Playoffs finalized as Vancouver wins tiebreaker

A four-run sixth inning propelled the visting Vancouver Wildcats to a 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Cobras in the North League wildcard tiebreaker, finalizing the 2019 PGBL playoff picture.

Oakland and London enter the postseason as each league’s top seed. The Athletes will face St. Louis in the SLDS, while the Arsenal open the NLDS against Vancouver. The other first-round matchups pit division rivals against each other: Chicago and Boston in the North, and Dublin and Louisville in the South.

The first-round South League pairings are a rematch from last season, when Louisville and Oakland advanced to the SLCS and the Long Rifles won the pennant in a six-game series. Chicago and Vancouver are the only North teams returning from last season’s playoffs after both teams lost in the Division Series a year ago.

The Cardinals, seeking a league-record seventh championship, extended their streak of making the playoffs to 15 seasons. With the tiebreaker win, the Wildcats earned their third straight NL wildcard after suffering first-round losses to the Roughnecks in each of the past two years.

The Long Rifles franchise is also seeking its seventh title, but its first since Charlotte won in 1999. Dublin, SL champion two years ago, is seeking the franchise’s third title overall but first since 2008 as Key West.

Oakland, making its fourth playoff appearance in five seasons, is seeking its first title after winning pennants in 2016 and 2010, the latter as Taiwan. St. Louis won the crown in 2015 and has qualified for the postseason 12 times in the past 15 seasons.

London, which won consecutive World Series as Toronto in 2000-01, is in the playoffs for just the second time as the Arsenal (2012). Its matchup with Vancouver is the first postseason meeting between the Maple Leaf rivals.

Chicago and Boston met in the first round in 2017, a four-game win by the Cardinals on their way to the championship. The Braves and Wildcats have never won the title but have one pennant apiece: Boston in 2004 and Vancouver (as the Calgary Flames) in 1991. However, current Wildcats management has never reached the World Series.

Vancouver ace Chris Sale allowed two earned runs and struck out seven over six innings to earn the tiebreaker victory. Trade deadline acquisition Gregory Polanco broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI double off Nick Pivetta and Vancouver added RBI singles by Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura, with a fourth run scoring on an error.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 after three innings on a homer by Justin Upton and an RBI single by Manny Machado, although Nick Markakis was thrown out trying to score a second run on Machado’s hit. Vancouver tied it in the top of the fourth on a homer by Gregorius that chased Cobras starter Zach Eflin.

Shane Carle faced the minimum nine batters in a three-inning save, allowing just a leadoff single to Machado in the ninth before Ronald Acuna Jr. popped out and Anthony Rendon grounded into a game-ending double play.

With the regular season officially over, the first 12 picks of the draft are set with defending champion Calgary claiming the first position in each round (although Memphis owns the Roughnecks’ first overall selection).

Wildcats, Cobras head to Game 163 for final spot

For the sixth time in the expansion era, the PGBL will need a tiebreaker to determine a playoff spot. For the first time in league history, a team with a losing record will advance to the postseason.

Vancouver and Pittsburgh finished with identical 80-82 records in the quest for the second North League wildcard berth. The Cobras will now host the Wildcats in Game 163, with the winner advancing to face top-seeded Maple Leaf Division champion London (99-63) in the NLDS.

Chris Sale (15-6, 2.61) will start for Vancouver, while Zach Eflin (14-7, 4.20) gets the call for Pittsburgh.

The other first-round playoff matchups are set, with Norris Division rivals Chicago (95-67) and Boston (94-68) meeting in the other NLDS. The South League matchups have Oakland (109-53) facing St. Louis (91-71) and Dublin (102-60) battling Louisville (95-67).

Both Vancouver and Pittsburgh missed chances to avoid the tiebreaker over the final week. The Wildcats held the position but lost six out of seven before finishing its season with a 14-4 win over Calgary. After dropping five of six, the Cobras inched ahead with consecutive wins over Cleveland. But with Vancouver idle on the final day, Pittsburgh dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tribe on a walkoff hit by Bryce Harper.

However, both teams have had success in tiebreaker games. In 2013, Pittsburgh won both of its games to claim a three-way tiebreaker with British Columbia and Cleveland. Two years earlier, Vancouver won a home tiebreaker game against the Tribe.

Flagstaff’s Diaz sparks SL to All-Star triumph

MINNEAPOLIS – Flagstaff catcher Elias Diaz connected on a key three-run home run as the South League won its second All-Star Game in three seasons with a 5-3 victory.

