Breaking Down PCL Playoffs Round 1: Albuquerque at Omaha

Forgetting the season’s cumulative stats and simply breaking down the team-vs-team matchup, there’s plenty to be optimistic about heading into tonight’s series against the Storm Chasers.

Both teams were on a relative downswing to finish the 2012 campaign, and while each club finished 6-9 over their last 15 games, three of the ‘Topes’ six wins came against Omaha, giving Albuquerque a respectable 4-1 advantage against the ‘Chasers over the clubs’ last five meetings (dating back to July 3).

Furthermore, of those four wins, two have been awarded to upcoming Isotopes starters who will be featured in the first-round series: Stephen Fife, who will start game two, and Derrick Loop, who will get the ball in game three. The pair of ‘Topes hurlers have posted impressive numbers on the season against Omaha, with Fife going 1-2 with a 3.29 ERA and Loop collecting a 1-0 record with a 5.40 ERA.

Game one starter Fernando Nieve has only seen the Storm Chasers twice this season. However, outside of his season debut in which he was shelled by Omaha, the right-hander has rebounded to clamp down on the ‘Chasers’ potent offense, allowing just three earned runs through 6.0 innings in his 7-4 win on April 13.

In the absence of Josh Wall, Albuquerque has been able to rely on consistent innings against Omaha from Scott Rice (3.38 ERA/8.0 IP), Erick Threets (0.00 ERA/3.2 IP) and Cole St. Clair (5.00 ERA/9.0 IP). If Isotopes starters can deliver deep enough outings, the bullpen looks poised to close out several games in the upcoming series.

At the dish, no ‘Tope has looked better than the now-everyday starting catcher Josh Bard. The veteran backstop has batted an unbelievable .500 (12×24) in six games against the ‘Chasers while smashing three doubles and two homers with seven RBI.

Scott Van Slyke and Elian Herrera have also been nearly as dangerous, both hitting over the .400 mark against their upcoming opponent. Van Slyke has provided the power among the duo, ripping 11 extra-base hits, four of which were home runs, and 11 RBI, while Herrera has legged out five three-baggers, stole three bases and scored 10 runs.

On the other side of the field, we take a look at the upcoming starters for the Storm Chasers.

Game One: RHP Jake Odorizzi
The right-hander delivered a strong performance against the ‘Topes on July 2 in Omaha, limited Albuquerque’s bats to just one run on five hits through 5.0 frames of work. However, the bright spot here is Odorizzi’s numbers at home are actually worse than his road stats, with all three of his losses and 10 of his 12 homers allowed coming at Werner Park. Opposing batters have also hit a full .074 points higher when the righty is pitching on his home diamond.

Game Two: LHP Ryan Verdugo
The Storm Chaser’s ace has yet to figure out the Isotopes this year, going 0-0 with an 8.44 ERA through four games. The southpaw has surrendered at least one longball in each of his three starts against Albuquerque and yielded two homers in two of those outings. Though he typically worked six to seven innings in each start against other opponents this year, Verudgo has not lasted more than 4.0 innings against the ‘Topes in 2012.

Game Three: RHP Nate Adcock
The Isotopes got a taste of the righty in their regular-season finale, touching Adcock for two runs on four hits in just 2.0 innings. Though he owns a 1-0 record against Albuquerque, the Isotopes have knocked the hurler around in two of three of his starts, handing the right-hander a 7.84 ERA that included his season-high seven earned runs on June 30.

The team-vs-team matchup seems to favor the ‘Topes heading into the series opener tonight at Werner Park. Omaha captured the season’s series with a 9-7 mark, but as of tonight each team owns a clean slate of 0-0.

First pitch tonight is slated for 6:05 PM MT, and fans wishing to purchase tickets to games three through five (if necessary) at Isotopes Park can do so here: Tickets

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