Playoff rotation set

Thursday’s playoff-clinching win for the York Revolution accomplished many things.

It allowed the Revs to celebrate in their home clubhouse and in front of their fans. It gave York a break after two months of pressure-packed baseball. And it ultimately led York to the realization that winning the Community Cup and heading into the postseason with a burst of momentum would be a good thing.

But there’s no debate what was likely more important than any of those things.

The early clinch also allowed Revolution manager Chris Hoiles to set up his playoff starting rotation as best as possible.

Hoiles announced after Sunday’s thrilling 8-7 win over the Barnstormers that Aaron Rakers (pictured) will get the nod in Game 1 of the Freedom Division Series. Rakers (11-8, 4.52) was the July Atlantic League Pitcher of the Month and he is also York’s only starter who will have a full four days of rest heading into Tuesday’s Game 1 with Somerset. Rakers pitched six innings in Thursday’s playoff clincher.

Statistically, Rakers has pitched much better at home this year. He boasts a 6-4 record and a 4.01 ERA in 16 appearances at Sovereign Bank Stadium. That is offset by a 5-4 record and a 5.20 ERA on the road.

Viera gets Game 2: Hoiles will then turn to lefty Rolando Viera in Game 2 in Bridgewater, N.J. Viera (3-2, 2.98) has baffled Somerset at Commerce Bank Ballpark in two outings. He pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings in one win on Aug. 17 and followed that up with eight innings and an unearned run allowed in an Aug. 28 start. Actually, the only runs Viera has allowed on the road all came in his second-to-last start. He gave up nine earned to Newark last Monday.

There is a bit of a health issue with Viera. He left his start on Saturday after two innings when he suffered back spasms after fielding a ball awkwardly.  But Hoiles said he doesn’t envision Viera missing his Game 2 start. Still, the unpredictability of a back problem has to be something on the mind of many of the Revs.

Thurman to go in Game 3: Lastly, Hoiles chose right-hander Corey Thurman as his Game 3 starter. The Revs’ skipper admitted last week he would have liked to give Thurman the Game 1 nod — because his 5.30 home ERA is slightly better than his 5.49 road ERA — but the way the rotation played out, that wasn’t an option. Thurman (11-9, 5.39) has arguably been York’s most consistent starter after a dreadful 0-5 start and earned June’s Atlantic League Pitcher of the Month award.

On the other hill, the Revs will likely be seeing the trio of Somerset’s Joel Kirsten (0-0, 1.29), Kip Bouknight (5-1, 2.52) and Brian Adams (11-7, 4.92).

Kirsten could be a big wild card in this series. He was only recently acquired by the Patriots after going 8-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 137 1/3 innings for Forth Worth of the American Association and earning the league’s Left-handed Pitcher of the Year award for the second straight year.

Kirsten also pitched the Cats to three consecutive American Association championships, as Ryan Dunleavy of the Courier News writes. He pitched the decisive Game 5 in ’05, ’06 and ’07 but Forth Worth was eliminated in the first round of this year’s American Association Playoffs.

Obviously, York has not seen Kirsten and newly acquired pitchers have been a staple of recent Atlantic League championship teams. One positive for York, though — Kirsten is no flame-thrower. He only had 89 strikeouts against 31 walks with Fort Worth.

Bouknight, meanwhile, has multiple seasons of Triple-A experience and was August’s Atlantic League Pitcher of the Month. And Adams has struggled to regain the form that helped him earned the 2007 Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year award after a 15-2 record and 3.68 ERA.

*John Pavoncello photo.

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