Clearwater vs. Sarasota
Threshers (83-57) vs. Reds (81-59)
(Best-of-three series begins Tuesday, Sept. 4)
The 2007 season was just the third in which Sarasota has been a Reds affiliate, while Clearwater has been aligned with the Phillies since 1985. What unites these two clubs is that neither has been associated with postseason success. But that could change in 2007. Sarasota won the West Division's first-half title, while Clearwater emerged triumphant in the second. Both clubs are superior to Brevard County and St. Lucie, the two playoff bound teams from the East.
The Reds outscored the Threshers, 91-75, over 18 regular season games, and won 12 of them. Sarasota hit .270 compared to the Threshers' .246, while the Reds' ERA of 3.62 was far superior to Clearwater's 4.54.
Clearwater: OF Jeremy Slayden played all 18 games against the Reds and hit .258 over 66 at-bats while driving in a team-high 13 runs...2B Brad Harman hit .293 over 58 at-bats and smashed a pair of homers. However, he struck out 20 times...Catcher Lou Marson hit a stellar .315 over 15 games and scored a team-high 12 runs. ...1B John Urick slugged .643 over nine ballgames. ... Staff ace Andrew Carpenter went 17-6 overall, but was 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA against the Reds. ... RHP Zac Stott went 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA over three appearances (two starts)...LHP Cory Willey compiled a 1.86 ERA over five relief appearances spanning 9 2/3 innings.
Sarasota: Jay Bruce's absence will be keenly felt in this series, as the young phenom hit a scorching .432 (19-for-44) over 11 games before receiving a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. The 20-year-old blasted six home runs in addition to eight doubles and a triple. ... OF Brandon Syzmanski was the only Sarasota player to appear in all 18 contests against Clearwater. The Texas native hit just .219 and struck out 24 times over 64 at-bats...2B Michael DeJesus scored 12 runs and drove in nine over 12 games and drew 10 walks against just four strikeouts. ... SS Chris Valaika batted .322 over six ballgames. ... RHP Homer Bailey ended the season in Sarasota on a rehab assignment, but due to his "veteran" status (he spent a month in the Majors), he is not eligible to pitch in the playoffs. ... The Reds pitching staff experienced across-the-board success against the Threshers, as each of the team's 12 wins were obtained by a different pitcher...RHP Logan Ondrusek went 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 17 1/3 innings pitched.
ON THE MOUND
RHP Andrew Carpenter has been an integral component of the Threshers staff, as he went 17-6 with a 3.20 ERA over 163 innings pitched. No other pitcher in the league had more than 12 victories. ... A few miserable outings inflated Brett Harker's ERA to an unsightly 6.69 ERA, but the 23-year-old converted 13 of 14 save opportunities. ... RHP J.J.Trujillo made his debut with the Threshers on June 11 and went 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA over 12 appearances.
LHP Ben Jukich joined the team in midseason and immediately made an impact, as the 24-year-old went 8-2 with a 3.55 ERA over 14 starts. His groundball to flyout ratio was nearly 3:1. ... Closer Derrik Lutz compiled a 2.90 ERA and converted 23 of 27 save opportunities. ... RHP Ruben Medina went 5-3 with a 1.78 ERA over 44 relief appearances spanning 65 2/3 innings.
AT THE PLATE
2B Brad Harman, 1B Clay Harris, and OF Jeremy Slayden all hit between 10 and 14 home runs and drove in between 62 and 68 runs. ... C Lou Marson batted .288 and scored 68 runs over 393 at-bats. ... SS Jason Donald hit an even .300 and hit 22 doubles and eight home runs over 83 games.
OF Brandon Szymanski hit just .242, but his 13 home runs and 58 RBIs are more than any other player on currently on the roster...OF Cody Strait is a base-stealing threat if he's actually able to get on base. The 24-year-old stole 15 bases over 69 games, but compiled an on-base percentage of .291. ... 1B Tonys Gutierrez hit .302 and got on-base at a .410 clip after joining the team in late June. ... 2B Michael DeJesus drew 78 walks against just 52 strikeouts. His 76 runs scored were more than any other player on the active roster.
Neither team has much of a postseason history. Sarasota came into the league as a Red Sox affiliate in 1989 and has never won it all. The Threshers, as mentioned before, have come up empty every year since 1993.
SERIES COULD TURN ON
Andrew Carpenter. If the Threshers' ace finally pitches as well against the Reds as he has against the rest of the league, then Clearwater will gain a crucial edge in this best-of-three series.
These two clubs were the cream of the crop in the FSL this season, and it's almost a shame that one of them has to lose. Sarasota dominated in head-to-head play during the regular season, so there's no reason to think they can't do it one more time. Sarasota in three.