The Wingnuts are back in the American Association Championship Series for the second consecutive year, and fifth time in the last six seasons! Their opponent will be a familiar one, as the Winnipeg Goldeyes are looking to defend their crown after prevailing in five games against Wichita in 2016. Here’s a breakdown of what to look for as the five-game series gets underway on Wednesday.
THE SERIES (click link to purchase tickets)
Wednesday, September 13: Wingnuts vs. Winnipeg Goldeyes – 7:05 p.m.
Thursday, September 14: Wingnuts vs. Winnipeg Goldeyes – 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, September 16: Winnipeg Goldeyes vs. Wingnuts – 6:05 p.m.
Sunday, September 17: Winnipeg Goldeyes vs. Wingnuts – 4:05 p.m. (If Necessary)
Monday, September 18: Winnipeg Goldeyes vs. Wingnuts – 7:05 p.m. (If Necessary)
Wingnuts: Wichita will hand the ball to Danny Gutierrez for game one of the Championship Series. The veteran right-hander is coming off seven shutout innings in the Wingnuts playoff-opening victory over the Gary SouthShore RailCats. In the regular season, Gutierrez made four starts in a Wichita uniform, going 1-1 with a 1.68 ERA. Game Two starter Alex Boshers also picked up a victory against the RailCats, allowing two runs over five innings of work. Boshers is no stranger to the postseason stage, going 2-1 in three starts last year and 1-0 in three relief appearances in 2015. Jordan Cooper did not make an appearance in the Gary series, but was one of the Wingnuts most reliable starters during the regular season, going 8-2 with a 3.97 ERA. He also pitched well against Winnipeg earlier this year, allowing just four runs over 18.0 innings of work in three starts. Eddie Medina is Wichita’s scheduled starter for Game Four, looking to build upon his six strong innings that propelled the Wingnuts to the Championship Series.
Goldeyes: Recent acquisition Charle Rosario will toe the slab for Winnipeg in Game One. Rosario has pitched well since joining the Goldeyes in early August, not allowing more than two runs in any of his seven starts. The righty tossed seven innings, giving up two runs, in Winnipeg’s Game Three victory over the Lincoln Saltdogs. Edwin Carl gets the ball for Game Two after working out of the Goldeyes bullpen in their series win over the Saltdogs. Another right-hander, Carl was 9-4 with a 4.60 ERA in the regular season, but picked up two victories in the 2016 Championship Series against Wichita. The announced Game Three starter is lefty Kevin McGovern, who tied for the league lead with 13 wins during the regular season. McGovern worked six innings, surrendering two runs, in the championship-clinching Game Five a year ago.
Wingnuts: The Wichita bullpen put together a 2.99 ERA in nearly three hundred innings of work during the 2017 regular season, leaning heavily on the right arms of Josh Goossen-Brown, Austin Boyle, James Campbell, Mike Devine, Seth Harvey, and Ryan Kussmaul. Goossen-Brown led the team with his 1.62 ERA, allowing runs in just two of his last 29 outings. The rookie Boyle struck out well over a batter per inning, while Campbell walked only seven in 34 innings of work. Devine was the team leader with 44 relief appearances, and worked back-to-back days in the series against Gary to help nail down a pair of Wingnuts victories. Harvey is tops on the staff with his 11 saves, and closed out the RailCats with a scoreless ninth inning in Game Three. Kussmaul has been converted from starter to closer, allowing just two runs since joining the bullpen back in early August. Another convert is righty Tyler Kane, who posted a 12-1 record in the regular season, proving incredibly valuable with his ability to work extended stretches out of the bullpen.
Winnipeg: Victor Capellan highlights the Goldeyes bullpen, putting together a dominant regular season in which he struck out 75 and walked only 13. The deceptive right-hander went 4-4 with a 1.25 ERA and five saves, then worked three scoreless relief appearances to help Winnipeg get past the Saltdogs in the opening round. Hard-throwing righty Ryan Chaffee is the Goldeyes closer, notching 21 saves during the regular season in 45 relief outings. Chaffee was touched up for three runs in the ninth inning of Game Four vs. Lincoln, but the Goldeyes rallied with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to hand him a win. Lefty Kenny Mathews had a strong season out the pen, going 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA in the regular season, while fellow lefty Mitchell Lambson served as a swingman of sorts, going at least two innings in relief 13 times and earning a 7-3 record for his efforts. Righty Evan Rutckyj made 22 appearances as well, finishing 2-0 with a 5.57 ERA.
Wingnuts: Wichita boasts the league’s best backstop in Martin Medina, who was named an American Association Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star after he hit .314 with six home runs and 51 RBI. Medina also threw out 34% of attempted base stealers on the year, and allowed just one passed ball during the regular season. The second-year Wingnut was red-hot in the series against Gary, going 7-for-13 with three runs scored and a pair of RBI. The Wingnuts also feature left-handed hitting Zac Fisher, who swung the bat to the tune of a .330 average in 51 games during the regular season.
Winnipeg: The Goldeyes utilize a talented young catcher in their own right in the form of Mason Katz, who slugged 19 homers in his first season with Winnipeg. The former LSU Tiger had a three-homer game on the final day of the regular season against Fargo-Moorhead, but struggled against the Saltdogs in the first round, going 0-for-11 at the dish. Backing up Katz is a true rookie, switch-hitting Tanner DeVinny. DeVinny only had 20 at-bats during the regular season, recording two hits while striking out 11 times.
