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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:32 pm 
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By Hamish Campbell
The Edinburgh News
05-29-2028

The Big Picture
Did not see that coming!

No, we’re not talking about Havana having another winning week and solidifying its spot at the top of the Trans Atlantic Division (and the Imperial League, for that matter). Any idiot could predict that.

We were surprised, though, that the Leones went on the road and swept their three-game series against what had been a scorching-hot San Juan club – and that every game was something of a blowout: 13-4, 8-2, and 5-1.

Truth be told, we were also a little surprised to see Scotland pick itself up off the mat after a dreadful Week 7 and win five of six, and to see London follow its first winning week of the season with … wait for it … another winning week!

So, where do we stand? In Week 8, Havana went 4-2; San Juan went 1-5; Scotland went 5-1; and London went 4-2.

What had been looking like a “big two” and a “little two” division might actually be more like a “big one” followed by a “little (but not tiny) three,” who will slug it out for second and, perhaps, vie for a wildcard playoff spot.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The season is still young – and there’s no doubt plenty of other stuff we won’t see coming.

Oh yeah, before we forget … let’s check on which IL division has the most wins … what a shock! It’s the TAD, with 107; the Seaboard with 100; and the Dixie with 99.

That we did see coming …

Havana Happenings
Let’s revisit that San Juan series for a minute to note that Havana punished Coqui pitching for nine home runs in the first two games of the set – five in the first game, four in the second. The long-ball barrage finally relented in the closing game, with the Leones settling for four doubles and a triple. Talk about taking your foot off the gas … It’s probably natural that the club would experience a bit of a let-down after the charged atmosphere of the San Juan series, which likely explains Havana losing 2 of 3 at Amsterdam. Notable in that series was a 1-0, 11-inning heartbreaker on May 27 that wasted 9 innings of 4-hit, shutout pitching by staff ace Enrique VázquezGame of the Week: Let’s not dwell on the negative, though. Let’s savor that 13-4 beatdown on May 22 that opened the San Juan series. Havana scratched out a lead in the first with a Mike Hale single and stolen base, after which he took third on a deep fly to center and then scored on a line drive to left. Havana stopped scratching and started pounding after that, scoring four in the second, capped with a three-run shot by LF Hale; four in the third, punctuated by home runs from DH José Gonzáles and C Will Vogel; one in the fifth on a homer by SS Ricardo Mateo; and three more in the seventh on four hits, including a 2-run homer by 2B Colby Peña. If Havana had showed any more power in that one, it would need to be regulated by the Cuban Electric Utility. Up next: A trip to the U.K. for a four-game tilt against London and three against Scotland.

Coqui Cables
The thing about winning with pitching and defense is it needs to be good pitching. That’s a lesson San Juan learned all too well last week as the Coqui pitching staff yielded 50 – count ‘em – runs in six games against Havana and Kentucky. Its best outing came in its sole win of the week, a 6-4 victory on May 27 against the Thoroughbreds. Its worst: a 13-4 shellacking at the hands of the Leones on May 22, and a 12-0 drubbing at Kentucky on May 28. One thing those games had in common – both were started by poor José García, who was called up from AAA as an injury replacement two weeks ago and actually beat Havana 4-2 in his May 17 Coqui debut. The magic, clearly, didn’t last: he yielded 19 earned runs, 25 hits, and six home runs in his next two starts, pushing his ERA to 12.33. Welcome to the big leagues … Game of the Week: In an otherwise dreary stretch, the dramatic 10-inning win at Kentucky on May 27 was a much-needed bright spot. The Coqui and Thoroughbreds ended the 9th inning tied at 4-4, with reliever Alfredo Aranda on the mound for Kentucky. RF Francisco Torres walked on four pitches to lead off the inning, then promptly stole second. After Aranda struck out the next two batters, CF Dean Walden lined a single into right center, scoring Torres. That brought 1B Jack Speed to the plate, and he crushed a hanging slider into deep right center for a stand-up double that drove Walden home without a throw. Coqui reliever Otis Pearson shut Kentucky down in the bottom of the frame to lock up the win. Player of the Game honors went to Torres, who hit a first-inning solo home run in addition to his 10th inning heroics. Up Next: The Coqui host a four-game series against Scotland to close out May, then travel to Arlington for three games against the Bureaucrats.

