Louisville and Pittsburgh pulled off an offseason blockbuster as the Long Rifles acquired ace Corey Kluber from the rebuilding Cobras.
Kluber won 49 games over four seasons with Pittsburgh, totaling 933 strikeouts with an ERA in the mid-3s each year.
Louisville paid a hefty price in future assets, surrendering pitching prospects Riley Pint and Matt Manning along with its first- and second-round picks in the upcoming draft (Nos. 8 and 28) and London’s first-rounder in 2019.
Matt Carpenter broke a ninth-inning tie with a two-run home run and Zach Britton induced three ground ball outs in the bottom half as the Chicago Cardinals earned a 4-2 victory over Dublin in Game 6 to win their sixth PGBL World Series Championship.
Britton, who saved Chicago’s first three wins and did not allow a run in the series, struck out two in two innings for the victory and was named the MVP.
The Cardinals were held scoreless into the eighth inning by Guinness starter Marcus Stroman until Carpenter’s two-out homer cut Dublin’s lead to 2-1. After Mike Trout reached on a Stroman error, Kenley Jansen walked three straight batters to force in the tying run.
In the ninth, Giancarlo Stanton hit a one-out double off Brad Hand and Carpenter sent a 2-0 pitch over the center field wall to give Chicago the lead.
The Cardinals built a 3-0 series lead before Dublin won Games 4 and 5 on the road to send the series back to Wrigley Field.
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Four teams with a combined 12 championships and four seeking their first title comprise a 2017 PGBL playoff field that features three 100-win teams and two division rivalries in the first round.
The defending champion Chicago Cardinals open their quest for a sixth crown and 12th North League pennant as the league’s top seed against Norris Division foe Boston. The Braves eclipsed 90 wins for a second straight season after totaling just 66 in the prior two years.
Overall top seed Dublin’s prize for winning 121 games and the Confederate Division crown is a first-round South League matchup with the upset-minded Flagstaff Elk, who are making their first postseason appearance since 2010 and third overall. The Guinness are seeking the franchise’s third overall title but its first since relocating from Key West.
Three-time champ Memphis won 118 games but will go on the road for its series opener with two-time winner Tijuana. The Melee last made the playoffs in 2012 when they lost a tight five-game division series to the Tequila Swiggers, who went on to a repeat crown.
In the other NL matchup, the tense season-long Maple Leaf Division rivalry between Vancouver and Calgary continues after both teams finished the regular season at 92-60. The Roughnecks held the tiebreaker and sealed home field advantage by beating the Wildcats in the first two of their season-ending four-game matchup on the road. Both teams are seeking their first World Series appearance in their current location.
Two division championships and the No. 1 overall postseason seed have come down to a pair of dramatic head-to-head, season-ending series.
While Confederate Division powers Dublin and Memphis renew acquaintences with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Maple Leaf rivals Calgary and Vancouver meet to settle their tight season-long battle.
The red-hot Melee have reeled off 14 straight wins – going 27-3 without a day off in September – to pull within a game of first as the Guinness come to town for a four-game set.
Now the two teams square off in a finishing sprint to 120 wins for the division crown and the South League’s top seed. The Melee will overtake Dublin if they win the series, but the Guinness will remain in front with a split or better.
The Confederate winner will open the best-of-five Division Series at home against Flagstaff, while the loser will travel to Cactus Division champ Tijuana for the first round despite having a better record.
In the North League, the Wildcats and Roughnecks are tied atop the standings at 90-58 entering their four-game series in Vancouver. Whichever team prevails will be home for the first round as the league’s No. 2 seed behind Chicago.
However, neither team has safely clinched a wildcard berth yet – meaning a sweep could put the loser in jeopardy of missing the playoffs entirely.
Boston currently holds the second wildcard spot, just one game behind the Maple Leaf combatants – and one ahead of Cleveland. The Tribe, who host Pittsburgh while the Braves welcome Ottawa, could leapfrog into a wildcard with a sweep of the Argonauts.
With five North league teams battling for three playoff spots and a tight race in the Cactus Division, most of the contenders made noteworthy moves ahead of the trade deadline.
Cleveland, chasing Chicago and Boston in the Norris Division, made one of the biggest moves, acquiring Madison Bumgarner and Jayson Werth from Compton for youngsters Tyler Glasnow and Kyle Tucker in a deal that also featured a player to be named later and a total of 10 future draft picks between sides.
Maple Leaf frontrunner Calgary picked up a big bat in Victor Martinez and a rotation piece in Jacob deGrom from retooling division rival Ottawa in exchange for promising pitchers Dylan Bundy and Carl Edwards Jr., along with two first-round selections.
London bolstered its pursuit of the Roughriders by adding veteran offensive weapons Hanley Ramirez and Curtis Granderson in separate deals with St. Louis and Boston. Vancouver decided to pull the plug on struggling preseason acquisition Cole Hamels, shipping him to Pittsburgh in a deal for Junior Guerra.
While South League powers Memphis and Dublin had little need to upgrade while battling for the Confederate Division title, Cactus rivals Tijuana and Flagstaff tried to strengthen their postsason chances.
The first-place Tequila Swiggers snagged John Lackey from Boston and Josh Reddick from Compton, while the Elk acquired Ben Zobrist and Joe Blanton in two separate deals with the Braves.
Boston’s moves of apparent subtraction took some league observers by surprise with the Braves entering August with a five-game lead for the NL’s first wild-card berth.