In any other league, a Richmond-Durham matchup would be worthy of a World Series, or at least a league championship series. But this season, HBD for HDers II’s two most winning teams are squaring off in the league divisional series. The winner of the marquee matchup will be odds-on favorite to advance through the league championship. The National League bracket is a complete tossup, with all four teams winning 96-98 games in the regular season.
Here are the division playoff series capsules:
No. 5 Richmond Rebels (100-62) vs No. 1 Durham Daddies (122-40)
HISTORY: Richmond returns to the playoffs for the first time since Season 3. Owner steelerstime continues a remarkable turnaround for the franchise that won the Season 1 World Series. Durham, owner of the league’s best record, captured its seventh consecutive division title and is looking for its fourth World Series title.
SEASON SERIES: Durham won, 6-4.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Durham cruised to the No. 1 seed by winning the AL South over second-place Richmond by 22 games. The Rebels needed a six-run ninth inning rallt to win the decisive Game 5 against a gutty Kansas City team in the wild card round.
WHO’S HOT: Richmond SS Alan Vickers hit .389 in the wild card round and led the Rebels with three homers. 3B Alex Jung (.385) and 2B Dann Cone (.333) are also swinging hot bats. Durham was led in the regular season by Gus Cora (.352/72/159) as well as LF Lariel Neruda, RF Courtney Rogers and SS Benny Alfonseca.
WHO’S NOT: Richmond SP J.D. Boyer was lit up in his only playoff appearance, giving up 5 runs in 3.2 innings. RF Ugueth Romero is hitting .200 in the postseason. Durham is solid all the way around, but are hoping to get more consistent play from SP Octovio Chavez (29 starts, 1.50 WHIP, 5.10 ERA.)
No. 3 Detroit Domination (82-80) vs No. 2 Columbus Crush (83-79)
HISTORY: Detroit is in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and has captured its third straight division title. Columbus has won its second consecutive division title. Both teams are looking advance to their first conference championship.
SEASON SERIES: Columbus won, 6-4.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Both teams narrowly won their divisions. Detroit edged Dover and Chicago by a game in the AL North, then took four games to dispatch No. 6 seed Charleston in the wild card round. Columbus topped Boston by 2 games in the AL East to secure a first-round playoff bye.
WHO’S HOT: Detroit SS Roger Conine hit a blistering .571 and RF swung at a .500 clip in the wild card round. SP Rod Gagne gave up three hits and 1 run in his only playoff start. Columbus is led by DH Sven Lundquist (.325/27/87), RF Rafael Tejera (.359/20/97) and slugging SS Livan Servet (33 homers). Pitcher Marvin Jefferies won 21 games in relief.
WHO’S NOT: Detroit bats were ice cold in the wild card round. Owner petec needs 3B Ricky Gibson (.071), OF Orber Jimenez (.071), OF Miguel Cervantes (.077), C Giomar Roque and OF B.C. Tatis (.167) to rebound. Columbus is counting on a consistent offense, but needs No. 2 starter Pedro Mendoza (33 starts, 124 IP, .4.99 ERA, 1.60 WHIP) to be a big-game pitcher in the playoffs.
No. 5 Syracuse (98-64) vs. No. 1 Toledo (98-64)
HISTORY: A battle of two founding league members. Syracuse has been in the playoffs every year under nashumb’s leadership, but is looking for its first conference championship. Lowly’s Toledo team needed a tiebreaker to beat Syracuse for the NL East title and hopes to makes the Dirt Roosters’ fourth World Series appearance.
SEASON SERIES: Tied 5-5.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Three Saltine Warrior pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout to close out wild card series against Vancouver in five games. The Dirt Roosters are the National League’s No. 1 seed.
WHO’S HOT: Saltine Warrior 2B Eric Edwards is stroking .429 in the playoffs. RF Mariano Alvarez added two homers to his .400 playoff average. SP Hensley Nixon was lights out against Vancouver, allowing five hits and three runs in 11.2 innings. Toledo’s rotation is anchored by Russ Wall (16-8, 166 Ks, 1.26 WHIP. 1B Sal Simmons keys the Dirt Rooster attack, hitting .338 with 43 HR and a team-best 127 RBIs. Five players have scored more than 100 runs, led by C Lance Kaufman’s 110.
WHO’S NOT: Syracuse CF Christian Gibbons struggled in the first round with a .136 average and eight strikeouts. 1B Omar Soriano hit .317 with 46 homers in the season, but is off to a .211 start with 1 HR in the playoffs. Toledo 2B Rodrigo Romano drove in 102 runs but only hit .250 in the season. The opposition is batting .284 against Dir Rooster starter Jed Simmons, the highest average against in Toledo’s rotation.
No. 6 Washington D.C. 42’s (96-66) vs No. 2 Louisville Derbies (98-64)
HISTORY: schuyler101 improved Washington by 32 games this season, bringing the 42’s to the playoffs for the first time since Season 1. Louisville won its division for the second consecutive year under gerald007, one of the league’s founding owners.
SEASON SERIES: Louisville won, 6-4.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Washington finished in third place in the NL East, 2 games behind Toledo and Syracuse, and then swept. No. 3 seed Portland in the wild-card round. Louisville dominated the NL South, winning the division by 28 games and clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs.
WHO’S HOT: Washington LF Max Guerrero hit .500 in the first round; CF Jose Monanez is hitting .357 with 2 stolen bases in the playoffs. Louisville’s attack is led by LF Robert Tomberlin (.349/47/149), RF Raul Andujar (.316/48/110), and 2B Cole Woodson (41 homers)
WHO’S NOT: Washington C Mateo Medrano struck out 5 times in 12 at bats in the wild card round. Louisville SS Patrick Gordon is a defensive whiz, but is hitting .229 with 104 Ks.