SL playoff berth, Norris title at stake on final day

The 2016 PGBL season enters its final day with one division championship and one playoff berth still up for grabs, with the Las Vegas Gamblers and Compton Outlawz vying for the final South League wild card.

Las Vegas holds a one-game lead on Compton, with the Gamblers due to pitch Lance Lynn against Twin City while the Outlawz send Chris Archer out against Louisville. Compton needs to win and have the Truckers play spoiler to force a one-game playoff at Las Vegas.

Whichever team earns the spot will grab the No. 4 seed in the SL behind Oakland, St. Louis and Tijuana. The Athletes charged to the best record in the league, clinching the Cactus Division and the top overall seed with ease. St. Louis outdistanced the field in the Confederate Division and Tijuanja retooled at the deadline to hold on to the first wild card spot.

In the North League, the season-long battle royale in the Norris Division will end with all three contenders separated by one game. Boston and Cleveland sit at 98-63 entering the final day, while Chicago finished at 98-64 and claimed the No 4 seed as the second wild card.

The Tribe hold the head-to-head tiebreaker and host last-place Pittsburgh, while the Braves entertain Maple Leaf Division champion Ottawa. Cleveland and Boston will square off in the first round of the playoffs, with the division winner getting home field advantage.

The other first-round matchups will see the Argonauts facing the Cardinals, the Clydesdales battling the Tequila Swiggers and the Athletes drawing either Las Vegas or Compton.

On the opposite side, Twin City, Flagstaff and London have secured the top three slots in the draft order. While Brooklyn is locked into the No. 10 spot, the rest of the order remains to be finalized.





Midseason notes: Braves hit All-Star break atop Norris

After three consecutive last-place finishes, the Boston Braves are more than half way to a worst-to-first turnaround.

The Braves, who won a total of 66 games over the past two seasons, reached the All-Star Break at 53-33 to hold a 3 1/2-game lead over Cleveland and 5 1/2 in front of Chicago in the Norris Division race.

Rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber has been the star of the Braves’ offense, with 19 homers and a .313 average – almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers. Danny Valencia checks in with team highs of 21 homers and 64 RBIs while hitting at a .280 clip.

Across the way in the NL, the Ottawa Argonauts have shot to a 14 1/2-game lead in the Maple Leaf Division. Infield stars Josh Donaldson and rookie Carlos Correa each have 20 homers already, while Taijuan Walker boasts an 11-2 record.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletes continue their dominance in the SL, bolting to a 70-15 mark that has put the 23-year-old league record of 130 wins within striking distance. The Athletes all but have the Cactus League crown secured with Las Vegas 26 1/2 games back.

Oakland’s Zack Greinke leads the league with a 15-0 record and a 1.82 ERA while Dallas Keuchel follows close behind at 14-1 and 2.58. Paul Goldschmidt has his sights trained on a possible SL Triple Crown, leading the way with a .338 average and 95 RBIs. His 25 homers are second in the SL, five behind Tijuana’s Jose Bautista.

Not to be forgotten, the defending champion St. Louis Clydesdales are up 5 1/2 games in the Confederate Division as they attempt to win a third straight division crown. Rookie outfielder Randal Grichuk has shined with a .303 average and 19 homers.

Among other individual leaders, Chicago has three different players pacing the NL in the Triple Crown categories: Nick Markakis hitting .356; Giancarlo Stanton with 33 homers and Mike Trout with 73 RBIs.

The Cardinals’ Gerrit Cole owns a 2.16 ERA while Cleveland’s Michael Pineda has the NL’s best record at 13-1. Toronto’s Max Scherzer has the inside track to the strikeout title with 170; Louisville’s Jake Arrieta tops the SL in punchouts with 128 to go along with an 11-4 record and a 2.20 ERA.

Busy month offers big swings, huge trades

May has been a hectic month in the PGBL, with the top teams asserting themselves and making major trades. The first of the big deals saw star second baseman Robinson Cano move from Tijuana to Dublin.

