Governors' Cup Playoff Preview
August 24, 2018 - International League (IL) News Release
And down the stretch they come! With eleven days remaining in the 2018 regular season, none of the four participants in the upcoming Governors' Cup playoffs have secured their berths, yet. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are on the cusp of the franchise's first ever North Division championship, which they will have the opportunity to clinch at home this weekend when the 2nd-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders come calling. After beating Syracuse on Thursday, Lehigh Valley's magic number to clinch the division is down to two. One victory over the RailRiders is all the IronPigs need to clinch the North.
In the South Division, the defending League champion Durham Bulls are still in control, though nothing is settled yet. The 2nd place Norfolk Tides trimmed Durham's lead to 4.5 games after defeating Charlotte on Thursday. The top two clubs in the South will get together eight times over the season's final eleven days, starting with a four-game series at Harbor Park that gets underway Friday. Durham's magic number to win the South is seven.
The West Division race may go down to the wire. Columbus and Indianapolis are dead even after the Clippers took two out of three in a series this week at Victory Field. The Clippers and Indians have completed their season series against each other; meanwhile, the 3rd-place Toledo Mud Hens can still make things interesting, just 3.5 games behind the leaders with plenty of games remaining against both clubs. The 2nd place team in the West is currently positioned to win the Wild Card, but that's far from certain to last. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Norfolk are both just 2.0 games back, with Toledo (3.5 GB) still alive as well. The team capturing the Wild Card will face the North Division winner in the first round of the playoffs, while the champions of the West and South get together for the other semi-finals matchup.
Pirates & Phillies Organizations Anxious to End Cup Droughts
2018 marks the 40th season the Pittsburgh Pirates have been affiliated with an International League team. They will be the eleventh organization to reach that mark, but may become the first to do so without seeing a partner hoist the Governors' Cup. Indianapolis, which last won the Cup in 2000 while an affiliate of Milwaukee, hopes to be the first to deliver an IL title to Pittsburgh.
The Philadelphia Phillies have spent over five decades with a partner playing in the International League, including each season since 1987. The organization lays claim to a pair of Governors' Cups, but the most recent one came way back in 1961 by way of the Buffalo Bisons. Amongst the other MLB franchises in top contention for the Cup this year, the longest drought belongs to Baltimore. The Orioles are now more than two decades removed from their most recent IL title with Rochester in 1997.
The Durham Bulls are stampeding towards what they hope will be the franchise's fourteenth South Division title since joining the International League in 1998. The IL's pre-determined playoff format annually pits the winner of the South Division against the West Division champion in one of the Governors' Cup playoffs two first round series. Durham has proven to be a nightmare postseason matchup for the clubs from the IL West.
IL Hall of Famer Bill Evers managed the Bulls to a 4-1 record versus the West champion in five tries. Charlie Montoyo, also a member of the IL Hall of Fame, led Durham to seven playoff appearances and got past the best from the West six times. Last season Jared Sandberg became the third skipper in franchise history to get Durham to the Governors' Cup playoffs, and eventually the third to win it. The Bulls topped the winners of both the West (Indianapolis) and North (Scranton/WB) be- fore capping their campaign by defeating Pacific Coast League champion Memphis to claim the Triple-A Baseball National Championship.
If two teams finish the regular season in a tie for first place within their division and both teams will advance to the Governors' Cup playoffs, the teams will be considered division co-champions and the following tiebreaker format will be used to determine which team enters the postseason as the division champion and which will enter as the wild card.
If only one team will advance to the Governors' Cup playoffs, the two teams shall play one game the next day after the regular season concludes to determine their final standing. The additional game will be considered an extension of the championship season. The following tiebreaker format will be used to determine where the game will be played.
Any tie in the standings for the wild card position will be broken using this criteria and not play-in games.
Should a tie in the standings exist between more than two teams with two teams to advance, the tie will be resolved by first applying the tiebreaker criteria to determine the division champion.
1) The team with the most wins in the head-to-head season series;
2) The team with the highest winning percentage during intradivisional play;
3) The team with the highest winning percentage against the other two division winners;
4) The team with the greatest differential of runs scored and runs allowed during the season;
5) Should the run differential also be tied, the President of the League will flip a coin to make the determination.
Nothing Settled Just Yet in Division & Wild Card Races
NORTH DIVISION REPORT:
While the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Philadelphia Phillies) close in on what will likely be their first division title in 2018, it could also be the franchise's first time finishing with the League's winningest regular season record. It would mark the fourth time in the past five seasons the IL's top record comes from the North Division. Since 2011, there has been just one season the Wild Card didn't hail from the North, which occurred in 2015 when Columbus and Indianapolis tied for the League's top record. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York Yankees) are likely to see their run of three straight North titles end this season. If they wish to keep their playoff streak going, the RailRiders will have to do it by climbing to the top of the Wild Card standings.
IL NORTH STANDINGS
W-L PCT. GB Gm. Rem.
