Monday, February 15, 2010

Sierra Nevada Goldens Set Franchise Home Record after Perfect September Homestand; Sweep SoCal in Fight for Copper Division Supremacy

The Sierra Nevada Goldens entered the month of September riding the wave of a 6-Game home winning streak at Great American Ballpark and with a 1-Game lead over the rival SoCal Knights as they awaited their divisional nemesis as their 1st opponent on the home schedule of the BRASS League’s final month.

The 1st game of the 4-Game set versus the Knights featured Sierra Nevada’s Gil Meche against SoCal’s Mike Mussina. First Baseman Joey Votto got things going for SoCal with a 2-Run bomb in the top of the 2nd. The Goldens then bounced right back, a common theme in the series, as Dan Uggla doubled and Jack Wilson singled him in. Both Meche and Mussina cruised along through the 3rd and 4th innings until Mussina lost his control in the bottom of the 5th, leaving pitches over the plate. With two outs, David Ross doubled, Conor Jackson singled, and Jermaine Dye Doubled consecutively giving the Goldens a 3-2 lead. In the top of the 7th, the Golden’s defense gave the lead back to the Knights as second baseman Dan Uggla committed a 2-base error off the bat of Bengie Molina, giving the Knights a 4-3 lead and blowing the chance of a win for Meche. The Goldens didn’t hang their heads however. Adam Dunn stroked a “no doubt about it” shot off reliever Mike Adams in the bottom of the 8th tying the game at 4 apiece. The Goldens completed the comeback in the bottom of the 9th when Mike Lowell drew a 1-out walk and gave way to speedster, Fernando Perez, making his MLB debut following a September call-up. Pinch hitter Jason Giambi then stepped to the plate and clubbed a double to center scoring Perez all the way from 1st, giving the Goldens the series opener 5-4 and a 2-game lead in the standings.

In Game-2, SoCal’s Clayton Kershaw faced Mark Buehrle of the Goldens. Kershaw got an early 1-0 lead in the 2nd, but the Goldens line-up bounced back with 2 in the bottom of the 2nd and 4 in the 3rd, knocking the young lefty out of the game early. Left fielder, Jose Guillen, did the damage hitting a 3-run homer and finished 3 for 4 with 4 RBI’s in the 6-3 Goldens victory, giving Buehrle his 16th win of the season.

Game-3 was a hard-fought contest with veteran Jamie Moyer on the hill for Sierra Nevada and Shaun Marcum throwing for the Knights. Moyer was brilliant giving up only 1 run on 3 hits over 8 innings as the SoCal bats struggled against a lefty starter for the 2nd day in a row. Marcum was just as effective while pitching a shut-out thru 6, but Dan Uggla popped his 39th HR of the season in the 7th, tying the game at one apiece. In the bottom of the 8th, Marcum walked pinch hitter Jason Giambi to lead off the inning. An out later, big Adam Dunn stepped up and clouted a 2-run shot, his 42nd of the year, and gave the Goldens a 3-1 victory.

The Goldens sent Josh Beckett to the mound in search of the series sweep against Jesse Litsch. Beckett gave up 3 earned runs and struck out 7 thru 7 1/3 Innings while Litsch gave up 4 earned runs thru 6 1/3 innings. Each pitcher gave up 7 hits, but the big hit came with 2-outs in the 6th when Goldens’ catcher Yadier Molina singled in Jermaine Dye giving the Goldens the 4-3 lead. Closer, Brian Fuentes, earned his 32nd save and preserved Beckett’s 14th win, the 4-game sweep, and gave Sierra Nevada a 5-game lead in the Copper Division standings. The Knights had early leads in all four contests, but the Goldens were able to come from behind each time. Adam Dunn was the series MVP slugging 2 late-inning HR’s, but the Goldens starters deserve credit as Buehrle, Moyer, & Beckett all earned victories. Closer, Brian Fuentes also earned a win and 2 saves in the series.

The Goldens continued the homestand by sweeping 4 games against the Duluth-Superior Dukes & 3 games against the Phoenix Phoenix. Games 1 & 3 against the Dukes were tough, extra-inning victories for the Goldens but overall, Sierra Nevada outscored their opponents 53-20 in the 7 games. During the 7 games, Dan Uggla hit 4 HR’s giving him 43 on the season, tied with Adam Dunn for most on the team. Mark Buehrle earned his 17th win and Beckett earned his 15th.

The historic 11-0 homestand gave the Goldens their best season home record in franchise history at 60-21, topping the 2005-06 Happy Valley Heroes mark of 57-24. The Goldens finished off the home schedule by winning 17 straight and 19 of 21. Sierra Nevada has now cut the magic number to 4 over the Cream City Pirates for the wild-card, so barring a miracle; the Goldens will be heading to the playoffs. The Goldens will see if they can clinch their 1st Copper Division title on the upcoming 11-game road trip to finish off the season. The magic number to clinch the division over SoCal is 7, but the Knights will be chomping at the bit to redeem themselves and take back control of the division as the two teams square off for 4 games.