The two underdog teams in the American League playoffs advanced to the championship round Sunday thanks in part to key homers by a trio of former Midwest League players.
The Baltimore Orioles completed their sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 2-1 win in Game 3 of their American League Division Series. Orioles DH Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer; he hit 20 home runs for the 2003 Kane County Cougars. (See a photo of Cruz as a Cougar in this post.)
Cruz’s home run was his 16th in the postseason, tying him with Carlos Beltran for 9th place all-time. Cruz was tied with Babe Ruth, who played when MLB’s only postseason games were part of the World Series.
Beltran played 11 games with the 1996 Lansing Lugnuts. He didn’t homer or drive in a run in his 43 plate appearances. Adam Jones, who is congratulating Cruz in the photo at the top of this post, batted .267 with 11 HR and 72 RBI in 130 games with the 2004 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
In Kansas City, the Royals finished their sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 8-3 win in Game 3 of their ALDS. It was the first time in four games this postseason that the Royals didn’t need extra innings to win.
Royals CF Lorenzo Cain made a pair of great diving catches in the 5th inning. He had a perfect fielding percentage in the 15 games he played with the 2009 Timber Rattlers.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols homered for the Angels. Trout hit 6 HR in 81 games with the 2010 Cedar Rapids Kernels. Pujols hit 17 HR in 109 games with the 2000 Peoria Chiefs.
The Angels had the best record in Major League Baseball during the regular season (98-64). Including the postseason, they had a 98-67 record (.594 winning percentage). Including the Midwest League playoffs, Kane County had a 98-49 record (.666 winning percentage) and won the MWL title.