2019 American Association Playoff Preview: Sioux City Explorers vs. Kansas City T-Bones
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier previews the South Division playoff series between the Sioux City Explorers and the Kansas City T-Bones. This is a rematch of last year’s dramatic five game series that the T-Bones won on their way to winning the American Association championship. Kansas City won the South Division with Sioux City earning the final playoff spot on Monday.
Sioux City Explorers vs. Kansas City T-Bones Tale of the Tape
(League ranking is in parenthesis)
Sioux City Explorers:
Record: 57-43 (T-5)
Record – One-Run Games: 18-12
Record – Score First: 36-15
Record – Last 10: 6-4
Batting Average: .269 (8)
Homeruns: 71 (9)
Runs Scored: 498 (7)
Stolen Bases: 119 (1)
ERA: 4.09 (4)
Strikeouts: 854 (3)
Saves: 25 (T-5)
Opponent Batting Average: .247 (1)
Fielding Percentage: .981 (T-2)
Errors: 70 (4)
Kansas City T-Bones:
Record: 58-42 (4)
Record – One-Run Games: 37-14
Record – Score First: 38-18
Record – Last 10: 7-3
Batting Average: .279 (4)
Homeruns: 74 (7)
Runs Scored: 496 (8)
Stolen Bases: 96 (4)
ERA: 4.32 (6)
Strikeouts: 883 2)
Saves: 25 (T-5)
Opponent Batting Average: .249 (2)
Fielding Percentage: .981 (T-2)
Errors: 69 (T-2)
How They Got Here
The Sioux City Explorers finished second in the South Division, earning a spot in the playoffs after defeating the T-Bones on the final day of the regular season. The Explorers got off to a rough start, going 5-9 in May, but got rolling in June with a 17-11 mark before dominating in July, going 18-9. They finished the regular season 17-14 in their last 31, allowing the T-Bones to edge them out for the division crown.
It has been an outstanding bullpen that was the difference maker for the Sioux City Explorers this season. The starting staff has often been in flux this season because of signings and injuries, but the bullpen has probably been the best in the league. Jose Velez and Nate Gercken have ERAs under two and Tyler Fallwell would likely be there as well had it not been for him having to spend some time in the starting rotation. Matt Pobereyko is third in the league in saves and has struck out 74 in 51.0 innings pitched.
The offense has not been dominating, ranked eighth in batting average and seventh in runs scored, but what they do is score in bunches. A trademark of this offense has been the six-plus run inning. They quickly turn 2-1 deficits into 8-2 leads in a half inning, and this has been the primary reason why the offense has been down in terms of numbers, but the team still won 57 games.
The T-Bones were a .500 team for the first 10 weeks of the season. They were 7-6 in May, 14-14 in June, and 13-13 in July and it looked like they were destined to finish in the bottom half of the South Division.
The problem was that the team simply could not get any momentum going. It was not just the loss of key players to affiliate teams or to injury, but the weather played a significant role as well. Eight rain outs through the first eight weeks did not help the T-Bones to get rolling.
However, Kansas City put together one of the most impressive Augusts in American Association history. The team went 23-8, including winning 12 in a row at one point. This despite the news that they had lost their home come September 13, yet, this team found ways to win thanks, in large part, to an outstanding starting rotation.
Kansas City took the first three games of their showdown with the Explorers to win the South Division.
The T-Bones posted an impressive 3.51 ERA in August as the rotation really gelled. Tommy Collier was finally healthy and that showed in a 4-1 record and a 2.51 ERA. Jonathan Perrin was 5-0 with a 2.89 ERA in six starts and Dylan Baker went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. The success of the rotation took a lot of heat off the bullpen as well, which had their best month of the season. That was especially true of Hunter Smith and Henry Owens, who each made 10 appearances with ERAs under three.
Sioux City won season series, 7-6
June 19 – Sioux City 7, Kansas City 6
June 19 – Sioux City 3, Kansas City 4
June 20 – Sioux City 7, Kansas City 4
August 18 – Kansas City 6, Sioux City 3
August 19 – Kansas City 0, Sioux City 5
August 20 – Kansas City 2, Sioux City 3
August 24 – Kansas City 9, Sioux City 5
August 25 – Kansas City 2, Sioux City 6
August 26 – Kansas City 2, Sioux City 8
August 30 – Sioux City 1, Kansas City 3
August 31 – Sioux City 2, Kansas City 3
September 1 – Sioux City 5, Kansas City 6
September 2 – Sioux City 9, Kansas City 5
Explorers Leaders Against T-Bones:
Dylan Kelly: .404, 7 R, HR, 9 RBI
Sebastian Zawada: 10 RBI, .275, 5 R
Kyle Wren: 12 R, .339, 6 RBI
Carlos Sierra: 2-0, 1.19 ERA, 22.2 IP, 22 K
Taylor Jordan: 2.70 ERA
Jose Velez: 1.23 ERA, 1-1, 6 appearances, 10 K, 7.1 IP
T-Bones Leaders Against Explorers:
Shawn O’Malley: .367, 5 R, 4 RBI
Casey Gillaspie: 6 RBI, .347, 5 R
Christian Correa: 6 RBI, .244, 5 R
Dylan Tice: 8 R, .321, 6 RBI
Hunter Smith: 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 7 K
Dylan Baker: 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 17 K
Evan Korson: 4 appearances, 1.50 ERA, 6 IP
These two teams have met once in the post-season. That was last year, a series the T-Bones won 3-2.
Keys to Success
- While the bullpen has been impressive all season, they have not been so against the T-Bones. Pobereyko and Fallwell have been quite ordinary and that will not do at this time of the year.
- Get the top of the batting order rolling. Nate Samson (.255) and Drew Stankiewicz (.234) have hit poorly against the T-Bones which denies the chance for a big inning. Samson hit .324, Kyle Wren .298, and Stankiewicz .278 during the regular season, and they will need those same kinds of numbers in this series.
- Figure out how to run. The Explorers led the league in stolen bases, but T-Bones catcher Christian Correa was quite good at shutting down running attacks, throwing out 37 percent. They cannot be afraid to run, but need to be smart about when to do it. This is a series where one play (aka 2018) could change the entire series.
- Get six out of your starters. This bullpen is not deep and the rotation is. That means the T-Bones need to ride that starting staff for as long as they can. Fortunately, they have three of the best in Baker, Collier, and Perrin, and T.J. House has looked solid since being acquired. They should be able to give Manager Joe Calfapietra at least six, if not seven every night in this series.
- Don’t allow the big inning. What has made the T-Bones so successful against Sioux City is that they don’t yield the six run frame. They play smart, allowing one or two to ensure it doesn’t become five or six.
- Be patient. Right now there is no situation where Kansas City cannot win. They battle back late and they win games in extra innings. They can fall behind by four or five early and that is ok. They know how to chip away until they get into a position to win. That means that Calfapietra can ride the starters for six even if they have yielded five early runs.
Kansas City T-Bones fans are probably going to hate to see me say this, but the T-Bones are the team to beat. I picked against them in both playoff series last season, had them finishing fourth in the South this year, and did not see them making the playoffs when the weekend began. My bad predictions have been proof that the T-Bones will win.
Right now, this team is poised to win it all once again. A lot of teams would have let the stadium situation deter their run, but they are like the guys in Major League. They found a rallying cry and have been unstoppable. The Explorers are a good team; they are just going to be beaten by a better one. Take the Kansas City T-Bones in four.
By Robert Pannier