Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010
By Kevin T. Czerwinski
Winston-Salem has had one of the most potent offenses in the minor leagues this season. Kinston has had the best pitching staff if the Carolina League for much of the year. Beginning Wednesday the two teams will get the chance to see which squads forte is stronger as the two teams meet in the opening round of the Carolina League playoffs.
The Dash has been dominant all season while the Tribe has been scrambling to play catch up for months. Will Winston-Salems offense get the better of Kinstons pitching? Heres a closer look at what to expect when these two teams collide.
Winston-Salem Dash vs. Kinston Indians
Best of Five beginning Wednesday
The Dash won 13 of 20 meetings. Winston-Salem swept a four-game series in June against the Indians at home but the teams have split six games since. The Dash posted a team ERA of 3.36 in the 20 games while Kinstons team ERA for the season series was 4.16.
The Dash had four players reach double digits in RBIs in the 20 games. Jon Gilmore 12, Seth Loman 11, Andrew Garcia 11 and Brandon Short 11 were all effective against the Tribe. Loman hit .333 in 69 at-bats while Gilmore hit .316 in 79 at-bats. Short also had three homers but he struck out 20 times in 72 at-bats. Jason Bour appeared in five games and hit .412. Kyle Bellamy, Nevin Griffith and Charlie Leesman each won a pair of games. Dylan Axelrod was 0-1 with a 2.01 ERA in six games two starts, striking out 23 in 22 13 innings.
Kyle Bellows hit .286 with a homer and 14 RBIs. He had 20 hits and drew seven walks. Lucas Montero hit .259 in 18 games but he also drew 13 walks and had a .412 on-base percentage. Karexon Sanchez had an active 16 games against the Dash. He hit only .214 with seven RBIs but draw 12 walks, steal two bases and strike out 19 times.
ON THE MOUND
Despite leading the league with 81 victories, the Dash hurlers were sixth in the league with a 4.04 ERA. The 64 homers allowed, however, were a league low. Terry Doyle finished sixth in the league with a 3.71 ERA while Nate Jones finished 10th at 4.08 and second in the league with 11 victories. He was tops in the league in games started 28 and innings pitched 152 13. The bullpen was largely nondescript though Tyson Corley did post a 1.79 ERA and collect 10 saves, doing most of that after an unsuccessful stint with Birmingham. Greg Infante had been the clubs first-half closer but was promoted mid-year to the Barons.
While the Tribe didnt make many dents in the league leaders when came to offense they certainly didnt have that problem in the pitching department. Kinston led the league in ERA 3.31, shutouts 13 and saves 48. They were also the only team to allow fewer than 600 runs 535. Joseph Gardner led the league with 12 wins and batting average against .199 and finished second with a 2.65 ERA. He was third with a 1.11 WHIP, third with 7.65 strikeouts per nine innings and was tied for second with fewest base runners allowed per nine innings 11.33. TJ McFarland was second in the league with 11 victories and fourth with a 3.13 ERA. Though TJ House was 6-10, he was eighth with a 3.91 ERA. His undoing was his control he finished second with 61 walks. Cory Burns topped the league with 30 saves. Matthew Longwell led all Carolina League relievers in strikeoutsnine innings 9.32, fewest walksnine innings 2.25 and fewest base runners allowed 9.48 per nine innings.
Game One: RHP Terry Doyle 8-8, 3.71 vs. LHP T.J. McFarland 11-5, 3.13
Game Two: RHP Dylan Axelrod (8-3, 1.99) vs. RHP Austin Adams 6-1, 1.53
Game Three: RHP Nate Jones (11-6, 4.08) @ RHP Joe Gardner (12-6, 2.65)
Game Four: RHP Stephen Sauer 8-10, 4.89 vs. TBD
Game Five: LHP Joe Serafin 3-4, 5.63 vs. TBD
AT THE PLATE
The Dash led the league with a .288 batting average this season. It was the sixth-best average among all the full-season minor league clubs. So, it only makes sense that Winston-Salem placed five players among the top 10 in batting. Currently, Brandon Short is listed as the league leader at .316 but will likely be bumped down to second. Eric Hosmer played half most of the season at Wilmington and hit .354 but finished shy of qualifying for the batting title by three at-bats. The league will likely add on the three at-bats and hed still win the title by plenty. Short, meanwhile, remains on the disabled list with an oblique injury. He hasnt played since Aug. 17 and may return for a finals appearance if the Dash get that far but even that is doubtful. Jon Gilmore hit .312, was tops with 177 hits and was third with 80 RBIs. Ozzie Lewis hit .300 but batted only .200 in his last 10 games. Seth Loman hit .292 eighth and was second in the league in homers 25, RBIs 88, total bases 264 and slugging percentage .514. He also got hit by a pitch a league-record 30 times and was tops on the circuit with 88 runs scored. Eduardo Escobar, who has since moved on to Birmingham of the Southern League, was 10th in the league in hitting at .285.
The Tribe received a healthy influx of talent throughout the season from Lake County, which earned a playoff berth in the first half of the Midwest League season. Among those who made the move were catcher Chun-Hsiu Chen, who hit .320 in 52 games for Kinston after hitting .312 in 58 Midwest League games. He had six homers and 30 RBIs and hit .327 over his final 33 games. Bo Greenwell, son of former big leaguer Mike Greenwell, also made jumped from Lake County to Kinston, hitting .292 with 21 RBIs after the move. He hit .310 with 36 RBIs prior. Rounding out that group is Jeremie Tice, who hit .283 with five homers and 28 RBIs after hitting .282 with nine homers and 51 RBIs in the Midwest League. Kyle Bellows grounded into a league-leading 22 double plays to go along with his 10 homers and 66 RBIs. Karexon Sanchez also had 10 homers and drove in 51 runs but whiffed 114 times. Abner Abreu struck out 130 in 409 at-bats once every 3.15 ABs.
Frederick Baltimore and Potomac Washington will square off in the other opening-round series. Winston-Salems Joe McEwing has been named as the Carolina League manager of the year each of the last two seasons. He led the Dash to the playoffs last year as well but Winston-Salem was eliminated in the opening round. The Dash are 47-21 at BB&T Ballpark, including going 9-1 against Kinston there this season. When the Tribe won their lone game at Winston-Salem this year, it snapped a 17-game losing streak on Dash home turf. This is Kinstons first appearance in the playoff since 2007. Kinston has won seven Carolina League titles, the last of which came in 2004. The Tribe has been a Cleveland affiliate since 1987 and last year marked the first time that they failed to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Outfielder Trayce Thompson was promoted from Kannapolis on Tuesday and added to the Dash roster.
Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.