(Game date: Sep. 15, 2018) — The Lake League Championship Series is set to go after a decisive Elimination Round series sweep was executed by the Montreal Metros, dispatching the East Division champion Rimouski Fighting Moose in 3 games, and the dominant Minneapolis Ravens dismantled the Boston Brawlers in 4.
The Ravens unleashed a torrent of home runs in their set with Boston, with at least one in every game, but with three players going long in a game twice during the series. Center fielder Gabel Reyes tallied up 3 in total, scoring 7 runs and driving in 7 more on his way to a first career playoff MVP honor.
In the Metros-Moose series, the favored Fighting Moose were looking for playoff vengeance, after being eliminated in the 2017 LLCS by Montreal. Rimouski had crafted a do-or-die roster for 2018, that included several big name free agents, costing them all of their early round 2018 draft picks in the process, and pushing their payroll to a Bull League record $192 million.
But Montreal executed a flawless series, scoring 28 runs while only allowing Rimouski 10. In classic Metros fashion, they did not rely on power swings, instead manufacturing runs at key times by putting men on base and putting balls in play. Metros’ ace-of-the-moment Ron Alder, who replaced an injured Judson Martel, last year’s Sandy Koufax Award winner, weathered a 2-run homer and an RBI triple by Rimouski to finish with a 9 inning 7-hit complete game.
Montreal left fielder Jose Ramirez, the 2017 Carl Simm MVP Award winner, was 2-for-2 but left with an injury running to second on a David Chinchilla single in the 3rd inning. Shortstop Carlos Escobedo came in to pinch run, scoring on the next play, a Brian Currell groundout to third. Escobedo went on to score three more times, tying the LL playoff record for runs scored at 4, and getting player of the game honors.
But it was Orlando Garza who took home the series MVP, leading the Metros in hits with 9 against Rimouski pitching, for a .692 average, and stealing 5 bases. His feats included a 5-for-5 game #2, tying the LL playoff record for hits, and in which he doubled twice and scored twice.
TOUGH LLCS SERIES AHEAD
Metros GM Danny Desrochers and Ravens head Brendan Burke have their work cut out for them in the upcoming LLCS. Metros lost Ramirez for 3 weeks, meaning his MVP-caliber hitting and defensive play will be unavailable.
Replacement Carlos Escobedo was stellar at the plate in game 1, but is a defensive liability, especially for the right-handed power hitting Ravens threats of Chris Zahn and Glen Hradecky. However, much of the Ravens batting order is left-handed, which will test the Metros right side of the diamond, which features Platinum Glove winners Robert Araica and Orlando Garza in the outfield.
The good news for Montreal is that Judson Martel is available, and should be able to make a solid effort at neutralizing the Ravens offense.
The Ravens were a perfect 8-0 on the season against Montreal, which could spell disaster for the 2017 Lake League Champions. Their prime players are healthy, and the team has the home advantage after their 63-37 finish to take the West Division pennant.
Minneapolis had arguably the two best pitchers in the LL on their rotation this season, as Ricky Rodriguez led the league in wins and strikeouts, and Jason Myers set new career bests and led the league in K/9. David Baker was stellar, going 11-for-33 against the Metros, with a pair of home runs and 5 RBIs, but the team hasn’t faced Montreal pitching since June and the Metros ended the season on a hot-streak of 8-2, and are 9-1 in September (including the postseason). All of which could spell the end of the hot hitting for players like Baker, and Ravens sluggers Evandro Cerigo and Gabel Reyes.
LLCS PREDICTION: MONTREAL METROS IN 5 GAMES (3-2)