September recap, Sioux season a success

Stanley ND, AP
Edited version compliments of the Stanley USA Today.
Stanley, ND:

After a solid 17 win month against the A.L. Central in August, the September schedule brought the challenge of the N.L. Central to town.  The Sioux had a 5 game division lead against Fleetwood.  The pennant chase appeared to be a potential wildcard chase and/or 3 team N.L. Central playoff qualifiers matching up for the month.  Decent baseball during the month would need to be played.


Perennial foe Bloomington came to Stanley for the first 4 games of the month.  Stanley started strong with a victory in both game 1 & 2.  Game 2 highlights were Randy Johnson winning his 19th game of the season in a 4 hit, 0 walk, 11 strikeout performance over 7 1/3 innings.  Andy Ashby suffered the loss moving him to 6-16 for the Bees.  September callup Julio Zuleta paid dividends as he hit 2 HR's to power the Sioux offense.

Game 3 proved to be the most thrilling.  Each team scored 3 in the 3rd inning.  Bees followed with a 3 run 4th to knock out Gil Meche.  Sioux answered with 2 in the 4th to close within 6-5.  A Preston Wilson double in the 7th gave the Bees a 7-5 lead.   Sioux answered in the bottom of the 7th with 2 out, bases loaded, RBI singles by Jorge Fabregas and Frank Menechino to tie it 7-7.  Sioux reliever Steve Reed was cruising along until he was Widgered!  Chris Widger hits a solo HR in top 9 to power Bees to an 8-7 victory.

Demoralized and tired, the Sioux seemed to lie down in game 4.  Several starters did get rest.  Mike Mussina of the Bees took advantage and shut down the Sioux in a 9-1 drubbing.  However, the rest would prove to pay dividends as a trip to Bloomington was to follow.

Game 1 on September 5th at Bloomington provided one of the more interesting boxscores of the year.  Neither team scored in the first 8 innings.  Rick Helling of the Sioux and Chris Carpenter along with help from the Bee bullpen pitched shutout ball until the 9th.  Doug Henry started the 9th for the Bees.  A leadoff walk to Joe Oliver proved costly.   With 2 outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd Henry was forced to pitch to the hot Julio Zuleta or Moises Alou.   Henry chose Zuleta and paid the price - giving up a 2 run double.  3 walks and a single later, Joe Oliver came up for the 2nd time in the 9th - this time with the bases load.   Oliver provided a bases clearing triple to give Stanley and Felix Rodriguez a 7-1 victory.

Randy Johnson wasn't quite as dominant in the 2nd go around versus the Bees, but he did only give up 2ER on 5 hits, 2BB, and 6 strikeout performance for his 20th victory of the season.  Bernie Williams, Mark McGwire, Ken Caminiti, and Joe Oliver homered in the 8-2 victory.

Game 3 saw Kevin Appier return to Bee-land amongst a chorus of boos from his former hometown fans.  Appier seemed to thrive on the adversity as he pitched 6 strong innings in a 3-2 Sioux win.  Ken Caminiti hit a 3 run HR in the 3rd to provide the Sioux offense.  Marlon Anderson of the Bees went 3 for 3, 2 RBI in the losing effort.

Game 4 the Bees came out strong again against Sioux starter Gil Meche.   Bees scored 2 in the 2nd but stranded 3.   Bee ace Mike Mussina didn't appear to have his best stuff, and gave up 3 right back in the top of the 3rd, and ended up giving up 7ER in 5IP on 13 hits and 3 walks.  Sioux pulled away throughout the game for a 9-3 victory and what likely is the franchises only sweep ever at Bloomington.  After the game, former Sioux RF Juan Gonzalez promised revenge next season.  When asked why he pulled himself out of the game with a sore hammy in the 5th inning, Gonzalez replied "why not?"


An off day of travel on 9/9 brought the Sioux to Fleetwood for a potential division deciding 4 game match-up on the 10th-13th with a 3 game set to follow at Stanley on the 14th-16th.

Riding a wave of emotion from the Bee sweep and sensing a chance to get a jump-start on the Walkers, the Sioux went with ace Randy Johnson in game 1 against the tough Jeff D'Amico.  After 3 shutout innings from both starters the Sioux jump on D'Amico with 2 run HR's each by Moises Alou and Rafael Palmeiro.  Walkers answered with 2 in the bottom of the 4th, but that would be all the Unit would give up.  Randy Johnson continued his September dominance and potential Cy Young chase with his 21st win - giving up 2 ER in 8 IP in an 8-2 Sioux win. 

