07 Sep Miners Still Alive But Need Help
STILL ALIVE, BUT NEEDING HELP
The Miners are still alive in the Northeast Division pennant race. But, after a disastrous holiday weekend, they’ll need two ingredients to come together during this final week of the Frontier League season.
They’ll need skill and they’ll need luck.
First, the skill: They’ll have to win at least six (and maybe all seven) of their remaining seven games.
And, the luck: They’ll need the Washington Wild Things to lose at least five (and maybe all six) of their remaining six games.
If the Miners win six of seven, they’ll finish the regular season at 53-42, for a winning percentage of .557. If the Wild Things lose six of six, they’ll finish at 53-43, for a winning percentage of .552. Of course, it would be even better if the Miners could win all seven out of seven for a .568 winning percentage. That would allow Washington to win one of its last six and finish at .562.
After sweeping a four-game series at Skylands Stadium over the weekend, the Wild Things’ “magic number” to clinch the division is two. Any combination of Washington wins and Miners losses adding up to two would make Washington the Northeast champs.
The Miners travel to Troy, NY, tonight to start a three-game series against the Tri-City ValleyCats, who take the field one game behind Quebec in their own race for the Atlantic Division crown.
Meanwhile, the Wild Things – the hottest team in the league with an eight-game winning streak and a 9-1 mark over the last 10 games – travel down the road for a three-game series against the New Jersey Jackals, who are 3-7 recently and 16 ½ games behind Washington.
Obviously, the Miners will be rooting for their Garden State cousins to sweep the Wild Things the next three nights.
Before tonight’s action, the Miners are five games behind Washington. If the Miners sweep three from Tri-City while the Jackals are sweeping three from Washington, that would leave Sussex County two games behind the Wild Things heading into the final weekend of the season.
The Miners will finish the regular schedule at home with four games against Quebec, including a Friday doubleheader to make up a rainout. The Wild Things will also wrap up the year at home, hosting Tri-City.
Barring any interference from Mother Nature, the Wild Things will finish the season with 96 game results, while the Miners will finish with just 95 games, resulting from the last scheduled game of the year with the New York Boulders being cancelled due to rain.
Are the Miners still alive in the division pennant race at this moment? Yes… but barely, and certainly not where they expected to be just a week ago when they were in first place, just as they’d been for the entire season.
The team’s only trip of the year to Quebec last week resulted in two losses in three games, enabling Washington to leap over the Miners and into first place for the first time all year.
Now, the Miners will have to win-win-win while hoping the Wild Things lose-lose-lose.
LABOR DAY’S LOST WEEKEND
Washington came to Skylands over the past holiday weekend for just the third and final series with the Miners, and they pulled off two consecutive 7-3 victories on Friday and Saturday nights.
In the first game, the visitors jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings and Sussex County could never come back.
The second game might have been even more exasperating as the Miners overcame an early deficit to make it a 3-3 game after seven. But, Washington added to its tally with one in the eighth and three in the ninth for the final score.
With Audy Ciriaco and LT Struble rapping out three hits apiece, the Miners outhit Washington, 12-10.
A drizzly Sunday afternoon rainout forced a Labor Day doubleheader under baseball-perfect skies, and that’s when the Wild Things brought out their ace for game one and a late-season-addition gem for game two.
First it was 23-year-old lefthander Ryan Hennen who pitched six innings of a seven-inning game, giving up two earned runs while improving his season record to 11-3 with a league-best 2.16 ERA in the 10-2 victory.
Then, in the nightcap, former big-leaguer Rob Whalen took the mound and took charge for Washington, hurling a seven-inning complete game in his second start for the team, yielding four hits and striking out seven as he improved to 2-0 with a 5-1 win.
A 27-year-old righty, Whalen was a 12th-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2012, and appeared with the Atlanta Braves in 2016 and the Seattle Mariners in 2017 and 2018. Before joining the Wild Things two weeks ago, he’d played Triple-A ball with the Minnesota Twins organization earlier this season.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If Washington wins two games this week, the race is over. If the Miners lose two games this week, the race is over. If Washington wins one and the Miners lose one, the race is over.
This coming Sunday’s regular-season finale is just too far away to think about. So, let’s take it one series at a time, beginning tonight.
Let’s just say the Miners sweep Tri-City. And, let’s just say the Jackals sweep Washington. Those two events would set up the most dramatic final weekend possible: Quebec at Miners and Tri-City at Washington, with not one but two division pennants on the line.
Now that would be fun.
So, let’s go Miners. And… let’s go Jackals.
By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Trentonian.