(GAME DATE – Sep. 30, 2019) — The Nevada Speeders have made the playoffs again, although not at a first place team atop the Metro League’s West division, but as a 2nd wild card entrant against the 99-63 St. Petersburg Admirals, who took the ML East pennant this year.
The Speeders had been embroiled in a frantic race in the ML West, but finished 1 game behind the 92-70 Arizona Cowboys, who are making their playoff debut after 8 seasons. The Speeders went 91-71.
During the regular season, these teams faced off 14 times, with the results slightly favoring the Admirals, 8-6. They were 1st in the ML in run production (965), and 2nd in lowest runs scored against (767). The Admirals crafted a solid team for 2019, with a 1-2 combo punch of best pitching to be seen in the Metro League, and some very heavy hitting bats peppering their order.
While the Speeders can claim the ML home run champ in their lineup, Jim Lahey’s 64 home runs are up against an Admirals batting order that has 8 out of 9 players into the double-digits on long balls, including 2 with 40 or more: Julio Rangel (49) and Chris Pratt (43). Plus, the Admirals boast outstanding pitching in the form of Jose Sotom who toyed with a Triple Crown, and might have won it if not for a rotator cuff strain that sidelined him through the end of July and into August for 4 weeks. Already with two Sandy Koufax Awards under his belt, Soto is chasing a third with a league-best 2.82 ERA, Bull Cup record setting 266 K’s, and 18-7 win-loss record.
True 5-tools players like Katai Kitigawa in the order will ensure that the Speeders do not have an easy time of things in the Elimination Round series against St. Pete’s. But Nevada, wracked with injuries, will put up Chitoji Yamada, Jose Torres, and prime lead off batter Hugo Gonzales as their main offensive weapons. The three, together with Lahey, can offer incredible power and speed at all times, which they will need against the very effective Admirals fielding.
St Pete’s hosts the series opener, and will probably pit Soto against Al Mota, a shoe in for a 2nd or 3rd place Sandy Koufax Award vote.