Game 2 match-up seemed to favor the Sioux with 18 game winner Rick Helling facing 3 game winner Reid Cornelius.  Jim Edmonds knocked in 1 for the Walkers to start the scoring and a 1-0 walker lead in the 1st.  Bernie Williams answered in top 3rd with a 2 run HR.  Sioux exploded for 7 in the 4th capped by a 3 run HR by Bernie.  Walkers never recovered as the Sioux's winning streak continued with a score of 11-5 in Helling's 19th triumph.

Game 3 featured Livan Hernandez of the Walkers versus Cal Eldred of the Sioux.  Each starter made it into the 7th allowing only 2 runs.  Unfortunately for Livan the bullpen offered no support - Mark Guthrie allowed 4 additional runs.  Jermaine Dye was the offensive hero for the Sioux with a 3-5 day including 2 doubles, a HR, and all 6RBI's being credited to him.  Felix Rodriguez picked up the win in relief.

Game 4 would be critical to the Walkers if there were to be any hopes of getting back into the division race.  Hideo Nomo was set to match Gil Meche of the Sioux.  The Sioux put together 3 quick hits to start the game and had a 2-0 lead after an inning.   Bobby Abreu brought the Walkers back with a 2 run HR in the 2nd.  The score remained 2-2 until the 7th when Shannon Stewart chased Meche with a 2 out double to score Counsell.   With a 3-2 lead in the 9th the Walkers turned to ball over to Derek Lowe who would face the heart of the Sioux order.  Mark McGwire greeted Lowe with a double.  Pinch runner Darren Lewis was summoned from the bench, and he promptly scored on a Moises Alou single.  Game went into extra innings.  Walkers stuck with Lowe in the 10th.  With 2 on and 2 out Bernie Williams delivered a game winning single to provide the Sioux with their 2nd consecutive road sweep of the month!

Walkers traveled to Stanley to see if they could fair any better than the sour home cooking of the previous 4 days.  Walker southpaw Al Leiter went to the mound to face the Unit, Randy Johnson.  Sioux offense pecked away at Leiter for 3 in the first, 1 in the second, and one in the 3rd.  Meanwhile Johnson was a little shaky in the middle innings giving up 1 each in the 3rd and 4th, and 2 in the 5th on a Chipper Jones HR.  With the Sioux ahead 5-4 the score remained that way until the 9th.  Antonio Alfonseca was summoned to close out Johnson's 22nd victory.   After singles to Chad Curtis and Jeffrey Hammonds, Alfonseca proceeded to walk Jim Edmonds.  With the bases loaded, Chipper Jones grounded into a force-out at the plate.   Paul Konerko lined out to end the game.   Sioux fans celebrate their 100th victory of the season. 

A somewhat demoralized Walker squad faced Rick Helling in the middle game of the 3 game set at Stanley.  Jeff D'Amico went for the Walkers.  Moises Alou sparked the Sioux with a 3 run HR in the 3rd, giving Helling all of the offense he would need for his 20th victory.  Sioux extend their winning streak to 10 games during the pennant stretch. 

The final game of the regular season against the Walkers would see Pat Hentgen go up against Livan Hernandez.  Bernie Williams of the Sioux seemed to have Hernandez figured out, lofting 3 HR's against Livan. Even with all that offense, Williams would come up in the 9th with the Sioux down 9-8 to face Derek Lowe.  Williams just missed his 4th HR of the game and had to settle for a double off the top of the wall.  Alou, Caminiti, and Dye all fail to bring him home, and thus ended the Sioux winning streak.


Buckeyes come to town looking to chase Fleetwood for home field advantage in the wildcard.  Game 1 winner was Randy Johnson who continued his September dominance.

Columbus chased Rick Helling in game 2 with 6 in the 4th with HR's by Scott Rolen, Mitch Melusky, and Brian Jordan en route to a 10-8 victory.

Buckeyes pecked away for 4 runs in the top of the 3rd in game 3 without the benefit of an extra base hit against Gil Meche.  That proved to be all Jim Parque and the Buckeye bullpen would need in a 4-3 victory in game 3.

Sioux managed to split the series with a middle-late inning surge in game 4 against Brian Anderson and Paul Quantrill.  Rafael Palmeiro hit his 40th HR of the year.  Buckeyes score 3 in the 9th off Alfonseca but come up short as Sioux hold on 6-5.

Stanley traveled to Columbus to finish the season with 3 games on the road.  Randy Johnson finished the season with his 24th victory and recorded his 300th strikeout of the year in his final start of the regular season.  Johnson's 24-8 season with a 2.93 ERA is one of the most dominating in Sioux history. 

Sioux win 2 of 3 at Columbus to finish the month 16-6, and the season at 103-59.

Monthly record versus:
Bloomington 6-2
Columbus 4-3
Fleetwood 6-1 

Sioux fans await their playoff opponent, which is quite likely to be one of their NL Central division rivals of Columbus or Fleetwood.