Bridgewater, New Jersey – It’s the Double-A version of the greatest rivalry in sports as the Somerset Patriots (New York Yankees) take on the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox) in the Eastern League Division Series.
After a record-breaking season and just missing the postseason in 2021, the Patriots are making their affiliated playoffs debut. The franchise is no stranger to postseason success, having won six championships during its independent baseball days. In addition to its titles, Somerset made the playoffs in 15 of its 21 seasons prior to becoming part of the Yankees organization.
Like those teams, the 2022 Patriots smashed records along the way with a proclivity for the dramatic moments. Perhaps none more so than how the team clinched its playoff berth. Down to the final game of the first half in a winner-take-all contest with the Hartford Yard Goats, Yankees No. 1 prospect and Somerset County native, Anthony Volpe hit the game-winning walk-off homer in extra innings to punch Somerset’s ticket to the postseason.
While in just their second season as members of the Double-A Eastern League, the Patriots' first MiLB playoff series will take place against a team that they have a rich history with in 2022.
On the final day of the regular season, Somerset defeated Portland 6-3, ensuring a season series win over the Sea Dogs with the Patriots' 13th win in 24 games against them. The Patriots went 13-11 vs. Portland in the regular season, outscoring the Sea Dogs 130-105 (+25 run differential).
In their first meeting in Somerset this season, the Patriots rolled by the Sea Dogs, winning five out of six games and outscoring Portland 33-9.
The Patriots and Sea Dogs then split their middle two series against one another (both in Portland), with Somerset outscoring Portland 71-54 over the two splits.
The last time the Patriots played in Portland on July 17 was the final day before the All-Star break, in one of Somerset's most entertaining and competitive games to date this season.
After Portland rocketed out to a 9-2 lead, Somerset stormed back from the seven-run deficit to take an 11-10 lead in the ninth inning on the heels of a grand slam by Chad Bell.
Portland would go on to win the game by a score of 12-11 in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning on an RBI-double hit by Kole Cottam off his former Kentucky college teammate Carson Coleman. The win salvaged a series split for the Sea Dogs.
In that same game, former Portland Sea Dog--now Somerset Patriot, Jeisson Rosario hit for the first cycle in Somerset Patriots Double-A history.
It was the first cycle of Rosario's career and it came in the ballpark he called home in 2021.
After spending the first three seasons of his career in the Padres organization, Rosario was included in a trade to the Red Sox at the 2020 trade deadline. He spent all of the 2021 season (98 games) playing for Double-A Portland.
Rosario was claimed on waivers by the Yankees from the rival Red Sox in March of this year, at the end of Spring Training. In 104 Double-A games for Somerset this season, Rosario has shattered his previous career-high in home runs with 11 this year, after never having hit more than three in any his first four seasons.
Of Rosario's 11 home runs, four came against the Sea Dogs. Against his former team this season, Rosario has played in 18 games, going 22-for-62 (.355/.474/.726) with 14 RBIs, 12 R, 13 BB and 4 HR.
While Rosario's 22 hits against Portland this season lead the Patriots, his 14 RBIs are tied for the most with Andres Chaparro, who led all Patriots outright in home runs this season, as well as against the Sea Dogs.
After Chaparro smacked his 19th home run on the final day of the regular season solidifying himself as Somerset's 2022 home run king, he has now homered a team-best eight times against Portland.
With four home runs in the regular season finale, the Patriots capped off their most powerful six-game series of the season, slugging a season-high 13 home runs against the Sea Dogs in Somerset.
Overall, the Patriots have collected 46 home runs in 24 games against Portland, their most vs. any team in 2022. These 46 home runs make up for 22.4 percent of Somerset's 205 total home runs in 2022. The Patriots' 205 total home runs set a franchise record.
Additionally, Sunday's regular season finale marked the Patriots' 12th game this season having hit 4+ home runs, with half of those occurrences (6) taking place against Portland.
When it comes to hitting in Portland, the Patriots also have had three 4+ homer games at Hadlock Field this season, including their only two 5-home run games this year, which have both come at Hadlock Field (5/29 and 6/14).
The Patriots' have hit 23 HR this season at Hadlock Field, their most at any visiting ballpark in the Eastern League. Elijah Dunham leads the way for Somerset with 5 HR in Portland this season.
The Sea Dogs boast six of MLB Pipeline's top 30 Red Sox prospects, including No. 4 prospect Ceddanne Rafaela.
Rafaela joined the Sea Dogs on June 7 and has been one of the team's most valuable players down the stretch. Over 71 games with the team, he hit .278/.324/.500 with 12 home runs, 50 RBIs and 45 runs scored.
Rafaela's seventh inning grand slam against the Patriots on Wednesday night at TD Bank Ballpark helped solidify the Sea Dogs' playoff-clinching 12-7 victory that night.
One player who has made an impact all season for Portland has been Red Sox No. 21 prospect Christian Koss. Spending the full 2022 season with the Sea Dogs, Koss slashed .260/.309/.739 in 125 games with a team leading 84 RBIs, which ranked third among all Eastern League batters in 2022.
During the final week of the regular season, the Sea Dogs won their first series of the season vs. the Patriots, 4-2, including three straight wins to open the series.
The series loss was just Somerset's third of the season, compared to six series splits and 14 series wins.
After having clinched their playoff spot on the final day of the first half on June 26, Somerset will now gear up for its first playoff series as the Yankees' Double-A affiliate.
The best-of-three Eastern League Division Series will begin on the road in Portland on Tuesday, September 20 before coming to TD Bank Ballpark for Game Two on Thursday, September 22 at 6:35 pm. Game Three, if necessary, will also take place in Bridgewater on Friday, September 23 at 6:35 pm.