(GAME DATE – Oct. 8, 2019) — The steamrolling St. Petersburg Admirals are looking dominant this year as they are set to take on playoff rookies Arizona Cowboys in the best-of-7 Metro League Championship Series starting tomorrow.
The Admirals are heavily favored to take the series, despite flashes of brilliant power in the Cowboys order, including the ML’s #2 home run hitter, Tak-keung Yang.
The Cowboys only managed one win against St. Petersburg in the regular season after the All-Star Break, having been swept in 2 games in late July, 3 games in August, and then splitting their 2-games in September.
After a tough early exit from the postseason last year, the Admirals retooled this year, including giving up their hottest up and coming rotation arm, Chris Zerkle, in exchange for veterans Israel Medina and Danny Huertero in a May trade with Calgary.
Huertero hit the DL in late September, but 2-time Bull Cup winner Medina was critical in the Elimination Round against the Nevada Speeders, tallying up 4 HR and 6 RBI in that series, and earning his second career playoff MVP accolade.
On the mound, the Admirals finally enter a playoff with a healthy Jose Soto, who nearly captured a Triple Crown this season, falling just 1 win short. His 18-7 record, 2.82 ERA, 266 strikeouts and 1.01 WHIP should ensure a 3rd career Sandy Koufax Award as a consolation.
Dusty Hertz(16-4, 4.49) and rookie Young-lau Weng (13-14, 5.44) make up the rest of the best rotation in the Metro League, which enters round 2 missing 19-game winner Harry Ferguson, who suffered an injury in the Nevada series. Jose Ramirez (13-9, 4.23) is probable to take his place.
Meanwhile, the best in the league offense should do the trick in taking down the upstart Cowboys and securing a Bull Cup appearance. A litany of plus-.300 hitters, and 2 40+ home run batters will ensure plenty of contact and power. Katai Kitigawa set a stolen base record with 78, and will be dangerous any time he is on the base paths.
Arizona is not completely discounted, however. Aside from home run hitter Yang, they can rely on former Calgary slugger Cody Martin and long-time Cowboys slugger Joe Kueppers for power. When their starting pitching begins to falter, they can give the ball to some of the best relievers in the ML, a bullpen than won nearly 40 games on its own, and a closer, David Johnson, who topped the ML with 40 saves.
Arizona clearly needs to survive into the late innings with a lead to have a decent chance at taking games away from the Admirals, while the St. Pete’s offense will try to get runs on the scoreboard early and often.
Arizona’s McWeeney is expected to get the start against either Dusty Hertz or Jose Soto.