2018 Series Preview: Rimouski Fighting Moose vs Montreal Metros

(Game date: Sep. 8, 2018) 

The Bull League’s two teams from la belle province will face off in what promises to be a vicious battle for the right to advance to the Lake League Championship Series. The Montreal Metros and the Rimouski Fighting Moose faced each other in the LLCS in 2017, with the Metros claiming victory in a 3-2 series win.

But that was then. This year, the Fighting Moose are a much stronger team, having bankrupted their future to secure the big-name talent needed to pursue a postseason victory, under the guiding hand of former GM Bob Weinberg.

Weinberg had spent the 2017-2018 offseason acquiring pricey free agent arms, like Dallas’s ace Kyle Cahill, and long-time Metros veteran Lou Bricknell, who was the Elimination Round MVP last season. On the offensive side, they added Dallas infielder Celestino Caparica, Chicago veteran Carlos Mendoza, and Calgary slugger Dao-zi Ling. The Moose already had former #4 prospect RHP Nick Seer leading the staff and veteran sluggers Alan Isimo and Zenjiro Suga all of whom had put the Moose into the second round of last year’s playoffs.

Weinberg’s gamble seemingly paid off, as the team sailed into a LL East Division winning finish at 59-41, a .590 win percentage that proved to be their best since 2014 and 4th best in club history. But even as the team set a club payroll record at $188 million, paradise was not without its troubled waters.

Injuries may have hampered the team’s ability to continue winning into the postseason, as Ling is out for another week with an injury, 19-save closer Marc Garland is gone for the season and injury wreck LHP Mo-ruo Chen has been out since July. The team’s injury list is the largest in baseball, as even their callups and 40-man rostered minor leaguers have hit the DL, making the pool of available and playoff roster qualified replacements shallow indeed.

Still, Rimouski has one of the top defensive lineups, and a solid bullpen, which adds up to trouble for Montreal, who were 7-7 against them on the season.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Montreal. The team is a run generation factory that doesn’t rely on long balls to get the job done, but instead on incredible base-running, contact and bat speed to manufacture run after run after run. Coming it at 3rd in the LL in runs scored, and 1st in stolen bases, the Metros had 2 hitters finish above .300, including 2017 MVP Jose Ramirez and 23-year-old All-Star Orlando Garza, who also led the LL in steals at 32. Crucial hits were provided by 1B David Chinchilla, who led the team in RBIs with 65. Four more batters finished in the .290s for average, making the lineup one of the best for hitting in the league.

The pitching rotation has a major gap in it with the loss of 2017 Sandy Koufax Award winner Judson Martel, who suffered a hamstring injury back on August 7, and has been on the DL ever since. Martel is officially day-to-day, but with no prognosis the team has been hesitant to bring him back for fear of making the injury worse. Ron Alder has been a capable replacement #1, going 11-6 this season with a 2.77 ERA.  Yoshiaki Fujimara has been a bit of a liability, though, and the team may need to rely on unproven arms like Alex Martinez to notch K’s and wins against the Moose in the upcoming series.

Montreal has a decided advantage, ending the season with a 3-1 series win over Rimouski, and nearly taking the top of the division. The Metros have won 8 of their last 9 games and appear to be the readiest team in the Elimination Round series against the Moose. If their pitching and offense come together, then Rimouski will see a high-priced first round exit, giving Montreal not only a chance at another LLCS, but also the Battle of Quebec postseason crown for a second year running.

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