Diaz had two hits and scored twice in becoming the third Elk player to earn MVP honors, joining Bobby Crosby (2006) and Rich Harden (2009). The SL victory trimmed the North’s advantage in the series to 10-8.

Louisville’s Max Scherzer, the second of the South’s 10 pitchers, earned the victory with two strikeouts in his one inning.

Pittsburgh first baseman Freddie Freeman, a former All-Star MVP, was the only player with two hits for the North. He staked the NL to an early 1-0 lead with an RBI double after Boston’s Jeff McNeil drew a walk from Dublin’s Jacob deGrom to start the game.

But the South pulled even in the second when Guinness first baseman tripled off Ottawa’s Blake Snell with one out and scored on a double by Tijuana’s Brandon Nimmo.

Diaz started the SL’s go-ahead rally an inning later by greeting Vancouver’s Chris Sale with a leadoff single. After two ground outs moved Diaz to third, the Long Rifles’ Francisco Lindor singled through the right side to make it 2-1.

After Nimmo drew a one-out walk from the Cobras’ Cole Hamels in the fourth, Oakland’s Justin Turner singled back up the middle to put runners on the corners. Diaz then drove an 0-2 pitch over the wall in right field for a 5-1 advantage.

While the South managed just one more hit against the final five NL pitchers, the North could not battle all the way back. Brooklyn’s Trevor Story plated Freeman with a double off Flagstaff’s Kyle Freeland in the fifth, and the Cubs’ Dee Gordon reached on an error in the seventh before scoring on a single by Calgary’s Max Muncy.

But Dublin’s Brad Hand retired five of the six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth and Oakland’s Edwin Diaz notched the save by striking out Muncy to end the game.

Box Score

PGBL ALL-STAR GAME HISTORY

2002 – North, 5-3. MVP – Chipper Jones, Ottawa
WP – P.Martinez (TOR). LP – Maddux (MEM). Sv. – Sasaki (VAN).
HR – none.
2003 – North, 8-6 (12). MVP – Tim Salmon, Brooklyn
WP – Millwood (CHI). LP – J.Santana (STL). Sv – Mesa (BOS).
HR – North: B.Williams (OTT), Salmon (BRK).
2004 – South, 4-2. MVP – Juan Gonzalez, Louisville
WP – T.Hudson (LV). LP – P.Martinez (TOR). Sv – Wagner (LV).
HR – South: J.Gonzalez (LOU), V.Guerrero (LOU); North: Pujols (MAN).
2005 – South, 6-1. MVP – Alfonso Soriano, Key West
WP – T.Hudson (LV). LP – J.Santana (OTT).
HR – North: V.Guerrero (TOR); South: A.Soriano (KW).
2006 – South, 4-3. MVP – Bobby Crosby, Flagstaff
WP – Wagner (LV). LP – Pettitte (CHI). Sv – T.Jones (LOU).
HR – South: Ensberg (MEM); North: Crisp (CLE), Ar.Ramirez (CLE).
2007 – South, 4-2. MVP – Victor Martinez, Taiwan
WP – Liriano (LOU). LP – Sabathia (CLE). Sv – Saito (LOU).
HR – North: J.Rivera (PIT).
2008 – South, 9-4. MVP – Alex Rodriguez, Key West
WP – K.Escobar (KW). LP – Peavy (CLE).
HR – South: A.Rodriguez (KW); North: D.Ortiz (CLE).
2009 – South, 7-4. MVP – Rich Harden, Flagstaff
WP – Lidge (LOU). LP – Downs (CWS). Sv – Wagner (LV).
HR – South: McCann (MEM).
2010 – North, 4-3. MVP – Adrian Gonzalez, Vancouver
WP – T.Hanson (BC). LP – Porcello (STL). Sv – F.Rodriguez (BOS).
HR – South: M.Diaz (ALA), McCann (MEM); North: A.Gonzalez (VAN), A.Hill (PIT).
2011 – North, 3-0. MVP – Adam Wainwright, Pittsburgh
WP – Wainwright (PIT). LP – Oswalt (TIJ). Sv – Rivera (CHI).
HR – North: A.Rodriguez (BC).
2012 – North, 5-4. MVP – Ben Zobrist, Ottawa
WP – Putz (CGY). LP – J.Tomlin (LV). Sv – Farnsworth (LON).
HR – South: Bautista (MEM).
2013 – North, 6-2. MVP – Buster Posey, Brooklyn
WP – Kimbrel (PIT). LP – R.Soriano (STL).
HR – South: Cano (TIJ).
2014 – North, 5-2. MVP – Freddie Freeman, Pittsburgh
WP – Scherzer (BC). LP – Bumgarner (COM). Sv – Uehara (LON)
HR – North: Freeman (PIT)
2015 – North, 5-4 (10). MVP – Josh Donaldson, Ottawa
WP – McGee (OTT). LP – Betances (COM).
HR – North: C.Gomez (BC), Donaldson (OTT).
2016 – North, 5-2. MVP – Kyle Schwarber, Boston
WP – Sale (VAN). LP – Greinke (OAK).
HR – South: Hundley (STL); North: Schwarber (BOS) 2.
2017 – South, 9-5. MVP – Ryon Healy, Memphis
WP – Jansen (DUB). LP – Betances (LON).
HR – North: Cespedes (BOS), Donaldson (OTT); South: Healy (MEM) 2.
2018 – North, 10-1. MVP – J.D. Martinez, Cleveland
WP – Carrasco (OTT). LP – deGrom (DUB).
HR – North: Correa (OTT), JD.Martinez (CLE), Harper (CLE).
2019 – South, 5-3. MVP – Elias Diaz, Flagstaff
WP – Scherzer (LOU). LP – Sale (VAN). Sv – Ed.Diaz (OAK).
HR – South: El.Diaz (FLG).