The Guinness picked up Cano along with Matt Garza, Jon Jay and Jonathan Broxton in exchange for Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Jedd Gyorko, Jon Gray and a bevvy of high draft picks. In his first 12 games with Dublin, Cano hit .396 with a .921 OPS.

Richards-EncarnacionThe next big move came when Calgary pulled off an intradivisional deal to get Edwin Encarnacion and Howie Kendrick in a seven-player swap with British Columbia. The Bucs got a solid return headlined by Garrett Richards and Alex Gordon.

Other deals saw the Maple Leaf-leading Ottawa Argonauts pick up Brett Gardner from Tijuana for James Shields, Confederate-leading Compton add Coco Crisp from the T-Swiggers, and the Cactus-leading Oakland Athletes acquire Adam Lind, Brandon Crawford and Angel Pagan in two separate deals.

Ottawa, Oakland and Compton all enter June with 36 wins, with big surges keying the Argos and Athletes. Ottawa has won 14 of 17 to take a 3 1/2-game lead over the Roughnecks. Oakland used a 14-game streak to build an 11-game advantage on Las Vegas.

The tightest race is in the Confederate, where the Outlawz are 1 1/2 in front of St. Louis, which had an 11-game surge of its own in May. Dublin is 5 1/2 games back of the Clydesdales but in the second wildcard spot in the SL.

In the Norris, the tables have turned as Chicago has moved three games ahead of Cleveland. The Cardinals have won nine of 11 while the Tribe endured an eight-game skid and have dropped nine of 10.

Oakland boasts some of the top individual performers as Jose Altuve owns a league-leading .379 average and 89 hits, Andrew McCutchen has 51 RBIs and Ian Kennedy and Dallas Keuchel claim matching league-best 9-1 records.

Memphis’ Jose Bautista has 22 homers to lead the way, four in front of Guinness catcher Devin Mesoraco. Tribe first baseman Anthony Rizzo is an early MVP candidate with a Rizzo .339/.453/.656 slash line that tops the league in both on-base and slugging.

Ottawa’s Collin McHugh has a 2.02 ERA to lead the PGBL, while teammate David Price has 88 strikeouts and trails Vancouver’s Chris Sale by three.




NL division leaders keep streaks alive

Ottawa’s Ben Zobrist and Cleveland’s Cole Hamels came through with big performances as the North League division leaders both extended winning streaks.

Zobrist, who came in for an injured Dustin Pedrioa, delivered a ninth-inning single to score Josh Donaldson with the winning run as Ottawa pushed its streak to seven games with a 4-3 walk-off triumph over Calgary.

Cole Hamels, Carlos RuizThe Argonauts, who are 9-1 over the last 10, pushed their Maple Leaf division lead to 2 1/2 games over the Roughnecks and five games over Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Cleveland posted its sixth straight victory as Hamels tossed a four-hit shutout, striking out 12 in a 7-0 home win against Boston. The Tribe now hold a 2 1/2-game lead on Chicago and are rumored to be in the market for catching and outfield help.

Hamels’ complete-game shutout was the league’s second in four days, following Max Scherzer‘s 13-K one-hitter in a 1-0 win over Calgary on April 30. Alfredo Simon absorbed the loss in the duel, with Carlos Gomez‘s solo homer as the only run.

In the SL, Oakland has gone 8-2 in the last 10 to widen its Cactus lead on Las Vegas to four games. Comton’s Confederate lead on St. Louis shrunk to three games after the Outlawz absorbed consecutive losses.


Argos cash in on Price change; Gio shuffled off to Gamblers

Gio GonzalezThe recently rumored trade of David Price out of Dublin came to fruition as Ottawa landed the lefty and Zach Putnam for pitcher Kevin Gausman, outfielder Joc Pederson a pair of first-round draft picks and a player to be named later.

The deal, finalized after the completion of spring training, followed Memphis’ mid-spring deal flipping Gio Gonzalez to Las Vegas for prospects Daniel Robertson and Pierce Johnson and a future No. 1 pick.

Gonzalez’s tenure with the Melee was incredibly brief. Memphis acquired the lefty in a five-player deal with Louisville between the 2015 player and waiver drafts.



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