Tri-City advances; El Paso, Fort Wayne open playoffs Wednesday

Dust Devils reach Northwest League championships

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Short-season Single-A Tri-City advanced to the Northwest League championship series Tuesday night with a 4-2 win over Everett while Triple-A El Paso and low Single-A Fort Wayne open their post-season play Wednesday night.

Tri-City scored twice in the eighth to break a 2-2 tie to win the Northern division title by sweeping the first two games in the best 2-of-3 series.

Shortstop Peter Van Gansen opened the Dust Devils' eighth with a walk. First baseman Ty France (a San Diego State product) followed with a single. Designated hitter Henry Charles singled home Van Gansen with the go-ahead and catcher A.J. Kennedy singled home France to make it 4-2.

Kennedy was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Charles was 3-for-4 with a double, a RBI and a run scored. Van Gansen was 1-for-3 with a walk. France was 1-for-4. And center fielder Rod Boykin was 2-for-3 with a double and a RBI.

Right-handed starter Joel Linares allowed two runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Left-handed reliever Jerry Keel allowed a hit and a walk with two strikeouts in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Left-hander Elvin Liriano pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

The Dust Devils will open the best 2-of-3 Northwest League Championship Series Thursday night against the winner of Wednesday's Southern Division rubber match between Salem-Keizer and Hillsboro.

El Paso will open the best 3-for-5 Pacific Coast League semifinal series at Fresno Wednesday night. The Chihuahuas will have the homefield advantage.

Fort Wayne opens the best 2-of-3 Midwest League quarter series at Comstock, Mich., Wednesday. The series against West Michigan will conclude in Fort Wayne.

Right-hander Daniel McCutchen is scheduled to start the series opener against Fresno. He is 9-8 with a 3.60 earned run average (the sixth-best in the PCL) and is allowing a league-leading 1.16 baserunners per inning.

Right-hander Chris Smith (5-7, 3.60 ERA) will start the second game for the Chihuahuas followed by left-hander Robbie Erlin (7-6, 5.60 ERA with 105 strikeouts) and right-hander Casey Kelly.

The lineup for El Paso, which finished the regular season with a 78-66, could look like this:

1.3B Casey McElroy (.275-3 homers-32 RBIs in 72 games; 2. RF Hunter Renfroe (.333-6-24 in 21 games), 2B Ramiro Pena (.308-4-57), LF Jake Goebbert (.294-10-62), CF Rymer Liriano (.292-14-64), SS Hector Gomez (.358-3-22 in 29 games), 1B Cody Decker (.252-21-75) and C Jason Hagerty (.292-4-20 in 47 games).

Also available to the Chihuahuas is third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who hit .255 with four homers and 19 RBIs in 38 games since being optioned to El Paso from the Padres.

El Paso made one roster move Tuesday after first baseman-outfielder Tommy Medica was waived by the Padres - after he came off the disabled list - and was claimed by Miami. Infielder Benji Gonzalez was returned to El Paso from Double-A San Antonio.

El Paso's bullpen is currently led by right-handers Jay Jackson (3-3, 2.54 ERA, 14 saves), former Padre Dale Thayer (2-0, 0.93 ERA in seven appearances) and Michael Dimock (1-0, 1.47 ERA in 14 appearances) and left-hander Caleb Thielbar (0.73 ERA in nine appearances).

For Fort Wayne, right-hander Dinelson Lamet (5-8 with a 2.99 ERA that ranks seventh in the Midwest League) will start Wednesday's series opener.

Other starters available to Fort Wayne are left-hander Thomas Dorminy (11-7, 2.94 ERA) and right-handers Chris Huffman (9-6, 3.28 ERA), Eric Montas (12-7, 3.50 ERA) and Pete Kelich (3-2, 2.32 ERA).The bullpen is led by right-handers Colby Blueberg (4-1, 1.07 ERA, 21 saves) and Yimmi Brasoban (5-3, 2.26 ERA, 10 saves).

A possible starting lineup for the TinCaps, who went 29-10 down the stretch to finish 77-61:

1.2B/DH Luis Urias (.290-0-16 in 51 games), 2. SS Ruddy Giron (.285-9-49 in 95 games), 1B Trae Santos (.264-14-60; tied for fourth in the league in homers), 4. RF Franmil Reyes (.255-8-62, seventh in the league in RBIs), 5. LF Franchy Cordero (.243-5-34), 6. 3B Luis Tejada (.293-4-37 in 70 games), 7. CF Michael Gettys (.231-6-44), 8. 2B/DH Josh Van Meter (.250-0-3 in 25 games), 9. C Jose Ruiz (.214-0-24).

The TinCaps received another honor Monday when Reyes was named the Midwest League Player of the Week for the final week of the season.

Reyes, 20, a native of the Dominican Republic, hit .560 (14-for-26) for the week with four doubles, two homers, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound outfielder capped the week by going 5-for-5 with five RBIs in the season finale.