Canaries Gearing Up For Late Season Playoff Push
SIOUX FALLS, SD -
The Sioux Falls Canaries enter the All-Star Break with a 29-32 record, sitting in fourth place in the American Association’s North Division.
Compared to the 2016 season, the Canaries are eight wins ahead of last year’s win-loss total (21-40), and although the All-Star Break was a week later in 2016, the Canaries have six more wins at the break than last season’s 23-45 record.
At the plate, the Canaries are led by three of the best hitters in the league in OFs Jabari Henry and Ty Morrison and 1B Chris Jacobs. Henry leads the team with his .324 batting average while Henry and Jacobs are tied at the top of the American Association leaderboard in home runs with 16 apiece.
Morrison, recently named the Pointstreak Player of the Week, totes a .322 batting average and a 15-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the Association.
Led by Dan Motl, the Canaries are second the American Association in stolen bases with 78, while Motl ranks third among the stolen base leaders with 23 steals in 24 attempts. Morrison and OF Burt Reynolds are also among the league leaders in stolen bases with 19 and 18 stolen bases, respectively.
On the mound, Grady Wood has not only been one of the Canaries best starting pitchers, but also one of the best pitchers in the American Association. Wood’s 2.79 ERA is tied for fourth in the league, while his 75 strikeouts place him fourth as well.
Wood’s joined by Miles Nordgren, who has a 1.44 ERA over his last four starts, in the Canaries rotation along with Joe Bircher, Bryce Morrow and Troy Marks.
In the bullpen, Dylan Thompson got the Birds’ lone All-Star nod with his team leading 1.76 ERA in 27 appearances.
Sitting six games back of the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the North Division, and 5 1/2 games back of the Kansas City T-Bones in the wild card standings, the Birds will have time to make one last push at a playoff spot in 2017. Realistically, the Canaries will have to go 25-14 or better over the final 39 games to have a shot at the Wild Card or Division title.
“I'm excited about the last 39 games because we are playing good baseball right now and we are finally getting healthy,” said Canaries Field Manager Mike Meyer. “If we can continue to get quality starts, and have grinding at-bats, and if our bullpen does their job, then I feel like we are in a great position to make a run at the playoffs.”
The Canaries could have been in the driver’s seat of a jam-packed North Division playoff race if they could have found ways to hold on to wins earlier this season. Dating back to June 6, the Canaries have had 11 games in which they were either tied or leading heading into the bottom of the 7th inning, only to lose all 11 of those games.
On the road, the Canaries have given up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning three times this season, including road losses in Fargo on June 27, Winnipeg on July 1 and Kansas City on July 5. All three games were one-run losses for the Birds, who are 6-10 in one run games this season.
The Birds also gave up a lead in the eighth inning, blowing a 10-7 lead against the Wichita Wingnuts on July 14, giving up six runs in the bottom of the eighth. Sioux Falls has been outscored 45-19 in the eighth inning, heading into the All-Star Break.
And although the Canaries have outscored opponents 37-22 in the ninth inning of games this season, they have blown four ninth inning leads since June 6, including two with two outs.
Hypothetically, had the Canaries won all 11 of those games instead of losing them, the Birds would be 39-21, and would have the best record in the American Association entering the All-Star break.
Let’s say the Canaries went 6-5, splitting the 11 games. They would still be sitting at 35-26, tied for first place in the North Division with the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
So, what is the good news for the Birds? They still have 40 percent of their season remaining. If the Canaries can fix those problems down the stretch, they have a real shot of getting back into the playoff picture.
“In the first half of the season we did a nice job of giving ourselves a chance to win in just about every ballgame which is where we want to be, we need to do a better job with the little things,” said Meyer. “Too many times we didn't make a pitch or move a runner or make a play when we needed to. Those mistakes cost us dearly in the one- run ball games. If we can continue to have a good approach and stick to the plan and do the little things we should start winning a lot of the close games.”
The Canaries will play 23 games against non-divisional opponents before the end of the regular season, with 16 games remaining against North Division opponents in 2017. Realistically, the Birds will need to go 8-7 or better against the north and 17-7 against the rest of the league to have a shot at the post season.
“It's not going to be easy,” added Meyer. “But if we get everyone to simply do their job we are as talented as everyone in this league.”
In a ten-game stretch against the two best teams in the American Association, the St. Paul Saints and the Wichita Wingnuts, Sioux Falls went 6-4, including a four-game sweep of the Saints at CHS Field. Previously, the Saints had never been swept in a four-game set in the history of CHS Field. The last time the Canaries swept the Saints in a four-game set was during the 2008 season. What else happened in 2008? The Canaries won the American Association Championship. Coincidence? Only time will tell.
Following the All-Star Break, the Birds will be back at The Birdcage for a four-game homestand, starting Thursday, July 27 at 7:05 PM with a three-game series against the Lincoln Saltdogs.
Be sure to save the date as well for the Birds’ three-game home stand against the Salina Stockade August 18-20, as Sunday’s matchup has been moved from a 12:05 PM to a 4:05 PM start. For information on single-game tickets, contact the Canaries Ticket Office at (605) 336-6060 or visit sfcanaries.com for more information.