Two KC Royals minor league teams, Double-A Northwest Arkansas and High-A Quad Cities, opened postseason play Tuesday night. Omaha joined them Wednesday.
And all three teams won.
The Naturals put themselves on the cusp of a championship by beating Wichita, the River Bandits squared their series with Cedar Rapids, and the Storm Chasers came from behind to edge Indianapolis.
How did the teams make it a sweep for the Kansas City organization?
The KC Royals’ Double-A team closed in on a series sweep against Wichita.
Northwest Arkansas’ 5-1 win gave the Naturals a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series with Wichita. Today is a travel day; the Naturals can clinch the Double-A Central title with a victory at Wichita Friday night.
Northwest Arkansas put the game away in the fourth inning. First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino atoned for his hitless Tuesday night performance by doubling home shortstop Jeison Guzman to start the scoring, and DH Freddy Fermin, who drove in three runs in the opener, hit a two-out, two-run single to make it 3-0.
The Naturals added two more runs in the sixth on Meibrys Viloria’s single.
Four Northwest Arkansas pitchers held the Wind Surge to just a run, which starter Yefri Del Rosario, who went 2-4 with a 5.69 ERA in the regular season, surrendered in the fifth before giving way to Garrett Davila, Andres Sotillet, and Jose Cuas for the rest of the game.
Guzman had three hits and scored two runs for the Naturals and is 4-for-8 through the first two games.
Quad Cities, the KC Royals’ new High-A team, drew even with Cedar Rapids.
The River Bandits, who in their first season in the Kansas City system walked away with the High-A Central-West title with a dominating 77-41 record, lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Cedar Rapids Tuesday night. But they tied this best-of-five series with a convincing 6-0 win Wednesday.
Courtesy of Nick Loftin, who MLB Pipeline rates as the organization’s 10th best prospect, the Bandits scored all the runs they’d need in the first inning. Loftin hit a two-run homer with one out to stake his club to a 2-0 lead; Maikel Garcia added a solo home run in the third, and QC scored another run in the fourth and two in the seventh.
Anthony Veneziano, Nathan Webb, Zack Phillips, and Will Klein combined for the shutout.
The series shifts from Cedar Rapids to Quad Cities for Friday night’s third game.
The Storm Chasers won their first game in the new “Triple-A Final Stretch.”
Thanks to the delayed start of this season’s minor league schedule, Triple-A instituted a unique postseason format; thanks to the late-inning efforts of top system prospect Bobby Witt Jr. and Emmanuel Rivera, Omaha won their first game Wednesday by slipping past Indianapolis 4-3.
Dubbed the “Triple-A Final Stretch,” the new format includes every Triple-A club in its 10-game schedule, with the holder of the best winning percentage earning the Stretch title. The 10 league-wide contests make up for games missed when the minor leagues started their 2021 campaigns late.
While the Storm Chasers’ hurlers held Indianapolis to three runs, it was Witt and Olivares who pushed their club past the Indians, who scored twice in the seventh to take a slim 3-2 lead. Left fielder Dairon Blanco walked to lead off Omaha’s half of the inning and Lucius Fox singled him to second.
Enter Witt, whose 32 home runs, 93 RBIs, 26 steals, and .292/.364/.590 line between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha had KC Royals fans screaming for his promotion to the majors. Witt laced a 1-1 single to left to score Blanco with the tying run and advance Fox to second.
Fox and Witt each moved up a base on a passed ball, setting the stage for Rivera, whose sacrifice fly brought Fox in with the tie-breaking, and eventual winning, run.
The Storm Chasers and Indians meet again tonight in Omaha.
Three of the KC Royals’ minor league affiliates are in the postseason. And they’re winning.