The Amarillo Sod Poodles won their second South Division championship last night, and this enables them to move on to try to win their second Texas League championship, in the finals series that will start in Little Rock tomorrow. It was a fairly convincing victory that got off to a rough start, but had a good ending.
I had expected Yu-Min Lin to get the start, but instead it was a bullpen game, with Raffi Vizcaino first to throw. Adam Mazur got the start for the Missions and struck out the first four batters he faced. Deyvison De Los Santos picked up the first hit of the night for the Soddies, an infield single back to the pitcher that bounced far enough away for him to reach base. Mazur struck out Kristian Robinson (pictured above) for his fifth strikeout and to end the inning. In the bottom of the second, Marcos Castanon led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitched, advanced to third on a ground out, and scored on a balk. Mazur gave up just a walk in the third inning, while Vizcaino pitched a perfect inning for his first clean inning of the day. After three innings, the Missions held a 1-0 lead and the Soddies had collected just an infield hit and a walk.
But the fourth inning would change the game, and prove to be the deciding inning. Caleb Roberts struck out, Mazur's sixth of the day, and second time fanning Roberts. A.J. Vukovich singled to center, stole second, and scored on Seth Beer's double. De Los Santos followed up with another double to plate Beer and give the Sod Poodles the lead. He also advanced to third on an error by the left fielder, Ripken Reyes. Robinson walked, and Juan Centeno executed the safety squeeze to score De Los Santos from third. Jancarlos Cintron followed with a triple to score Robinson, and while he was stranded at third, the Soddies had seized a 4-1 lead.
Conor Grammes came on to pitch and gave up a leadoff double to Graham Pauley, who would score thanks to a pair of groundouts. After Amarillo was set down in order in the fifth inning, a leadoff walk scored thanks to an error from Cintron, and made it a 4-3 game. However, Jakob Marsee's single that drove in the run would be the final hit on the day from the Missions, as from there on out, Sod Poodle pitching took over. Over the rest of the game, Carlos Meza, Michel Otanez, and Taylor Rashi would combine to toss 4.1 innings, strike out 6, and walk just 1.
Meanwhile, the Soddies added to their lead in the sixth inning, as Beer was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Robinson. Amarillo kept getting opportunities to add further to the lead, but a combination of double plays and runners left on base kept it a 5-3 game into the ninth, when Jancarlos Cintron doubled, stole third, and scored on Tim Tawa's single.
So that made it 6-3, and the Sod Poodles just needed to collect three outs. But in a repeat of the game on Tuesday, a ground ball hit to De Los Santos at third proved disastrous, as he once again threw the ball away, this time by throwing a bouncing ball that Beer couldn't collect. But Rashi continues to be unhittable, as he got Michael De La Cruz to pop out to left, Cole Cummings to ground out to Cintron, and struck out Homer Bush Jr. to end the game. Rashi has still allowed just a single earned run in his time in Amarillo.
The Sod Poodles outhit the Missions 11-3 over the course of the game. For the series, six of nine starters had an OPS of over 1.000. Naming a series MVP is somewhat difficult. Deyvison De Los Santos had the highest OPS, at 1.615, and a batting average of .538, but also committed two errors in key situations. (There's a certain four letter word that springs to mind when he has time to throw. He's clearly thinking too much.) Caleb Roberts hit three home runs. Seth Beer got a number of key hits. Out of all the options, I'll give it to Jancarlos Cintron. He didn't have a perfect series, but batting .500 with a 1.371 OPS out of the ninth spot in the batting order made a big difference, particularly since leadoff batter Camden Duzenack had a rough series at the plate.
Now it is on to Little Rock for Game 1 of the series against the Arkansas Travelers. The Travelers advanced by demolishing Springfield last night in a deciding Game 3. On the year, the Sod Poodles went 9-3 against Arkansas, including winning 5 of 6 in Little Rock earlier this month. However, as we learned this week, what happened during the regular season is no guarantee of anything. Here's hoping the bats stay hot and Amarillo can celebrate a championship on Tuesday or Wednesday night in Hodgetown!