Friday, February 6, 2015

Padres Win Title in 2015 Preseason Tourney ... Really!

Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton give Padres fans three reasons to be
 optimistic about the upcoming baseball season in San Diego. 

Fans of the San Diego Padres have a lot to look forward to this summer, if the APBA Baseball Game is any indication.

The Padres triumphed over the likes of the World Champion Giants, the Seattle Mariners and King Felix, and their West Coast brethren the Oakland A's on the way to winning an eight-term tournament using the newly released 2014 season APBA player cards. The Padres rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Felix Hernandez and the M's 6-5 in the championship matchup.

How did this squad, which finished 77-85 last summer, even make it to the final?

This tourney featured teams comprised of their current 40-man roster using the 2014 player cards. So the Padres offense got a considerable boost with the addition of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Wil Myers. The improved offense complemented a strong bullpen, featuring three A relievers (Thayer, Quackenbush and Benoit) along with a pair of B starters, Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner.

The other teams included in this tournament, formatted along the lines of the double-elimination College World Series, were the Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and my favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers. While a few squads lost players (e.g. Billie Butler from the Royals to the A's, and Pablo Sandoval from the Giants to the Sox), some saw significant additions, such as Nelson Cruz (double 1's) to the Mariners and Jon Lester (AXZ) to the Cubs.

In addition to current rosters, teams also could use their number-one starter in every game. (No need to rest in APBA!) So Madison Bumgarner started every game for the Giants while King Felix got the call for the M's. The designated hitter also was in use.

Not only was this a fun tournament to see how these "new and improved" teams might fare in 2015, but it also was a great way to get acquainted with the newly minted player cards.

San Diego's road to the title included an opening-round 6-4 win over the A's, followed by a 2-1 victory against the Cubs. The Padres defeated the Giants 2-0 on a three-hit shutout by Kennedy and a two-run single by Kemp.

After an opening round win over the Red Sox, 4-3, the Mariners got bounced to the loser's bracket, falling to the Giants 8-6. The M's rebounded with a 5-3 win over the Cubs; then a 7-1 pasting of the A's in the only blowout of the tourney. The Mariners earned a spot in the title game with a 5-3 revenge victory over the Giants.

Based on these tourney results, it's conceivable that all these teams may meet or exceed their records from last summer, though it may be difficult for the Giants to repeat as champions with the loss of "The Panda" and a weak starting rotation after Bumgarner. In fact, it's hard to believe that the Giants would win the title again in an APBA replay of the 2014 season, given the over-abundance of C starters in their rotation!

Here are some of the highlights:

Giants 5, Royals 3:
Angel Pagan smacks a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Giants and Madison Bumgarner the win in the tourney opener.

Mariners 4, Red Sox 3
New right fielder Seth Smith singles in Robinson Cano with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. King Felix goes the distance for the win.

Padres 6, A's 4
Justin Upton leads off the second inning with a solo home run, followed by a two-run homer by Yonder Alonso. The Padres score five runs off A's starter Sonny Gray.

Cubs 5, Brewers 4
Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara hits a three-run seventh-inning home run to lead the Cubs to the win. Jon Lester gets the victory, with help from Hector Rondon.

Red Sox 4, Royals 3
David Ortiz hits a three-run homer, driving in Hanley Ramirez and eliminating the Royals. Rick Porcello, acquired from Detroit, gets the win.

A's 4, Brewers 3
Coco Crisp drives in Sam Fuld with a sac fly in the 12th inning for the win over the Brewers. New A's third baseman Brett Lawrie hits a solo home run. Brewers' new first baseman Adam Lind goes 3-for-5, with three doubles, a run and two RBI.

Giants 8, Mariners 6
Pagan is the hero again for the Giants, driving in two runs in the top of the 12th inning to beat the Mariners. For the game Pagan drives in four runs. Justin Ruggiano, obtained from the Cubs, hits a home run for the M's with two out in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Padres 2, Cubs 0
Ian Kennedy, Dale Thayer and Joaquin Benoit shut out the Cubs, with the offense coming in the form of two solo home runs, one by Wil Myers and one by Tommy Medica.

A's 3, Red Sox 2
The A's eliminate the Sox on the strength of another home run by Brett Lawrie, this one a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh off Koji Uehara.

Mariners 5, Cubs 3
The M's score two runs on back-to-back-to-back doubles in the 13th inning by Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz to drop the Cubs out of the tournament. Cruz added a pair of home runs, driving in four runs. Dominic Leone got the win in relief, with a save by Fernando Rodney. Jorge Soler and Mike Olt homered for the Cubs.

Padres 2, Giants 0
Ian Kennedy knocks the Giants into the loser's bracket with a three-hit shutout over Bumgarner. Kemp drives in both runs with a single in the fourth inning.

Mariners 7, A's 1
Felix Hernandez holds the A's to one run on four hits, and is supported by Seth Smith, who smacks of pair of home runs, and a two-run homer by Cano.

Mariners 5, Giants 3
Nelson Cruz comes through again for the M's, driving in the winning runs with a two-out, two-run double in the top of the 10th inning. Hernandez was cruising until the bottom of the ninth, when Brandon Belt led off with a home run, and Brandon Crawford drove in the tying run with a two-out double. Leone got another win in relief.

Padres 6, Mariners 5
Nelson Cruz hit two more home runs for the Mariners, but it wasn't enough as the Padres rallied in the late innings to win the tournament. The M's took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. Ex-A's catcher Derek Norris drove in the Padres first run with a single in the fifth. He drove in another with a single in the seventh. In between, Justin Upton hit a sixth-inning home run. The Padres took the lead for good in the bottom of the eighth on a run-scoring single by Wil Myers. Hernandez took the loss for the M's; Kevin Quackenbush got the win in relief, with another save by Benoit.