Playoff Fever

With the Isotopes’ recent epic 13-game homestand in the books, it’s time to reflect on what turned out to be an incredibly eventful two weeks.  Things started with the ‘Topes’ welcoming their 4-millionth fan in franchise history and culminated with the team setting a new franchise record for attendance in the season by eclipsing the 600,000 mark, a pretty impressive milestone in Minor League Baseball that few teams ever have the chance to enjoy. 

Oh, and there’s that little thing about the Isotopes clinching their first playoff berth since 2003.  What made last Sunday’s celebration so special was the fact that it was shared with the fans.  Indelible images from that wonderful night include Mitch Jones spraying champagne into the crowd, the embrace of closer Scott Strickland and catcher A.J. Ellis after the final out, and of course, Will Ohman making a cameo as the Taco. 

What’s amazing about this team, however, is that it’s far from satisfied with a mere playoff berth.  Manager Tim Wallach and his squad are out to win the PCL championship and the way it’s shaping up, the Isotopes just may enter the playoffs with the most impressive lineup they’ve had all season. 

After what seemed like an interminable three days in limbo, Tony Abreu is not with Diamondbacks (as was widely reported) but back in the ‘Topes lineup, where he went 3-for-5 with a home run last night. Sensational outfield prospect Xavier Paul is back with the team on a Major League Rehab Assignment, ably filling the shoes of departed outfielder Jason Repko, who, after helping the ‘Topes realize their dream of post-season play, is now doing the same for the Dodgers in L.A.  When you add in the nucleus of Jones, Dee Brown, Blake DeWitt, Hector Luna, Chin-Lung Hu, and J.D. Closser, the ‘Topes will without a doubt have the most fearsome lineup in the post-season this year. 

The question now is if the planets will align as they did in 1981, the only year the Dodgers and their Triple-A affiliate won championships.  Of course, that season Los Angeles lost the first two games only to rally for four straight wins and beat the New York Yankees for the World Series Championship.  Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Dukes, who finished the year a remarkable 94-38 swept through two rounds of the PCL post-season (going 5-0 through two series) to claim their second of three straight league titles with manager Del Crandall.

On their way to World Series superiority in ’81, the Dodgers beat the Montreal Expos in the National League Championship Series, a vanquished team that included a young player named Tim Wallach, who, in just his second professional year, was making his very first post-season appearance.  Now, Wallach makes his first appearance in the post-season as a manager as the skipper of the Dodgers’ top affiliate. 

The symmetry doesn’t stop there, either.  Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Isotopes’ playoff opener on Wednesday, September 9, which is perfect in that Lasorda led the 1972 Dukes to their first PCL Championship.  If there’s a better good-luck charm as the ‘Topes finish off their first year with the Dodgers, I’d be shocked. 

All of it means good things this September at The Lab.  Make sure you’re there for all the fun!!      

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