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Padres Win 2006 Championship
The Peoria Padres won their first Arizona League title since 1996 with a 5-2 win over the Tempe Angels.
The Padres jumped out in front with two first inning runs off Angels starter Esmerlin Jimenez and never looked back.
Padres leadoff batter Luis Durango opened the contest with a bunt single and advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw. After Rayner Contreras grounded out, Jimenez walked Cedric Hunter and Sam Carter to load the bases. Felix Carrasco followed with a ground single to right to plate the first two runs.
The Padres added another run in the fourth inning when catcher Brian Hernandez's double scored Jeremy Hunt.
Padres starter Pablo Menchaca held the Angels scoreless through the first five innings, giving up only three hits and a walk. A small but vocal contingent of Menchaca fans from his native Mexico loudly cheered his success.
The Angels closed the gap in the sixth to one run in the sixth when Clayton Fuller scored on a wild pitch and A.J. Davidiuk's fielder's choice tallied their second run.
But just when the Angels appeared to have made a game of it, the Padres took advantage of two Angel errors and a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to extend their lead back to three runs.
Matt Handley earned the save for the victorious Padres with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
Peoria Padres Win First-Half Title
The Peoria Padres edged out the Scottsdale Giants and Surprise Royals by one game to capture the Arizona League's first-half title.
When skipper Carlos Lezcano's è club took the field against the Phoenix Athletics on July 26, they controlled their own fate. With a ½ game lead over the Giants and Royals and with their closest competitors idle, a win assured a first-half crown for the Padres.
And the club took care of business early in the pivotal game by scoring four times against Athletics starter Henry Rodriguez in the first inning en route to a 14-3 win.
The Padres won six of their final eight games in the first half to capture the title. A strong offense and solid pitching were the club's keys to success. The Padres led the Arizona League in batting (.304) and runs scored (213) over the first 28 games. Their pitching had the AzL's third best ERA at 4.74. Complete First-Half Standings and League Leaders
Arizona League First-Half Highlights
Several outstanding team and individual performances highlight the first-half of the 2006 Arizona League season.
Run Producing Machine. If he keeps driving in runs at his current rate, Royals first baseman Scott Lucas will break the league RBI record. In his first 28 games, the 24-year-old Lucas knocked in 31 runs. Mariners catcher Alejandro Cadena set the Arizona League record with 60 RBIs in 2001.
Lucas also leads the AzL with seven triples.
Lucas, a native of Kansas City, has had many stops on his road to the Arizona League. After graduating from Blue Valley North High School, Lucas played at Neosho County Community College and then briefly with the Arizona Wildcats. Lucas also played briefly in two independent leagues the past two seasons. He appeared in two games with Mid-Missouri of the Frontier League in 2004 (one-for-four with no RBIs) and seven games with Kansas City in the Northern League last year (three-for-eleven with one RBI).
Lucas was signed by the Minnesota Twins organization in 2005 but he never appeared in a professional game with the Twins.
Power Surge. The Peoria Mariners are a record-setting pace for home runs. The club belted 26 roundtrippers in their first 28 games. The Arizona League team home run record is 44, set by the Surprise Royals #1 in 2003. Read more
Arizona League Players to Watch in 2006
The 2006 Arizona League opening day rosters include three first-round draft picks from this year's draft--Brandon Morrows (Mariners), Jeremy Jeffress (Brewers) and Hank Conger (Angels)►. Here are brief profiles of the three first rounders:
Brandon Morrow, Peoria Mariners. If you want to see Morrow, the fifth player selected in this year’s draft, you should move quickly. The University of California right-handed pitcher is on the Peoria Mariners’ opening day roster but it is not likely he will spend much time in the Arizona League. According to press reports, the Mariners are being “cautious” as Morrow gets into “game-ready shape” and he will report to Class-A Inland Empire (California League) once he is ready. Baseball America described Morrow as “a scout’s dream.” He throws hard (96-98 mph), has a clean delivery, and has average to above average secondary pitches. Read more
Championship Game on Thursday Night
The Tempe Angels defeated the Peoria Padres, 1-0, on Wednesday night to win the AzL's second half title and to force a championship game.
The same two teams will meet in the championship game on Thursday, August 31 at Peoria Sports Complex. Game time is 7:00 pm.