Scottish Scoops
There was abundant rejoicing among the Scottish faithful over the Claymores’ 5-1 record in Week 8 – their strongest stretch of the season. But the joy was tempered with understandable concern over an injury to star LF José Guillén during the game against Hartford on May 27. Guillén clutched his back as he coasted into second on a double in the top of the second inning, and trainers escorted him to the dugout in obvious pain. They believe the injury actually occurred in the bottom of the first, when Guillén made a spectacular diving catch on a sinking liner from Harpoon LF Walter Daniel. After the game the news was not good: Guillén was headed for the DL and at least a two-week absence from the lineup. That means the Claymores’ most potent offensive player (he leads the team in virtually every meaningful batting category) will be shelved as Scotland prepares to travel to San Juan and then Havana this coming week. Veteran Gabriel Martínez, fresh from his own stint on the DL with a sprained knee, figures to get most of the playing time. He’ll have big shoes to fill … Controversy of the Week: We’ll forego the customary “Game of the Week” item to delve into one other intriguing bit of “injury” news here … Manager Hayato Sasaki recently sat reliever Eitoku Tamura for five days with “wrist soreness,” but sources close to the team say it had more to do with a lingering hangover from a two-day bender after his 11th inning meltdown against Florida on May 20. In that game, Tamura walked the bases full in the bottom of the 11th and then balked home the winning run to tag Scotland with a 1-0 loss. Tamura hit the bars that night to drown his sorrows, then pitched the next day and yielded an 8th inning homer during a Claymores victory. Sources said Tamura went drinking that night, too, and was in “sorry, sorry shape” afterwards. Suddenly, the team training staff announced he’d developed a sore wrist. “Yeah,” one teammate groused, “maybe from tipping back all those shot glasses of bourbon. After that Florida s**t show, he probably shoulda been tipping back bottles.” Tamura, it should be noted, did not go on the DL, and has resumed his setup duties in the bullpen. Neither Tamura nor Sasaki would comment for this column. Up Next: A tough Caribbean road trip with four games in San Juan, followed by three against Havana.

Underground Utterings
London has finished the best two-week stretch of its season at 8-5, and crept to within three games of San Juan and Scotland. In doing so, the Underground has split one series against Amsterdam while winning another, and taken series from Hartford and San AntonioPlayer of the Week: SS Tony Cuevas went on a .476/.476/.667 tear in Week 8 to help lead the London renaissance. The 29-year-old veteran, who’s in his seventh year with the Underground, went 4-4 in the Underground’s 8-2 win against San Antonio on May 27, smacking a double and two singles. Modest to the end, he called that outing “a good team win” … Game of the Week: There were plenty to choose from, but we’ll go with the May 24 walk-off 10-inning thriller against Amsterdam. The Underground rode a three-hit, one-run performance from starter Félix Reyes into a 2-1 9th inning lead, and things appeared well in hand as London’s shut-down ace Gideon Byrd took the mound. But things went awry almost immediately: Amsterdam 2B John Foster pulled Byrd’s first pitch deep into the left field stands for a game-tying homer. Byrd put down the rest of the side in order, and London went three up, three down in its portion of the 9th. After Byrd shut down Amsterdam in the top of the 10th, the Lions countered with their own closer, Gilberto Gonzáles. But Gonzáles had his own troubles, plunking London 2B Gil Sterling with an 0-2 fastball. Sterling went to second on a sacrifice bunt by 3B Nubuo Suzuki and came home with the winning run on a sharp groundball single past a diving Foster. Amsterdam manager Victor Bruno couldn’t hide his disappointment afterwards: “To not win that game stings a little bit.” Up Next: A stern test as division-leading Havana comes to town for four games, then a three-game series at home against Kentucky.

Where They Stand
On the morning of May 29, it's Havana, 32-19; Scotland, 26-25, 6 GB; San Juan, 26-25, 6 GB; and London, 23-28, 9 GB.

See you next week!

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Vic Caleca
Scottish Claymores


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2019 9:05 pm 
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:clap: nice! Thanks for all the great info on the on goings in the IL.

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