The Louisville Long Rifles struck the first major deal of the 2018 season by acquiring star pitcher Max Scherzer from Toronto.
But the Dublin Guinness responded immediately and acquired Paul Goldschmidt in a blockbuster nine-player trade with Cactus Division leader Oakland.
Dublin, the reigning SL champion on a 10-game win streak that has forged a five-game lead over Louisville and St. Louis, sent Christian Yelich, Rhys Hoskins and Brett Gardner along with three draft picks and two prospects to Oakland.
The Athletes, up seven games in their division and tied with the Guinness for the SL’s best record at the time of the deal, included Michael Brantley, Trevor Rosenthal and Dominic Leone along with Goldschmidt.
Dublin’s response came after the Long Rifles struck their big deal, getting Scherzer along with Felipe Rivero and Chris Ianetta from the Tigers for a package of young talent that included Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani as a player to be named later.
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.
Memphis rookie Noah Syndergaard threw the first no-hitter of the 2016 season as the Melee completed a 7-0 win over Dublin at Wrigley Field.
Syndergaard, acquired from Tijuana as part of a package that sent David Price to the Tequila Swiggers, faced one batter more than the minimum in notching the 18th known no-hitter in PGBL history.
The 22-year-old righty struck out six in the 104-pitch gem. He issued a two-out walk to Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth inning, then got Andrelton Simmons to ground into a double play after Cory Spangenberg reached on a Ketel Marte error leading off the sixth.
Syndergaard retired the first 11 and final 11 hitters he faced, closing out the masterpiece by getting Christian Yelich to ground out to Marte.
Marte got the Memphis offense started with a two-run homer off Rick Porcello in the third. Adam Jones added a solo shot in the sixth and Devon Travis capped the scoring with a three-run blast off Julio Teheran in the ninth.
Box score: Syndergaard no-hitter.
List: PGBL no-hitters.
VANCOUVER — The separation of A.J. Pierzynski and the Vancouver Wildcats did not last long. The veteran catcher has been traded back to the team where he has played all but 49 games of his 15-year PGBL career.
The Wildcats reacquired Pierzynski along with infielder Brett Lawrie and two prospects in a seven-player trade with Dublin. Pierzynski was released by Vancouver after 38 games last season and was drafted by the Guinness in the fifth round this month.
Vancouver sent versatile veteran Martin Prado, pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez and catcher Kevin Plawecki to Dublin in the deal. The Wildcats also got outfielder Brandon Nimmo, pitcher Duane Underwood and two draft picks.
Pierzynski made his debut in 2001 playing 24 games for Brooklyn, then appeared in 25 games for Toronto the following year. He made his Vancouver debut on April 1, 2003 and hasn’t played for another team since.
The irascible catcher is the Wildcats’ franchise leader in games played (1,381) and games caught (1,126). He ranks second in team history behind Adrian Gonzalez in most offensive categories.
Just ahead of the trade deadline, the Dublin Guinness landed the biggest piece by acquiring South League All-Star slugger Jose Bautista in a blockbuster with division rival Memphis.
Bautista brings a .284/.383/.558 slash line with 29 homers and 68 RBIs to Dublin. He trails new teammate Devin Mesoraco by one in the SL home run race. The Guinness are 59-43, holding the second SL wildcard spot, and are six games behind Compton and five in back of St. Louis in the Confederate Division race.
In return, the Melee acquired prospects Joc Pederson and Brady Aiken and a package of draft picks, including a first-round selection in the 2017 draft.