Lehigh Valley 77-52 .597 -- 11
Scranton/WB 66-61 .520 10.0 11
Pawtucket 61-67 .477 15.5 11
Buffalo 60-66 .476 15.5 12
Rochester 58-70 .453 18.5 12
Syracuse 56-73 .434 21.0 11
WEST DIVISION REPORT:
The Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers) are trying their best to climb back into the West Division race. Toledo hosts the 1st place Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians) for their final four home games of the season beginning Friday. The Clippers won a crucial series earlier in the week against the 2nd place Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates), meaning Columbus won the sea- son series against Indianapolis (13-12). Toledo lost a game to weather and isn't likely to be part of a tie atop the West. If Columbus and Indianapolis finish tied, the Clippers own the tiebreaking advantage. If both are advancing, they will be declared co-champions of the West with Indianapolis entering the playoffs in the Wild Card slot. However if another team has secured the Wild Card, Columbus and Indy would square off in a "play-in game" at Hunting- ton Park on Tuesday, September 4 to determine the West Division champion.
IL WEST STANDINGS
W-L PCT. GB Gm. Rem.
Indianapolis 69-60 .535 -- 11
Columbus 69-60 .535 -- 11
Toledo 65-63 .508 3.5 11
Louisville 55-71 .437 12.5 11
SOUTH DIVISION REPORT:
The race for the 2018 IL South Division flag will culminate in a pair of showdown series between the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays) and Norfolk Tides (Baltimore Orioles). The clubs will play four games at Harbor Park Friday through Monday, then finish the regular season with another four-game set at Durham Bulls Athletic Park beginning next Friday. A tie between the South's top two teams isn't likely, due to the fact Durham lost one game to weather in early August that won't be played. The Bulls have dominated the head-to-head series thus far this season, winning ten of the fourteen games played against the Tides. Durham has played .500 baseball in August, going 11-11 so far, but the Tides haven't been able to capitalize. Norfolk is 9-12 in August
IL SOUTH STANDINGS
W-L PCT. GB Gm. Rem.
Durham 71-57 .555 -- 11
Norfolk 67-62 .519 4.5 11
Gwinnett 63-65 .492 8.0 11
Charlotte 59-69 .461 12.0 11
WILD CARD REPORT:
Once division winners have been established, the Wild Card goes to the remaining team with the highest winning percentage. The most likely tie for the Wild Card would be between Norfolk and either Columbus or Indianapolis, each still on track to play a full 140-game schedule unlike SWB (-2) and Toledo (-1). Norfolk wouldn't have the edge in either scenario thanks to a combined 3-9 record head-to-head versus the Clippers and Indians. If all three finish with identical records, the tiebreaking formula would first be applied to determine the West winner (which would be Columbus), then the Wild Card winner (which would be the Indians).
WILD CARD LEADERS
W-L PCT. GB Gm. Rem.
Columbus/Indy 69-60 .535 -- 11
Scranton/WB 66-61 .520 2.0 11
Norfolk 67-62 .520 2.0 11
Toledo 65-63 .519 2.0 11
Gwinnett 63-65 .492 5.5 11
Pawtucket 61-67 .477 7.5 11
SERIES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:
Aug. 24-27: Scranton/WB at Lehigh Valley
The RailRiders may be too far back to catch Lehigh Valley, but they can at least avoid being on hand for a Coca-Cola Park coronation if they can pull off a sweep this weekend. The two clubs last met in late June in Lehigh Valley, splitting a four-game set. If Lehigh Valley can't seal it in this series, the clinching would have to come on the road in the season's final week.
Aug. 24-27: Durham at Norfolk
If Norfolk hopes to make a late-season comeback in the South, they'll need to reverse the trend in the head-to-head series against the Bulls. Durham has won ten of the fourteen games between the two clubs, though the Tides did take two out of three when the teams last met just before the All-Star break at DBAP.
Aug. 24-27: Columbus at Toledo
The Mud Hens may feel like the forgotten team in the IL West race. Despite leading the division for much of the way this season, Toledo fell behind the Clippers and Indians in late July. The 3rd place team can still make plenty of noise though, with all eleven of the team's final games coming against Columbus and Indianapolis, starting with four at Fifth Third Field.
Triple-A National Title Shot Awaits Governors' Cup Champion
For the thirteenth straight season the International League champion will square off against the Pacific Coast League's top team in a one-game, winner-take-all battle for the Triple-A Baseball National Championship. This year's tilt takes place at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Clippers, on Tuesday, September 18 at 7:00 p.m. eastern on NBCSN.
It appears there won't be much drama in the Pacific Coast League playoff races this year, with one clear exception. Just a half-game separates the top two contenders in the American North Division, with Oklahoma City (Los Angeles Dodgers) holding a slight edge over Colorado Springs (Milwaukee Brewers). The team that prevails will likely face Memphis (St. Louis Cardinals). The defending PCL champion Redbirds currently leads the American South Division by a 9.0-game margin.
The matchup in the PCL's Pacific Conference appears all but set. Fresno (Houston Astros) leads in Pacific North by 9.0 games, while in the Pacific South, El Paso (San Diego Padres) enjoys a 9.5-game advantage.
Under the guidance of manager Jared Sandberg, Durham captured the Triple-A Baseball National Championship trophy in 2017.
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