(GAME DATE — Sep. 9, 2019) — The “Miracle” Arizona Cowboys will likely see their first ever playoff as the clock runs down on the 2019 Bull League season, as the club has seen their first year over .500 so far.
The 2012 expansion club had consistently placed 5th for the past 6 seasons, never achieving more than a .440 win percentage, and this year has powered along on the back of strong offense, and workhorse bullpen. Now, they are 77-67, winning at a .535 pace, and firmly in divisional 3rd place that should see them handily snag the 2nd Metro League wild card.
The nearest challenger for the wild card is the California Tidals, who are 8 games behind Arizona. But with the Cowboys 7-3 in their last 10 games, they will be a hard quarry to catch.
Things started turning around for Arizona in 2018 when they signed international free agent Tak-keung Yang, the Taiwanese slugger. His power bat provided a core to rebuild a shaky lineup around, together with 2014 draft pick SS Joe Kueppers, who joined the top level in 2017. By his 2nd season, he was batting .249 with 20 HR’s, and an OPS of .839.
Then, Cody Martin was signed in the off-season, and things started to look very exciting. The former Calgary Inferno slugger had hit free agency, after a stellar 9th season there. He hit a career-high 42 home runs in 2018, and best-ever .320 batting average, capping a fifth all-star season. The 2-time Bull Cup champ was lured to Arizona with a 5-year, $44.5 million deal as Arizona loosened their purse strings to attract some big name talent.
By the end of this past spring, however, Arizona got worrisome news when closer Jaylen Carter hit the disabled list, suffering an elbow ligament injury requiring reconstructive surgery. Sacramento native, veteran righty David Johnson, stepped up after being signed on April 14th, another free agent from the Calgary organization. Johnson is 9-6 so far, with 32 saves, tied for the Metro League lead.
The acquisition of Ivan Morillo and Lozaro Lozano helped stabilize the rotation, and the team was suddenly looking competitive out of the gate. After May, they stood at 29-25, and finally began to break away from the Tidals in the standings around the All-Star Break.
While it is mathematically possible the Tidals, or even the Miami Storm, could swoop in and dislodge the Cowboys from their wild card berth, those teams are running out of scheduled games to make that happen. Arizona does face some tough opponents, including St Pete’s, Seattle and Nevada, they also will likely dominate Calgary and Dallas as the season winds down.
The Tidals will wrap the season up against Seattle, while Miami could catch a break against Dallas and Norfolk but will likely face stiff opposition with the Admirals, leaving little movement in the standings between now and game 162.