Louisville (88-56) vs. Durham (74-70)
Best-of-5 begins Sept. 3.
Louisville, which last made the playoffs in 2003, was the first to clinch a Divisional crown, a fitting end to the club's best season in more than 80 years. Louisville has won a combined 11 postseason titles in the American Association and International League, the last of which came in 2001. Rick Sweet, who was named the IL's Manager of the Year, became Louisville's all-time winningest manager this season, surpassing Dave Miley. Durham makes a return trip to the playoffs after losing in the finals last year to Richmond. The Bulls, who won back-to-back titles in 2002-'03, can lay claim to eight playoff appearances in 11 seasons.
The Bulls took five of eight games with the Bats, all of which have been played since July 25. The teams split a four-game series during the third week of August in Louisville. The Bats, as they have all season, played exceptional defense in those games, committing only three errors. The Bulls, meanwhile, had 10 errors.
Adam Rosales and Stubbs combined to hit .412 (14-for-34) with a homer and five RBIs for the Bats. Louisville had a 4.89 ERA in the series, but the bullpen's ERA was 2.21. Jon Adkins pitched two scoreless innings and recorded a pair of saves while Josh Roenicke also pitched a pair of scoreless innings in two appearances. ... The Durham ERA was 3.41 but it was the starting pitching that excelled, posting a 2.61 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. That includes Wade Davis giving up eight runs in 10 innings over two starts. Jeff Niemann tossed a complete-game shutout, striking out six and not walking a batter in his lone start against the Bats.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Louisville: Lefty Matthew Maloney (11-5, 4.68) will start the opener despite coming off one of his worst outings of the season. Maloney allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings Friday at Indianapolis. Fellow former first-rounder Homer Bailey, who has struggled this season, both in the Major Leagues and at Louisville, will start Game 2. He was 0-6 with a 7.93 ERA in eight starts for the Reds and has gone 4-7 with a 4.77 ERA in 19 starts for the Bats. He is 0-1 with a 6.47 ERA over his last four starts. Lefty Adam Pettyjohn tied a franchise record Sunday with his 15th victory of the season and will start the third game while Bobby Livingston (4-4, 4.98 in the IL) will be the fourth-game starter if one is needed. Overall, he was 7-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 15 starts at three levels this year. Reliever Daniel Ray Herrera has been nothing short of brilliant since joining the club from Double-A Chattanooga earlier in the year. The right-hander is 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 47 games for the Bats, striking out 50 and walking only nine. He was 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 Southern League games. However, Herrera did allow five runs in 1 2/3 innings over two outings in a season-ending series with Indianapolis. Fellow bullpen mate Josh Roenicke followed Herrera up from Chattanooga and has been no less effective, going 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA in 35 games. He was 4-2 with a 3.27 ERA in 22 games for the Lookouts.
Durham: The big question as the playoffs drew near was whether David Price, last year's top pick, would be spending the first few weeks of September in Durham or Tampa. He won his first Triple-A game Thursday night at Norfolk, but hasn't gone more than five innings in any of his four starts for the Bulls -- this after going 11-0 in 15 combined starts at Vero Beach and Montgomery. Price (1-1, 4.50) did face Stubbs earlier this season while the pair were in the Florida State League, striking him out twice (once looking, once swinging) in two at-bats. He'll get the nod in the opener. Durham got Olympian Jeremy Cummings (8-3, 2.87) back last week and he should make an impact in the postseason. He had been pitching well before going to Beijing and has been sharp in two relief appearances since coming back. Right-hander Mitch Talbot (13-9, 3.86), who will get the start in Game 2, has been among the best in the IL all season. Former first-rounder Jeff Niemann (9-5, 3.59) is slated to start Game 3. Right-hander Wade Davis won his first game in almost a month Sunday to finish his Triple-A season at 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA in nine starts. Overall, he was 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA at Montgomery and Durham. He'll start Game 4 if needed. Veteran DH Dan Johnson provides some pop offensively, hitting .307 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs. He also had a .424 OBP, much of which came as a result of his 84 walks. He struck only 75 times in 394 at-bats.