Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tucson Toros - Series Preview

The Tucson Toros touch down in Victoria this week for their only visit to our lovely city this year. Believe me, they will be happy to enjoy the cold snap we have been experiencing. Seriously, playing baseball in Tucson in the summer is like playing in an oven. Routinely temperatures exceed 100F at game time making life on the field, and in the stands tough. Still, the GBL is alive and well in Tucson, and the Toros draw fans on a par with Victoria, trailing the Seals in average attendance by only a handful of fans per game.

The Toros are one of baseball's most historic franchises. They have been around since 1969 in one incarnation or another, serving as Triple-A affiliates for the White Sox, A's, Rangers, Astros, Brewers, and Diamondbacks. The Toros played for years in the PCL alongside the Vancouver Canadians and Calgary Cannons, winning the title in 1991 thanks in no small part to having the speedy Kenny Lofton in center field.

When the Diamondbacks sponsored the team from 1997 to 2008, they were renamed the Sidewinders to keep
with the snake theme, but in 2009, the Diamondbacks pulled out, and the Toros were back, joining the GBL.

Last season, the Toros won the second-half title in the South, and beat St. George in the southern final in dramatic game-5-walkoff fashion before falling to Calgary in the championship round.

This year the Toros struggled through the first half to a 20-25 record, finishing 7 games back of Maui. They currently sit 2.5 games behind Maui in third place in the South.

Tale of the Tape

Victoria: 10-9 (4th place, 1.5 games back) .280 BA (8th), 4.97 ERA (6th)

Tucson: 8-9 (3rd place, 2.5 games back) .279 BA (9th), 4.54 ERA (4th)

Who's Hot: Tucson

The Toros are led by first baseman Cristobal Santana who leads the team with a .371 AVG who is usually good for a couple hits a game. Not a team with a lot of power, shortstop Ryan Priddy leads the team with only 6 home runs. Speedy outfielder Lino Garcia is chasing Wilver Perez for the steals crown, trailing him by only 33 (giving him 17 on the year).

Pitching has been so-so for the Toros over the second half, but they have been regularly getting quality starts from their rotation and boast a solid 2.38 ERA over their last four games. Watch for good starts by John Bannister, James Garcia, and Albie Lopez this series.

Who's Hot: Victoria

Josh Arrrrhart continues to have a fabulous season at the plate, and hit .400 last week. Terrance McClain is also seeing the ball again, hitting .391 while only striking out 3 times in 23 at bats. Newcomer Tim Rodriguez has come around a bit, hitting .269 on the recent trip, although his strikeout totals are only eclipsed by his hand-spring numbers from the Yoshida game.

Jino Gonzales continues to be one of Victoria's most consistent starters along with Anthony Pluta. Both Kershner and Hess were rocked big-time last week and need a rebound game at home.

What to Watch For

City workers selling beer and fixing the mound? Yeah good luck with that. Instead of kids baseball buddies, the Seals should have local landscapers come out for the games to help with field duties. The 5th inning mound-fix brought to you by Jim's Mowing! But I digress...

This HAS to be the series Wilver Perez sets the GBL stolen base record. He's at 50, needs 51, should be a no-brainer.

Check out the new guys... Watch for newcomers Mike Koons to work out of the pen, and Jerry Madueno to get a start or two at 2B.

Series Predication

After my sweep call against Yuma went horribly wrong on the Saturday, and recent terrible starts by half the Seals staff, I'm a little gun-shy. I'm going to call for the Seals to go 2-2 against the Toros this week. Both clubs want to win these games to keep pace in their respective divisions, and both teams have starters capable of shutting down an offence.

Games go Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:05, as well as Sunday at 1:30. See you at the park (in line for a beer, most likely).