping that's the case in 2009. The Bulls went 12-3 over the final weeks of the season to overtake the Gwinnett Braves and win the South Division for the third straight year.

However, Louisville boasts some momentum of its own heading into the first round. The Bats went 5-2 in September despite clinching the West Division on Aug. 29, and recently received an influx of highly touted Reds prospects that have had no trouble adjusting to Triple-A. Juan Francisco is hitting .359 with 19 RBIs in 22 games with the Bats, while Todd Frazier is hovering around the .300 mark 15 games into his Triple-A career. On the mound, Travis Wood -- whose 1.77 combined ERA ranks second in all of Minor League Baseball -- has posted an impressive 3.14 ERA in eight starts with the Bats thus far.

Over the course of the year, Durham has had the consistent firepower offense, leading the league in home runs and RBIs. The Bats on the other hand, ranked second in ERA, second in WHIP and tied for third-to-last in walks allowed.

Kristen Zimmerman is a senior editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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