Lincoln, Neb. – On the heels of a five-game homestand that saw them go 3-2, the Chicago Dogs hit the road again this weekend, for a three game set with the Lincoln Saltdogs beginning Friday night at Haymarket Park.
The Saltdogs, who at 19-14 overall sit in fourth place in the American Association’s South Division, have lost each of their past two series after dropping two of three at home to the St. Paul Saints earlier this week. Conversely, at 9-21, Chicago sits in the cellar in the American Association’s North division. The Dogs took two of three from the Saints at Impact Field last weekend, and split the first two games against the Texas AirHogs before the Thursday rubber match between the two clubs was rained out.
Lincoln features the most prolific offense in the American Association by almost any measure. The most glaring department in which the Saltdogs outmatch their competition is in their prodigious power. Through 33 games, Lincoln has homered 47 times. The Saltdogs lead the league in home runs by a full 19 long balls over the next closest team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Lincoln possesses four players in the the top six in the league in home runs, including the top two home run hitters in Brandon Jacobs, who has ten, and Angel Reyes, who has nine. The Saltdogs also lead the league in slugging percentage with a .477 clip. That mark is a full 37 points higher than the next closest team, the Kansas City T-Bones.
Aside from their impressive power numbers, the Saltdogs have also been adept at getting on base all year. Lincoln possesses a .288 batting average, good for fourth in the league, and a .379 on-base percentage, which ranks tops in the American Association. The Saltdogs also lead the circuit in walks drawn with 149.
For as dominant as they’ve been at the plate, the Saltdogs have struggled to duplicate that success on the mound. Lincoln has also allowed the most home runs of any staff in the American Association with 26 long balls surrendered, and they rank in the bottom fourth of the league in walks allowed (122), earned run average (5.20), opponent’s average (.274), and WHIP (1.53). Lincoln has been forced to win shootouts all year long, having scored fewer than four runs in a game just seven times, and having won only once when scoring three runs or fewer.
The Saltdogs home park, Haymarket Park, has been the most hitter friendly in the league so far in 2018. 32 combined home runs have been hit through 16 games at Haymarket Park this year. The 2.00 combined home runs per game hit there this year is the most per game of any stadium in the league. Sioux Falls Stadium ranks second at 1.81 home runs per game.
The Saltdogs have been particularly offense-first in the month of June. Lincoln leads the league in June with 24 home runs in 19 games, and they rank second in batting average, with a .296 team clip. However, the Saltdogs have the highest team earned run average in June as well, at 4.68. Lincoln has posted an 11-8 record through their first 19 June games.
Individually, the Saltdogs have players littered all across the offensive league leaderboards. In addition to ranking as the top two home run hitters in the league, Jacobs and Reyes also each find themselves in the top five in RBI with 27 apiece. They are joined in the top five by Curt Smith who has produced 28 RBI for the Saltdogs on the year. Chase Simpson ranks fourth in the league with a 1.055 on-base plus slugging percentage, while Christian Ibarra ranks second in on-base percentage at .471. Ibarra and Simpson rank first and second in the league in walks drawn with 30 and 28 respectively.
For Chicago, the offense continues to be the story in June as well. The Dogs have amassed 95 hits over their past ten games, good for a .279 team average in that span. The Dogs have raised their overall team average 16 points in that span from .232 to .248. The Dogs have averaged 4.7 runs per game over the stretch after averaging just 3.8 over their ten prior games.
Treysen Vavra, Edwin Arroyo, Matt Dean, and Jonathan Moroney have all been hot of late for the Dogs as the quartet has gone 44-146 over the Dogs past ten games, good for a .301 combined batting average. Dean and Moroney each enter the series against Lincoln on eight-game hitting streaks, the longest such for each player on the year so far.
The Dogs bullpen continues to be stellar in the month of June, having allowed just 13 earned runs in 62.1 innings pitched, good for a 1.88 earned run average. The entire Chicago staff has demonstrated good command of the strike zone in June as well. Chicago pitching has posted a 2.58 walks per nine innings pitched mark in the month after posting a 4.00 walks per nine in May.
Chicago has had a power surge of their own over their past six games as well, having hit four home runs, including their first three-home run game against St. Paul on June 16. Dean has three long balls over the Dogs past ten contests—his first three home runs of the year.
Chicago has drastically cut down on their strikeouts at the plate of late as well. The Dogs have struck out more than six times in a game only twice in their past seven games, and are averaging just 5.6 punch outs per game over that span. Chicago enters the series with the Saltdogs with the third fewest strikeouts at the plate in the league, at just 207. Conversely, the Lincoln staff enters the weekend with the third most punch outs on the mound at 258.
The pitching matchup for Friday’s series opener pits Chicago southpaw Scott Barnes against Lincoln right-hander Austin Robichaux. Saturday sees right-hander Connot Root take the ball for Chicago against left-hander Kyle Kinman fore Lincoln. The Dogs will send southpaw Kylin Turnbull to the mound Sunday, while Lincoln has yet to announce a starter for the series finale.
All three games of the series will be broadcast at www.thechicagodogs.com/broadcasts/