Potential Dust Devil Playoff Matchups

Now that the Dust Devils have won the first half title and know they will be in the 2011 Northwest League playoffs, deciding how the first round will be formatted is the next big decision for the club. The winner of the first half each season decides, in the first round of the playoffs, whether they will play the first game of the first series at home, or the final two games of the series at home. Each round of the NWL playoffs are a best-of-three format and gaining the right home-field advantage could decide the series.

The past two times the Dust Devils have made the playoffs, in 2007 and 2009, the format was different, with the two division winners of the full season facing off in a one round best-of-five championship series.  In those series the format was predetermined and the strategy of choosing your own path was non-existent.

So, here are some stats on the Dust Devils performances against East Division opponents, one of which they will face in the first round of the NWL playoffs this season.

Yakima Bears

Tri-City has had more success against the Bears than any other division opponent this season, going 6-2 in their first eight games with four of those wins coming on the road. At Gesa Stadium Tri-City has faced Yakima in one three game series, winning two of three. However, it is unlikely the Bears will make the playoffs, considering they finished the first half with the Northwest League’s worst record at 13-25 and the league’s lowest team batting average (.229). The final regular season series between the Bears and Dust Devils is August 18-20 as Tri-City looks to make it a 4-0 series season sweep of Yakima.

Boise Hawks

The Dust Devils have faced the Hawks the least of any of their East Division rivals this season, playing them six times while they’ve played Spokane nine times and Yakima eight, with the ninth game against the Bears coming tonight. In those six games, a home and away series, the Dust Devils are even at 3-3 as each team won their home series two games to one.

The Hawks, along with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, are the only teams that, so far this season, the Dust Devils don’t have a winning record against. But, the stats against Boise may be the least valuable, because all six of the games between the two took place in the month of June. At that time Tri-City and Boise were 8-6 and since that time, the landscape of the division and the two teams have changed drastically. They will face each other six times in 11 days in August between the 7th and 17th to end their regular season scheduled games.

Spokane Indians

Spokane and Tri-City battled to the end of the first half in close contention for much of the 38 games, each team interchanging atop the division multiple times in June and July. They’ve played each other nine times with the Dust Devils winning five games and going 3-3 on the road at Avista Stadium. At home Tri-City is 2-1 against Spokane, winning their series from July 1-3 earlier this season.

The Dust Devils’ two biggest wins over the Indians came in their last series, with the first half division crown and a playoff appearance on the line. Spokane took the series opener at home, giving them a one game lead over the Dust Devils with four games to play, but Tri-City won the last two and went on to win the first half title. Winning those two games under those circumstances would give any team confidence to play there again this season and should do so if Spokane ends up being the other East Division team in the playoffs this season. The two Highway 395 rivals will face each other three more times this year, August 21-23 at Gesa Stadium.

Other Notes

Overall at home this year Tri-City is 13-6 at home and 9-10 on the road. Although, considering that the Dust Devils will face only an East Division opponent in the first round of the playoffs, their home record against East Division teams this season may be more important. So far they are 6-3 at home against East teams, winning a series against each other team two games to one. On the road against East Division teams Tri-City is a surprising 8-6, with Boise being the only team they have a losing record against.

In series against division opponents this year the Dust Devils are 5-2, going 3-0 in home series and 1-2 in road series with the two losses coming to Boise and Spokane in late June and early July respectively.

So far this season Tri-City is 15-14 in games in which they face a right-handed starter and are 7-2 in games in which they face a left-handed starter. The Yakima Bears lead the Dust Devils’ division opponents with the most left-handed starts this season with 13. Spokane comes in a close second with 12 and Boise is third with just seven left-handed starts this season. The Dust Devils have not started a lefty all season.

You can catch the 2011 Northwest League East Division first-half champion Dust Devils return to Gesa Stadium Wednesday night July 27 as they take on the Vancouver Candadians. The Canadians battled back against the Eugene Emeralds in the West Division to take it to the final day yesterday, but lost the tie-breaker between the two as each team finished at 24-14. The visit will be the lone home series against Vancouver this season for Tri-City as they look to rebound from going 1-9 against the Canadians last season.

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