Antacids, Xanax in High Demand as American Association Season Closes
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks at the final weekend of the American Association season with four teams tied for first in their divisions and one team a game out, plus one team hanging on by a thread. It should make for a great weekend as four of those teams have head-to-head matchups.
An Anxiety Filled Weekend
The 2019 American Association kicked off 116 days ago, with 575 games already played. Amazingly, after all of those games all it has done is eliminate three teams from contention in each division. That means that six teams are still alive to make the playoffs, with four teams tied for first place in their division heading into Friday night’s action. That is enough to leave more than a few managers reaching for antacids.
This could very well be the most exciting end to an American Association season, primarily because the two teams that were at the top of their respective divisions beginning the week, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Cleburne Railroaders, have fallen on hard times in their last 10 games, opening the door for the competition to make their move.
Here is a look at each division, including the scenarios on how a team makes the playoffs.
We already know that they are in. They clinched their spot in the playoffs about a week ago, and are now looking to lockup the top spot in the North.
The problem is that the RedHawks are free-falling since losing starting catcher, Daniel Comstock, and shortstop, Yhoxian Medina. The loss of Comstock was mitigated by the acquisition of Wilfredo Gimenez, but it is hard to replace one of the best all around shortstops in the league and the captain of your defense.
Fargo-Moorhead is 4-6 in their last 10, but more revealing is that they have lost their last four, including two to the St. Paul Saints. That enabled St. Paul to move into a first place tie in the division.
They face the Saints on Friday before heading home to take on the Cleburne Railroaders, who are also battling to win their division. This is honestly a nightmare situation for the team as they looked like the likely league champs 10 days ago. Now this team is likely destined for a second place finish in the division and an early exit from the playoffs.
St. Paul Saints
The magic number for St. Paul is one, meaning all they need is a victory or a Chicago Dogs loss and they have clinched a playoff spot. The Saints take on the Dogs in Chicago this weekend, so they can secure that spot even if they lose to the RedHawks at home tonight. However, no one should consider that a good option right now.
Should St. Paul lose tonight, winning one of three in Chicago seems like it is almost inevitable, but considering that the last time they traveled to Routine Field (August 2-4) they got their butts handed to them, tonight’s game should be considered a must win. The Dogs outscored the Saints 33-11 in that series, so the team must take care of business tonight.
Should St. Paul defeat Fargo-Moorhead on Friday, don’t be surprised if the Saints take the division title. In fact, they could very likely get swept in Chicago and still win the North. St. Paul would have finished the season 9-3 against the RedHawks, meaning that Fargo would have to take two of three from Cleburne (if St. Paul was swept) to win the division. That is not going to happen.
The St. Paul Saints are 14-2 in their last 16 games. Look for them to be 17-3 in their last 20, making them division champions. They would also have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
A lot of things have to go perfectly for Chicago to make the playoffs. First off, they have to defeat Milwaukee tonight and hope that the RedHawks can take down the Saints. Should that happen, they then have to sweep St. Paul. They have shown they can do that.
However, one must consider that ace Eddie Medina did not start for the Saints in that series in Chicago, and St. Paul is the hottest team in the league right now. Unfortunately for Chicago, that is a bridge too far. The Dogs post-season aspirations will end tonight.
Wow, this is going to be quite a weekend, especially considering that the Sioux City Explorers travel to Kansas City to take on the T-Bones in a four-game series that starts on Friday. Because Sioux City is one game ahead of Kansas City in the standings, the one thing we do know is that these two teams cannot finish tied with one another (dare we say it) unless there is a rainout cancellation of one of those games. This is always a concern in Kansas City, especially considering that they have had seven postponements at home this season, and the forecast calls for rain on both Friday and Saturday.
The prospects of having to win a division title by beating the RedHawks in Fargo-Moorhead is not particularly appetizing, but the odds of them doing so may be better than ever. If the RedHawks are the best team on paper, the Railroaders are not far behind, if at all. They stack up against the RedHawks quite well, and don’t have the injury issues. In fact, they recently returned Angel Rosa making this arguably the best team in the American Association.
To make the playoffs, Cleburne has to win three games. No matter what would happen between the Explorers and the T-Bones, they would be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs if they win three of their remaining contests.
Right now, they lose the tie-breakers with the Explorers, because Sioux City finished 8-5 against Cleburne. Unfortunately for the Railroaders, the T-Bones own the tie-breaker as well, going 9-3 against the Railroaders.
Because of those tie-breakers, the playoff picture is a bit murky for Cleburne. They must finish a game ahead of either Kansas City or Sioux City to win the division. Should they fall to second, they must also ensure that they are not tied for that spot either or they will be the odd ones out. So, for example, if the Explorers and T-Bones split the four game series and Cleburne lost three of their last four, Kansas City would be tied with the Railroaders for second and would win the second playoff spot by winning the season series.
This means the Railroaders must take care of business. They should consider every contest this weekend a must win, especially if they want the division title. To assure that, they must win all four games and hope Kansas City wins one of those games. Look for them to win three to win the division.
Sioux City Explorers
That pathway is clear for Sioux City. All they need is a split with the T-Bones and they are in the playoffs. By holding a one game advantage over the T-Bones, K.C. must win three of four to overtake them, so a split is all they need.
If they want to win the division, all they need to do is to have an identical or better record than Cleburne. Owning the tie-breaker gives them basically a one-game lead, so a sweep would assure the division crown.
Should they lose three of four or get swept by the T-Bones, the Explorers need the Railroaders to have the identical record to still make the playoffs.
Kansas City T-Bones
Being one game out of the top spot makes the pathway to the playoffs a little more challenging for the T-Bones. It starts by handling business against the Explorers. They must take three of four from Sioux City to jump ahead of the Explorers to make the playoffs.
If they finish with an identical record with Cleburne, they win the tie-breaker. That would mean that if Kansas City ties the Railroaders for the top spot, they would also be crowned division champions with the Railroaders finishing in second. If they lose three of four to the Explorers and the Railroaders are swept in the final four, they would earn the final playoff spot. The same would be true if they split with Sioux City and the Railroaders lose three of four.
Should Kansas City win three of four and Cleburne split their final four games, the T-Bones would win the division. This would also be true if the T-Bones sweep and the Railroaders win three of their final four.
Sadly for Kansas City, we see this weekend series as a split. Sioux City wins the second playoff berth and the T-Bones are left hoping there will be a T-Bones team next year. (See the stadium issue story.)
With all those scenarios in play, there is obviously a lot on the line with each game during this weekend. That should make it exciting one for fans and borderline panic attack for managers. What makes this whole scenario even more exciting is that we may not know who the four playoff teams will be until contest 599 is finished.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image by Kathy Stetz/Capture Twin Cities