09/02/08 10:00 AM ET
Stubbs ready to lead Bats into playoffs
University of Texas product brings postseason experience
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
So when the Louisville Bats outfielder takes the field Wednesday night against the Durham Bulls during the opening game of the International League playoffs, don't expect the Cincinnati Reds' 2006 first-round pick to have any jitters.
Stubbs is a University of Texas product. The Longhorns are a fixture in the NCAA postseason, winning the College World Series in 2005 with Stubbs serving as one of driving forces of the championship. So while there may be some excitement at Louisville Slugger Field, it won't be any more overwhelming than the 25,000 screaming fans he played in front of at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.
"The College World Series is probably the biggest games I've played in," Stubbs said. "I played in two of those, so I've been on the grand stage. Anytime you play in that type of environment, it gives you a background of what it would be like to be in that situation. It takes away some of the nerve factor."
Not that Stubbs has displayed much in the way of nerves this season. He began the year in the Florida State League and spent half a season with Class A Advanced Sarasota, where he hit .261 with five homers and 38 RBIs. He got bumped up to Double-A Chattanooga of the Southern League and hit .315 with nine RBIs in 26 games before changing addresses again, this time moving to Louisville.
Stubbs has had a good run with the Bats, helping fuel their playoff drive in August. He hit .293 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 19 games, but was only 4-for-23 (.174) with an RBI in his last six games.
"It's been a pretty smooth transition," Stubbs said. "My goal at the start of the year was to get to Double-A and get significant time there. I was surprised when I got called up here because I had been in Double-A less than a month. So being here is just icing on the cake and the playoff experience is just an added extra.
"There's a lot more excitement around here, too. The two teams on I was on earlier weren't in contention, so it's been fun to be part of a race."
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (88-55) vs. Pawtucket (85-58)
Best-of-5 series begins Sept. 3
The participants in the International League playoffs have been set for several weeks with Louisville and Durham easily outdistancing the pack in the South and West Divisions. The Yankees and PawSox fought it out for the North Divisional title into the last week of the season, but both clubs were well ahead of third-place Rochester for much of the summer, eliminating any real suspense. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has been a staple in the IL playoffs over the last decade and has reached the postseason for the seventh time in 11 years. The franchise has never won a Governors' Cup title, losing in the semifinals each of the past two seasons. Pawtucket, meanwhile, makes its first playoff appearance since 2003. The PawSox have won a pair of IL titles (1973, 1984) and also have a Junior World Series crown ('73). The Boston and New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliates haven't met in Governors' Cup play since 1991.
The teams split 16 games but statistically speaking, the PawSox held the advantage. Pawtucket hit .266 as a group, 16 points higher than the Yanks. And its ERA was 4.36, nearly a run lower than that of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But the Yanks won five of the eight games played between the two teams in August, including four of six during the first week of the month.
SWB's Ben Broussard is hitting .325 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 40 at-bats. Bernie Castro and Juan Miranda combined to hit .338 (22-for-65) but the Duncans, Shelley and Eric, have combined to go just .155 (11-for-71) with one homer and eight RBIs. Several of the starters that faced the PawSox during the regular season have either been traded or called up to New York. Look for Ian Kennedy (1-0, 2.57) to get at least one of the starts, however. ... Devern Hansack made five starts against the Yankees, going 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA. Included in that was a complete-game road victory May 18. He made three consecutive starts against the Yanks in the beginning of August, going 0-1 with a 4.12 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. Jeff Bailey had four homers and 14 RBIs in 61 at-bats while Dusty Brown hit .368 with three homers and 10 RBIs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Pitching has been SWB's strong suit all season and that should continue in the playoffs. Kei Igawa (14-6, 3.45) is among the league leaders in victories and ERA. He is 6-1 in his last eight starts with a 2.72 ERA. Lefty Chase Wright (10-3, 2.72) has been strong all year and nothing short of brilliant since getting promoted to Triple-A in early August. He was 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in six starts for the Yankees. The more heralded youngster tandem of Kennedy (6-3, 2.22 in 15 Minor League appearances) and Phil Hughes will be with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the IL playoffs after having fallen out of favor with the parent club. Hughes started Monday in the regular-season finale and received a no-decision. He finished the Minor League portion of his year with a 3-0 record and a 5.90 ERA in eight games. Hughes is expected to start Game 4 if needed. Big league castoff Victor Zambrano, yes the same pitcher whom the Rays traded for Scott Kazmir, is attempting to resurrect his career and had pitched well for Double-A Trenton, going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts. But Rochester shelled Zambrano in his lone start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last Friday. He was in Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League for much of the year, going 0-6 with a 9.45 ERA in 40 innings. Outfielder Melky Cabrera has produced at the plate since being demoted last month, but has made several bad baserunning decisions as well. He hit .333 in 15 games with five RBIs for the Baby Bombers after hitting .242 with a .296 OBP in 117 games with New York.
Pawtucket: Knuckle-balling right-hander Charlie Zink (14-6, 2.84) was among the leaders in victories and ERA all season though over his last seven starts he had an ERA of 4.44. Veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon has been on a rehab assignment with Pawtucket and closed out the regular season Monday afternoon by allowing one run on four hits in six innings to Lehigh Valley. He was 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in nine starts and would be available to pitch Game 4 if needed on Saturday. Colon has fanned 21 and walked six in 31 2/3 innings. Second baseman Joe Thurston was among the league batting leaders for much of the season and battled down to the wire with Richmond's Josh Anderson for the most hits in the IL. He finished with a .316 average and a league-best 160 hits. Catcher Dusty Brown finished with a .290 average, 12 homers and 55 RBIs. The PawSox lost outfield defensive whiz Jon Van Every over the weekend when he was called up by the Red Sox, but in his place, Boston sent back right-hander Michael Bowden, who made a successful Major League debut Saturday. Overall, Bowden is 9-7 with a 2.62 ERA in 26 Minor League games -- 25 starts -- between Portland and Pawtucket. He is 0-3 with a 3.38 ERA in seven Triple-A appearances and is expected, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona, to pitch out of the bullpen Friday night in Game 3.
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.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.