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Published: Tuesday, 9/19/2006

Pitching carried Sidewinders in playoffs


OKLAHOMA CITY - The Tucson Sidewinders rolled through the Pacific Coast League playoffs. Although Tucson leads the PCL with a .289 batting average, it was the 0.88 earned-run average in the playoffs that helped the Sidewinders complete the series sweep over Round Rock.

"We see it every year at the major league level - we see teams come in with all the offensive numbers, and it seems to be the pitching and defense that wins," Tucson manager Chip Hale said. "It definitely was proven in the PCL playoffs."

Tucson, Toledo's opponent in the Triple-A Championship at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, won the PCL Pacific Southern division by 13 games with a record of 91-53. Hale said that although he had a lot of players called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the contributions came from all over.

"Guys who started out as bench players ended up carrying the club," Hale said.

Hens reliever Jason Karnuth pitched for Sacramento, the second-place team in the Pacific Southern, for the first half of the season. He faced Tucson four times, going 0-1 with one save and a 7.71 ERA.

"There's a few guys that I paid attention to that have since gone up," Karnuth said. "They got a lot of wins early on and got out to a big lead over us."

Outfielder Scott Hairston is the Sidewinders' best hitter, averaging .323 with 26 home runs. He led the PCL with a .591 slugging percentage.

"I was surprised to see Hairston wasn't in the big leagues," Karnuth said.

BACKUP FOR A DAY: Because catcher Mike Rabelo had his contract purchased by Detroit on Sunday, the Hens were in need of a backup plan behind Max St-Pierre. They called up Jeff Kunkel, who played college ball at the University of Michigan.

Kunkel was drafted in 2005 and signed with the Tigers the night before the 2006 draft after playing his last year at UM. He played the majority of the season with Oneonta, but West Michigan needed a backup catcher Friday in its final Midwest League playoff game so he went to Grand Rapids. West Michigan won the game.

Kunkel spent the night, attended the Notre Dame-Michigan game in South Bend on Saturday, then went home to Chicago on Sunday. He found out Sunday night that he was needed in Oklahoma Cityand flew out yesterday morning.

"I've been arriving just in time for all the good times," Kunkel said.

BUNTS: The Hens haven't lost on a Tuesday since June 27. They are 10-0 during that stretch. .•.•. The Sidewinders were 1-3 in games in Bricktown Ballpark this season. .•.•. The Hens have 22 players, two short of normal, for the game. They opted not to replace pitchers Chad Durbin and Colby Lewis. .•.•. The deciding game in the Governors' Cup finals was the first time the Hens won a playoff game and did not strike out at least 10 times.

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