The Game 1 starting matchup is Lansing's Shane Dawson vs. Great Lakes' Grant Holmes. It's going to be about a lot more than that, naturally, but that's where we'll start. (I doubt Holmes pitches more than six innings -- he hasn't pitched more than six innings all year, and has been increasingly limited by pitch count.)
The 19-year-old Holmes was the Dodgers' first-round draft choice in 2014 and is considered the #5 prospect in the organization and the top pitching prospect on the Loons. He faced the Lugnuts first on July 8th and pitched four scoreless innings despite walking a season-high five. On July 19th, he gave up solely a Christian Vazquez solo home run in six strong innings. On September 2nd, pitching opposite of Marcus Stroman, he worked three perfect innings and then allowed three quick runs in the fourth thanks to a Richard Urena two-run homer and a Ryan McBroom RBI double.
I expect Holmes to get off to a nice quick start tonight, with middle relief up and ready to tag in for him in the 4th/5th innings. If he makes it six, that's a huge plus for Great Lakes.
- D.J. Davis is 1-for-7 with three strikeouts against Holmes.
- Chris Carlson is 0-3 with three walks.
- Jason Leblebijian is 1-5 with a double and two walks.
- Ryan McBroom is 1-6 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts.
- David Harris is 0-6 with three strikeouts.
Shane Dawson is the Lugnuts' closest thing to an ace. The Pan Am gold medalist is the most competitive pitcher on the staff, as well as perhaps its top strikeout artist going right now with Sean Reid-Foley on the DL. Could he go six innings? Heck, he could go seven or eight innings depending on how well he commands his stuff. (In his longest start of the year/his career, he pitched eight innings in a huge win at Bowling Green.) In a key game like this, where winning is heavily weighted, Lansing couldn't ask for a better fighter in its corner.
Dawson pitched five innings in relief against the Loons on April 16th, allowing only one run. He took the Loons on again in a starting assignment on June 20th, stopping them on two runs in six innings in a Lugs victory that sewed up the first-half Eastern Division title.
- Michael Ahmed is 2-for-3 with a single, double, two walks and two runs scored.
- Jimmy Allen is 0-5 with a strikeout.
- Federico Celli is 1-3 with an RBI double.
- Justin Chigbogu is 0-3.
- Julian Leon is 2-3 with two doubles, a run, an RBI and a strikeout.
Those Dawson vs. Ahmed/Leon matchups should prove significant tonight. Don't sleep on Chigbogu, who slugged three-run homers in back-to-back games last week in Lansing.
The Great Lakes Loons just added a potential X-Factor to their starting lineup: Jordan Paroubeck, rated the #25 prospect in the Dodgers' organization, a former Padres second-rounder acquired from the Atlanta Braves on July 2nd. According to this SB Nation piece, Paroubeck received hitting lessons from a family friend named Barry Bonds. Those lessons sure paid off, as the 20-year-old batted .379 with a 1.075 OPS in 22 games with the Ogden Raptors. He's a switch-hitting outfielder, he draws walks, he hits, and he hits for power. The Loons lineup just got better.
The Lugnuts' overall lineup has been 70% settled for a little while: Chris Carlson, D.J. Davis and David Harris are in the outfield; Jason Leblebijian, Richard Urena and Ryan McBroom are in the infield; and Danny Jansen is the starting catcher.
The top of the lineup will start with Carlson, Urena, Leblebijian, McBroom, Davis, Harris, and onward.
Lansing manager Ken Huckaby thus has two slots to play around with, at third base and at designated hitter. He can go with gloveman Gunnar Heidt at third, or perhaps Justin Atkinson, or Alex Maldonado. He can DH one of the three. He can roll the dice and DH backup catcher Michael De La Cruz, who is batting .311 with a .356 on-base percentage in the second half after hitting only .118 in the first half.
Put me on the spot, and I have a suspicion that we'll see Atkinson in the order. Put me in the manager's chair, and I'd use De La Cruz somehow, someway.
A textbook Lugnuts win looks a little like this...
- Shane Dawson pitches 6-7 innings, allowing 1-3 runs. The veteran offense wears away at Holmes, scoring a run here and a run there, Danny Jansen bashing a home run, tacking on a few more against the Loons bullpen, and cruises to a relatively stress-free victory. Lansing 7, Great Lakes 3.
A textbook Loons win looks a little like this...
- Holmes matches Dawson zero for zero, then hands the ball over to the sturdy Great Lakes pen. The Lugnuts' bullpen/defense unravels in the late going. Great Lakes 4, Lansing 1, as Dow Diamond goes crazy.
But of course it's the playoffs, so throw out that textbook and be prepared for weirdness.
Here we go.