OKC Mounts Miraculous Comeback to Win Division Title
The Dodgers won four straight games in two days over Colorado Springs to clinch the PCL American Northern Division title and PCL playoff spot
Needing to win at least four games in a five-game series against Colorado Springs, Oklahoma City Dodgers Manager Bill Haselman told his team to get the final series of the regular season to Sunday with a chance to win the division.
They did that and more.
After dropping Game 1, 8–2, to Colorado Springs, the Dodgers proceeded to win four straight games in two days en route to clinching their third division title in four years and 10th division title for OKC since 1998.
The Dodgers will now face the Memphis Redbirds in the American Conference Finals of the PCL playoffs. OKC will host Games 1 and 2 on Sept. 5 and 6, respectively, before traveling to Memphis for Games 3–5 Sept. 7–9 (Games 4 and 5 are if necessary).
Over the four-game winning streak against the Sky Sox, OKC (75–65) outscored Colorado Springs, 40–17. In addition, the Dodgers scored a combined seven first-inning runs and 14 combined runs over the first three innings.
OKC was led at the plate by Henry Ramos (11 RBI), Matt Beaty (6 RBI) Edwin Ríos (5 RBI) and Connor Joe (5 RBI) — driving in 27 of the 40 runs.
The team combined for 53 hits, batting .390 (53x136), over the four games.
Ramos was the hottest hitter of the bunch, going 13-for-17 at the plate with three doubles and one home run.
Joe, who went 6-for-11 with one double and a home run, drew six walks and scored 10 runs.
Prior to the four-game offensive surge, the Dodgers scored only 56 runs in their previous 19 games combined while batting .213.
On the pitching side, the OKC staff was able to pitch out of numerous jams. Over the last four games, Dodger pitchers stranded 25 Sky Sox runners and held them 8-for-31 with runners in scoring position, including 2-for-16 over the final two games.
Two righties — Brian Schlitter and Joe Broussard — and two lefties — Michael Johnson and Manny Bañuelos — led the bullpen with 11.1 combined innings while only surrendering three combined runs.
Tied, 4–4, in Game 2 Saturday night, play was halted at the end of the sixth inning of a seven-inning game due to rain. After a three-plus hour delay, the game was suspended and pushed to Sunday, along with the regularly scheduled game for Sunday.
After no one scored in the seventh, Will Smith broke a tie in the top of the eighth inning with a game-winning two-run home run — notching his first career Triple-A home run. Schlitter pitched 2.0 shutout innings in the seventh and eighth for his seventh win of the season.
Game 3, a regular nine-inning game, started about half an hour later and was a slugfest from the beginning with neither starting pitcher getting through the fourth inning. But the Dodgers offense scored early and often, highlighted by a five-run fourth inning on the way to an 11–8 victory.
Needing to win Game 4 on Monday to force another game later in the day, OKC once again got out to a hot start, scoring three runs in the first. The Sky Sox tried to respond by loading the bases in three straight innings, but only came away with one run. The Dodgers staff stranded 10 runners on base to win, 7–1, and force a winner-take-all Game 5.
Just like they had since their Game 2 win, the Dodgers stormed out to an early lead — plating two, three and three runs in the first three innings, respectively. OKC didn’t look back as they added two runs in the fifth and six in the seventh to clinch the division with a 16–4 win. The team notched 18 total hits in Game 5 — one shy of the season-high.
The four straight victories to clinch the division was OKC’s longest winning-streak since winning four straight June 14–17.
Memphis, the defending PCL Champions, had yet another banner year. With a record of 83–57, the Redbirds collected the most wins in the PCL on their way to winning the PCL American Southern Division. In addition, they won two PCL awards — Manager of the Year, Stubby Clapp, and Pitcher of the Year, Dakota Hudson. Although Hudson hasn’t appeared in a Triple-A game since late July, Memphis still sports a PCL-best 3.54 ERA.
The offense, however, is ranked in the middle of the pack in most categories.
In 16 regular season meetings in 2018 versus Memphis, the Dodgers went 6–10. In those six victories, OKC shut out the Redbirds four times. However, Memphis did outscore OKC, 75–64, during the 16 contests. It was also just the third time the Redbirds won 10 or more games in the 21-year history between the clubs.
This will only be the second time the two foes have clashed in the PCL playoffs. Memphis swept the lone matchup, 3–0, in the 2010 American Conference Finals.
The teams will play a best-of-five series for the right to play either the El Paso Chihuahuas or Fresno Grizzles for the PCL Championship Sept. 11–16.