TUCSON, Ariz. -- Home runs were an important part of the Tucson Sidewinders' offense during the regular season, but the long fly balls have been missing during the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
After hitting 160 homers from April through the first week of September, the Sidewinders went into Wednesday night's PCL Championship Series game against the Round Rock Express looking for their first one this postseason.
"Chris Carter has hit some home runs for us, but in the last month or two, the power has really dropped off," Sidewinders manager Chip Hale said.
Carter hit 19 homers during the regular season, but a sore right wrist has hindered his power in the playoffs. Even so, the first baseman went into Wednesday night's Game 2 with 14 hits and eight RBIs in his past 38 at-bats.
His most recent RBIs came with two outs in the eighth inning Tuesday night when he hit a two-run single into right field. The hit capped a three-run rally and lifted Tucson to a 3-1 victory.
"Scott Hairston is really the power guy we expect (to hit home runs) and we haven't gotten it," Hale said of the third-leading home run hitter in franchise history.
Hairston has 47 career home runs with Tucson, including 26 this season.
"If he breaks out in the next two or three games, we have a chance to do well offensively," Hale added.
Tucson finished third in the PCL in home runs, but a lot of those were hit by players now playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Outfielder Chris Young hit 21 home runs, shortstop Stephen Drew hit 13 and outfielder Carlos Quentin added nine.
"You have to win games any way you can, and especially in the playoffs, whether it's high school, Minor League or Major League, pitching dominates," Hale said. "We've seen that."
The Sidewinders played their final home game of the 2006 season Wednesday night on a playing field that was green and lush -- a far cry from the regular season when brown patches dominated the landscape and five regular season games had to be postponed because of "field conditions."
But by reaching the Pacific Coast League playoffs for the first time in the franchise's nine-year history, Sidewinders ownership and Pima County officials collaborated on a project that replaced nearly 10,000 square feet of dormant grass with new sod, producing a new look.
A real good look.
"This is the best this field has looked in my three years here," Hale noted.
For the past six seasons, Tucson Electric Park has been selected by PCL officials as the "worst" field in the 16-team league. That is a distinction the Sidewinders would just as soon pass on to another franchise.
"The joke around here is that the ballpark was built on an Indian burial ground and nothing will grow here," said Matthew "Sammy" Burke, the director of stadium operations. "Our (grounds crew) works their tails off to make this field as good as it can be, but it's a difficult task."
One strike against TEP, compared to other PCL facilities, is that it's the only one that also is used for Spring Training games. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox share the facility and there is a Cactus League game played nearly every day in March.
The sod-replacement occurred immediately after the Sidewinders' final home game on Aug. 27. The grass along both foul lines and behind the infield was removed and replaced in two days, allowing time for the grass roots to take hold in a new sand base before the team opened the PCL playoffs on Sept. 6.
"I don't have a solution for keeping the grass this green year-round," Burke said. "But this is a good step in that direction."
For more than six innings Tuesday night, it appeared that the Sidewinders would join their parent Diamondbacks club in getting no-hit this season.
The Sidewinders, who led the PCL with a .289 batting average during the regular season, were hitless against Round Rock right-hander Jared Gothreaux until Brian Barden singled into left-center field with two outs in the seventh.
Tucson finished with a playoff-low three hits. That was three more than the D-Backs had against Florida Marlins rookie Anibal Sanchez almost two weeks ago.
Leading the pack
After six postseason games, the Express led PCL playoff teams in team ERA (2.21) and batting average (.232). Even so, they were just 3-3. The Sidewinders were batting .226, but had a 2.93 ERA. Round Rock catcher Hector Giminez leads all hitters with a .476 mark (10-for-21). He also leads with six RBIs, one more than Tucson's Robby Hammock.
Express manager Jackie Moore started Eric Munson in left field for Wednesday night's game, switched Joe McEwing from left to right and moved Royce Huffman from right to first base. Moore said he wanted to mix and match against Tucson right-hander Dustin Nippert and also give Munson some at-bats, just in case the Astros decide to promote him when Round Rock's season ends.
Munson joined the Express nearly three weeks ago after batting .204 (28-for-137) in 49 games with the Astros.
The best-of-5 series resumes Friday night in Round Rock with the Sidewinders starting right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, who was 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Tennessee and 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in one start with Tucson. Left-hander Philip Barzilla gets the nod for the Express. He was 8-5 with a 3.85 ERA.