Drury Dominates as Explorers Clinch Playoff Spot
By Dan Vaughan, Jr., Sioux City Explorers
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Sioux City Explorers (50-44) came into game two of a three game series against the Kansas City Monarchs (55-39) with a strange playoff scenario. Sioux Falls, who trails Sioux City by two games in the standings, could clinch a playoff spot and the Explorers could drop their game to the Monarchs, and still despite a better record, not have their boarding pass for the postseason. Sioux City took care of business and made that point mute in a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Monarchs Wednesday night at Legends Field.
The Monarchs, who hold the American Association’s top record, needed a win to clinch their fourth straight West Division title. The X’s would score a pair in the third and two ninth inning insurance runs to get their ninth win against Kansas City this season in 11 games.
Ashton Goudeau (2-1), who came in on a roll giving up just two earned runs in 11 innings for Kansas City, got the starting nod for the Monarchs. Sioux City would strand a leadoff double by Wilfredo Gimenez in the second but would not waste their second scoring chance in the top of the third off the former Big Leaguer. Chase Harris led off with a single and was followed by Daniel Lingua who shot one the other way to left to put runners at first and second. Goudeau picked up a double play ball to get the first two outs, but he would then issue a walk to John Nogowski. Matt Lloyd would double off the wall in left to drive in one run and Gimenez would single another run home to make it 2-0 Sioux City.
Austin Drury (5-5) was outstanding for the Explorers. He came into his start with a 2.70 ERA in the month of August and he would continue his strong finish to the season. The lefty scattered four hits with eight strikeouts. The only run he allowed came on a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh by Miker Adolfo.
Right-hander Parker Carraci came in for Drury following a walk in the seventh and Sioux City clinging to a 2-1 lead. He would strike out the next two and retire LJ Hatch on a ground ball to third to end any threat for Kansas City. In the eighth inning, Carraci walked Andy Yerzy, but got a double play ball off the bat of Odubel Herrera to hold KC in check. He then retired Justin Wylie on a pop out to second to end the inning.
They would go to the ninth with Sioux City holding a 2-1 lead. The Explorers would ring the register twice getting two huge insurance runs. Harris would work a one out walk off Monarchs closer Patrick Weigel and immediately steal second. Weigel uncorked a wild pitch to move Harris to third base. Lingua would single past the drawn in infield to make it 3-1 in favor of the X’s. Lingua was also on the move as he would steal second base to get into scoring position. Weigel would get Ota on a ground ball to first then Nogowski would single up the box to score Lingua for the final run for Sioux City.
Sean Rackoski, pitching down the road from where he played his college ball at the University of Kansas, came in and picked up his 19th save. He would strike out Chris Herrmann and then walk Adolfo. Brian O’Grady then bounced into a game-ending double play to seal the win for Sioux City. The Explorers pen closed out the game by going three scoreless innings.
After a year away from playoff baseball the Explorers return to the party. It is the sixth time Manager Steve Montgomery has guided the team to the postseason and the seventh time in the American Association. The seeding is still up in the air as Kansas City still needs one more win to clinch the top spot in the west. Under the American Association playoff format, the top seed picks their opponent, and the other two teams play each other. The Explorers will play their first playoff game Wednesday September 6, but the opponent, location and time are still to be determined.
The Explorers and Monarchs will play the final game of the three-game series Thursday night, August 31, with a first pitch of 7:00 p.m. in Kansas City, Kansas. Stay tuned to the Explorers website and social channels for updates about playoff details and ticket information. Tickets for the season can be purchased online as XSBaseball.com, in person at the Lewis and Clark Park Box Office or by calling 712-277-WINS. You can catch all the X’s action on aabaseball.tv and on radio at KSCJ 94.9 FM and 1360 AM with the pregame beginning 30 minutes prior to first pitch.