A third league title in five seasons is just two wins away for the Kansas City Monarchs.
The American Association club leveled the best-of-five Wolff Cup Finals with an 8-4 win over the Chicago Dogs Sunday afternoon. The series heads to Legends Field in Kansas City, Kansas for Game 3 Tuesday night.
Here are a few things to know as the Monarchs get set to finish their season.
The Monarchs took a gut punch in Game 1, falling 3-2 to Chicago in 16 innings. Jacob Robson and Chris Herrmann delivered solo home runs, but Kansas City managed eight hits across the second-longest playoff game in league history.
“We’re not getting that momentum through the lineup that typically we get,” manager Joe Calfapietra said following the defeat.
That changed Sunday. The Monarchs rallied for five runs in a 10-batter fourth inning, including a three-run home run from Jan Hernandez.
“We had to tie this series here and we had a different plan today and good things happened,” Hernandez said.
Monarchs shortstop LJ Hatch, a Mill Valley High School grad, drove in the inning’s final run with a single. The Monarchs never looked back from there.
ACE VS. ACE
Tuesday’s pitching matchup is electric. Each team will send out its top pitcher in the postseason so far.
For the Monarchs, that’s Ashton Goudeau. A former major-leaguer with the Rockies and Reds, Goudeau joined the Monarchs for their playoff push and dominated from the beginning.
Aside from an outing where he left early after being hit with a line drive, Goudeau has allowed just two runs in 24 innings across four starts in a Monarchs uniform.
The 30-year-old has been even better in the playoffs, throwing 13 shutout innings across two starts. That includes eight scoreless frames against Sioux City in a must-win Game 2 of the league semifinals Wednesday.
The Dogs counter with Nick Green, a 28-year-old who made it to Triple-A in the Yankees organization. The right-hander posted a 4.58 ERA in the regular season but has been lights-out in two playoff starts, allowing three runs (two earned) in 13.2 innings.
All remaining games of the best-of-five series will take place at Legends Field, the Monarchs’ home in Kansas City, Kansas. Game 4 is set for Wednesday and Game 5 Thursday, if necessary.
The Monarchs have played remarkably well in front of their home fans this season. In the regular season, Kansas City’s lineup earned a .307 batting average at home compared to .268 on the road. The Monarchs’ home OPS was .888, 85 points higher than in away games.
It’s not just that Legends Field is hitter-friendly; the Monarchs pitched better there, too. KC pitchers managed a 3.82 ERA at home compared to 4.83 on the road.
Joe Calfapietra’s team is hoping that will hold up this week. The Monarchs are looking for their fourth league title since moving to Kansas City two decades ago.
“I think it’s understood what’s at stake here,” Calfapietra said. “The guys have all bought in.”
Game 3: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, 7 p.m.
Nolan Brooks contributed to this report.