In Wednesday night's regular season finale, starting pitchers John Hussey for the Padres and Tim Schoeninger for the Angels locked horns in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel. Both starters pitched six scoreless innings.
The Angels tallied the game's only run in the seventh inning off reliever Robert Garramone. Angels left fielder Chris Lewis hit a one-out single He advanced on a wild pitch and a fielder's choice. Lewis then scored on Garramone's second wild pitch of the inning.
Neither the Angels or Padres have ever appeared in an Arizona League championship game. In their 14 years in the AzL, the Angels have never won a championship. The Padres won their lone AzL title in 1996 (before the one-game championship playoff was initiated).
Arizona League Player Involved in Trade for Big Leaguer
The trading deadline generally does not affect Arizona League players.
But don't tell that to Padres pitcher Juan Ceda, who was dealt to the Chicago Cubs on July 31 for major leaguer Todd Walker and $350,000. After the trade, Ceda simply moved from Peoria to Mesa and joined the Cubs' Arizona League club.
A. Morales Tosses Complete Game to Keep Royals' Pennant Hopes Alive
It was do-or-die for the Royals when they faced off against the Giants in a doubleheader on July 22. Trailing the Giants by one game, the Royals needed at least a split to kept their first-half pennant hopes alive.
In the first game, Royals pitcher Angelo Morales took the hill and was up to the challenge. The 20-year-old Panamanian held the Giants hitless over the first 5⅓ innings before yielding a double to Tayler Creswell. The Giants added a second hit with no outs in the top of the seventh inning but Morales retired the next three batters.
But Morales' seven-inning complete game was in doubt because the Royals had also failed to score through the first six frames. Unless the Royals plated the winning run, Morales' day was done. Read more
Giants' Sharion Schoop Hits For Cycle
When Giants shortstop Sharion Schoop stepped to the plate in the eighth inning against the Royals on July 2, all he needed was a double to hit for the cycle. After popping out to the second baseman to open the ball game, the Giants' leadoff hitter followed with a homer to left in the third, a single to left in the fifth and a triple in the sixth stanza.
But it appeared Schoop had missed his chance when he drew an eighth inning walk and was the scheduled seventh batter in the final inning.
And the odds got worse when the first two Giants hitters went down in the ninth. But a walk, a Joe Roundy homer, an error and a single gave Schoop another at bat . . . and he made the most of it. The 19-year-old from Curacao hit a line drive double to left field to complete the cycle.
Hitting for the cycle is a fairly rare feat in the Arizona League. Last year, Brewers first baseman Tony Festa connected for the cycle on August 13 against the Giants while playing on a rehab assignment. Before Festa, the last AzL player to accomplish the feat was Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien on July 13, 2003.
Six Arizona League Alums on this Year's Major League All-Star Squads
The Arizona League will be well represented at this year’s Major League All-Star game. The 2006 MLB All-Star rosters include five players who started their pro careers in the AzL and several others who appeared here on rehab assignments. Here's the list:
When Red Sox slugger David Ortiz debuted with the Peoria Mariners in 1994 as an 18-year-old, he was known as David Arias. Ortiz spent two seasons in the Arizona League. In his first campaign in 1994, Ortiz struggled batting .246 (41-for-167) with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 53 games. Read more
Lorenzo Cain Named 2005 Most Valuable Player
The Arizona League announced that Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain was voted by league managers as the 2005 Arizona League Most Valuable Player. Read More
Nomar's AzL Adventure
The Arizona League got national attention in 2005 when Nomar Garciaparra played for the Mesa Cubs as part of his rehabilitation from a torn groan muscle. The Cubs’ all-star shortstop appeared in two Arizona League games on July 22 and July 24, 2005. Read More
Giants Win 2005 Arizona League Championship
At the start of a Sunday night doubleheader on August 28, 2005 with the Scottsdale Giants, the Peoria Mariners appeared to be in the driver's seat to win the the 2005 second half crown. The Mariners held a one-game lead over the Giants with only three games remaining. Read more
Six AzL Graduates Named as '05 Major League All-Stars
David Ortiz. Matt Clement. Jake Peavy. Derrek Lee. Dontrelle Willis. Garret Anderson. This impressive list of current Major League stars were all named to the 2005 Major All-Star Game in Detroit. But the six players have another thing in common--they all started their professional careers in the Arizona League. Read More