(Game date: Sep. 8, 2018) —
The Elimination Round series between the Denver Danger and the Nevada Speeders promises to be a proverbial clash of titans, in every sense, as two historically dominating teams square off to determine who will advance to the American Eagle League’s championship series.
Not surprisingly for two playoff teams, several big names dot both rosters, from Denver’s Glen Reese, Rich Ojeda and Javier Chavarria, to Nevada’s Jim Lahey, Jose Torres and Al Mota.
Reese was one of Denver’s top run producers, going yard 20 times with 60 RBIs to boot, behind only Roberto Lozano, who will miss the first round with a separated shoulder. Ojeda, at 37, struggled to find the longevity to notch wins in his appearances, but was dominant enough all season to be able to hand over outings to a competent relief staff as Oscar Navarro collected 23 saves in 32 opportunities.
Chavarria was an important bedrock both behind the plate and at it, displaying incredible range and defensive skills while adding 17 homers and 55 to the offensive efforts. The 32-year-old hit .299, with an OPS in the .880’s on the season. Danger outfielders Danny Bucio and John Webster were both hard for Speeders pitching to handle all year, combining for 18 hits on 58 at bats, with 5 HR’s and 10 RBIs.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Danger, as their season record against Nevada was 3 wins, 5 losses. The Speeders demonstrated their shutout pitching capability all season, including against the Danger.
Al Mota went 12-5 on the season, with a 2.88 ERA, taking the wins, ERA and WHIP titles for the AEL this season, only his second in the big leagues. He was 1-0 against Denver, hurling the orb for 15.1 innings and tallying 19 strikeouts. He was rung up for 9 hits and 7 runs, but both outings resulted in Nevada victories with the Speeders relying on the 2nd best bullpen ERA and the AEL’s best defense for their wins.
Jose Torres was a constant thorn in the side of AEL pitching, teaming up with international rookie Chitoji Yamada to blast 68 home runs and an impressive 177 RBIs. Jim Lahey added 15 more home runs and 44 more RBIs after his June 27 trade from California, making that one of the most feared 3-4-5 in a batting order this season.
Lahey had 2 of his homers against Denver, after a 3-for-3 appearance in his first game with Nevada, and the team’s last against Denver. But, since Nevada last played the Danger, their opponent has been sizzling hot, going 13-9 through July, 17-11 in August, and 4-2 to finish the season in September, for a 34-22 record in months they haven’t played Nevada.
Ultimately, we see a pitching battle for games 1 and 2, as both of which take place in Reno, giving the Speeders an advantage. But the high-scoring Danger could make it a 5-game series when they run into Nevada’s weaker rotation pieces for the next two games.
The Speeders, who set a Bull League record for wins at 63 this season, hold the better cards going into the postseason, but need to stay sharp in order to finish on top.