Wingnuts: The Wichita outfield is led by right fielder Richard Prigatano who had a career-year, posting career-highs in runs (67), hits (107), doubles (26), homers (eight), RBI (61), and stolen bases (34). The second-year Wingnut’s batting average was .316, good for ninth-best in the league, and helped earn him one of three outfield spots on the American Association’s Post-Season All-Star Team. Brennen Salgado takes the other corner outfield spot, and is coming off a regular season in which he blasted a career-high five homers, and drove in a career-high 45. Salgado also tied for second on the Wingnuts with five triples, and had a big series in the first round against the RailCats, going 5-for-11, and reaching base at least twice in all three games. Center fielder Jacob Morris was acquired in a late-season trade with the Texas AirHogs. A pitcher for much of the season with the AirHogs, Morris has been reunited with manager Pete Rose Jr., who he for played as a minor leaguer in the Chicago White Sox organization. In 10 games down the stretch, Morris hit .250 and scored 12 runs.
Goldeyes: A very experienced Winnipeg outfield boasts the American Association Player of the Year in left fielder Josh Romanski. Romanski hit .324, and was one of three Goldeyes to rank in the league’s top five in batting average. A Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star, Romanski also ranked in the top five in the circuit in hits, runs, doubles, RBI, and total bases. Winnipeg’s center fielder, Reggie Abercrombie, is the league’s all-time leader in homers and RBI. A former Major Leaguer with with the Florida Marlins and Houston Astros, Abercrombie played in all 100 regular season games for the Goldeyes, and ended up tying Romanski and Kansas City’s Kevin Keyes for second in the league with 81 RBI. After hitting .339 in his first season with Winnipeg last year, right fielder David Rohm followed that up with a .436 postseason average as the Goldeyes won the title. In the first round against Lincoln, Rohm was 7-for-15, and drove in four.
Wingnuts: Brent Clevlen had not played a game at first base since high school, but when Matt Chavez went down with an injury, Clevlen stepped in and played the final 14 games of the regular season at first, and all three games in the first round there as well. At the plate, the veteran had another very good season, hitting .302 with nine homers and 78 RBI, which ranked fifth in the league. Clevlen also paced the circuit with 34 doubles, which broke his old single-season Wingnuts record of 33, set in 2014. Christian Stringer and Leo Vargas have teamed up to form Wichita’s double play combination for every single game so far in 2017. In his second year as the Wingnuts second baseman, Stringer hit .307 with 122 hits, which led the club. Stringer’s 88 runs scored were tied for the most in the league with Winnipeg’s Andrew Sohn. At shortstop, Vargas set career-highs for runs scored, homers, RBI and walks during the regular season. In the first round, Vargas went 5-for-12 at the plate including a three-hit effort in Game One. TJ Mittelstaedt rounds out the Wingnuts infield, slotting in at third base. The 29-year old Californian led the American Association in walks for a fourth straight season, and topped the circuit in on-base percentage at .436. A Mid-Season All-Star and the Wingnuts Player of the Year, Mittelstaedt hit .303 during the regular season with nine homers, 75 RBI, a team-leading eight triples, and 27 stolen bases.
Goldeyes: Winnipeg’s infield is led by the league’s batting champion in first baseman Shawn Pleffner, who hit .340 while playing all 100 games. Pleffner also led the AA in total hits, and ranked in the top five in doubles and total bases. Signed on August 19, second baseman Casey Turgeon joined the Goldeyes after playing 90 games at two different levels of the St. Louis Cardinals organization earlier this year. Turgeon played in 17 games for Winnipeg down the stretch, posting a .339 average with 10 RBI and 14 runs scored. Turgeon’s double play partner is Andrew Sohn, the American Association’s Post-Season All-Star shortstop. In addition to tying Stringer for the league lead in runs scored, Sohn hit .302 in his first year with Winnipeg, and was one of eight Goldeyes to appear in 94 or more games. Both a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star, Wes Darvill is Winnipeg’s third baseman. One of four Goldeyes to play in all 100 games this season, Darvill hit .309 for the season, and added seven hits in 12 at-bats in the first round against Lincoln. Darvill also tied Sohn for the Goldeyes lead with 30 steals during the regular season, as the duo accounted for more than half of Winnipeg’s stolen bases.
Wingnuts: After spending much of the year as the Wingnuts everyday first baseman, Matt Chavez returned to the lineup from a late-season injury as Wichita’s DH and picked up right where he left off. The right-handed hitting slugger finished second in the league in batting with a .330 average, led the league in RBI with 84, and was tops on the Wingnuts with 17 home runs. A Post-Season All-Star selection, Chavez has been at his best against the Goldeyes this year, hammering Winnipeg for a .353 average and 13 RBI in nine regular season contests.
Goldeyes: David Bergin’s name is littered amongst the league’s offensive leaders, ranking second in doubles (33), fifth in average (.323), fifth in homers (20), and sixth in RBI (77). Bergin had a monster game in the series finale against Lincoln, going 3-for-5 with a home run, a double, and four RBI. Occasionally splitting time at first base with Pleffner, Bergin has swung the bat well against Wichita this season, including an extra-inning solo homer back on May 26 that gave the Goldeyes a 3-2 victory at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.