Nola, deGrom to start All-Star Game

Twenty more first-time selections were among the pitchers and reserves added to the rosters for the 2019 PGBL All-Star Game.

Chicago’s Aaron Nola, one of the newcomers, and Dublin’s Jacob deGrom will start on the mound, with deGrom getting the South League nod for a second straight season.

Brooklyn second baseman Dee Gordon is the only hitter on the North League bench with All-Star experience. Joining him are Cubs teammate Trevor Story, catcher Yan Gomes of Chicago, Pittsburgh teammates Anthony Rendon and Ronald Acuna, and Calgary’s Max Muncy.

The South reserves are led by three-time All-Star J.D. Martinez of Louisville and two-timer Scooter Gennett of Tijuana. Other hitters on the SL bench are Tyler White of Las Vegas, Adalberto Mondesi of host Twin City, and the Memphis duo of Alex Bregman and Juan Soto.

Vancouver’s Chris Sale returns to the NL pitching staff for his sixth appearance in seven seasons after missing last year’s game. The Cardinals put four hurlers on the team in Nola, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Craig Kimbrel.

The rest of the NL staff features returnee Cole Hamels of Pittsburgh and newcomers Blake Snell of Ottawa, Cody Allen of Cleveland and Boston releivers Raisel Iglesias and Craig Stammen.

Oakland’s Zack Greinke , while Louisville’s Max Scherzer of the Long Rifles makes his fourth straight appearance and fifth overall. The squad’s other starting pitchers are four-time pick Zack Greinke of Oakland and ERA leader Kyle Freeland of Flagstaff.

Four-time pick Dellin Betances of Dublin joins five new selections among South releivers: Guinness teammate Brad Hand, Athletes closer Edwin Diaz, Melee teammates Jose Leclerc and Aroldis Chapman, and Compton representative Reyes Moronta.

NORTH LEAGUE ALL-STARS
Pitchers
Aaron Nola, Chicago (SP)
Chris Sale, Vancouver
Blake Snell, Ottawa
Gerrit Cole, Chicago
Justin Verlander, Chicago
Cole Hamels, Pittsburgh
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago
Raisel Iglesias, Boston
Craig Stammen, Boston
Cody Allen, Cleveland
Reserves
Yan Gomes, Chicago
Max Muncy, Calgary
Dee Gordon, Brooklyn
Trevor Story, Brooklyn
Anthony Rendon, Pittsburgh
Ronald Acuna, Pittsburgh

SOUTH LEAGUE ALL-STARS
Pitchers
Jacob deGrom, Dublin (SP)
Max Scherzer, Louisville
Zack Greinke, Oakland
Kyle Freeland, Flagstaff
Dellin Betances, Dublin
Brad Hand, Dublin
Jose Leclerc, Memphis
Aroldis Chapman, Memphis
Reyes Moronta, Compton
Edwin Diaz Oakland
Reserves
Tyler White, Las Vegas
Scooter Gennett, Tijuana
Alex Bregman, Memphis
Adalberto Mondesi, Twin City
Juan Soto, Memphis
J.D. Martinez, Louisville

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