October arrives with stage set for dramatic finish

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.

Ironman streak ends after 10-plus seasons

Vancouver’s Adrian Gonzalez did not play for first time in more than 10 years in a June 3 loss to Louisville, six days after ending his streak of consecutive starts at first base for the Wildcats.

Gonzalez began his streak of appearing in 1,627 consecutive games on May 20, 2007. The streak-snapping game on the bench was only the third time he sat out since the start of his ’07 rookie season.

In 2008, Gonzalez started just 26 games at first base and served as the designated hitter the rest of the season. The next season he started 158 games at first and made four pinch-hit appearances, beginning a run of 1,264 starts at first on July 4.

That string of starts at first came to an end on May 28 but he continued his Ironman streak as a defensive sub in two home games against St. Louis followed by another defensive sub and a pinch-hitting appearance in a two-game series at Dublin.

Struggles at the plate this season have gotten Gonzalez removed from the starting lineup for the division-leading Wildcats. He’s hitting .202 with just three homers and 18 RBIs and manager Dave Martinez has opted to use his roster flexibility in an effort to maximize the offensive production.

He’s baaaack! Wildcats reacquire club staple Pierzynski

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.


Wildcats ace Sale wins NL Cy Young convincingly

Vancouver ace lefty Chris Sale ran away with the North League Cy Young Award, receiving 10 of 11 first-place votes in becoming the first Wildcats pitcher to receive the honor.

Sale went 17-5 despite losing a month to injury and getting less than four runs of support on average from a Vancouver team that finished 78-84. He led the NL with a 2.29 ERA and a .190 opponents’ batting average and ranked second in strikeouts with 260 in 220 1/3 innings. He topped the PGBL in limiting hitters to a .276 slugging percentage and a .526 slugging percentage.

Sale, who was left off one ballot, finished with 50 points, 35 ahead of runner-up Clayton Kershaw of Chicago. Ottawa’s David Price was third while Calgary’s Kyle Hendricks, who led the NL with 19 wins, received the other first-place vote and tied the Argonauts’ Collin McHugh for fourth.

Sale became the first lefty to win in the 13-year history of the NL award.

Voting totals (first-place votes in parentheses)

1. Chris Sale, Vancouver (10) ……50

2. Clayton Kershaw, Chicago ……..15

3. David Price, Ottawa ………….12

4. Kyle Hendricks, Calgary (1) ……7

(tie) Collin McHugh, Ottawa ………7

6. Adam Wainwright, Pittsburgh ……6

7. Craig Kimbrel, Pittsburgh ……..1

8. Michael Pineda, Cleveland ……..1

Wildcats part ways with Pierzynski

The Vancouver Wildcats have cut ties with the franchise’s longest tenured player, releasing A.J. Pierzynski.

The 38-year-old Pierzynski played all but the first 46 games of his 15-season PGBL career with Vancouver, with his 1,378 games in a Wildcats uniform ranking behind only Adrian Gonzalez.

He’s also second to Gonzalez in most of Vancouver’s offensive categories, including hits (1,223), runs (443), RBIs (516). doubles (240) and extra-base hits (346).

His best season came just two years ago when he hit 23 homers and drove in 80 runs while batting .271. In 2004, he finished sixth in the North League batting race with a .322 average.

A.J. Pierzynski career statistics

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