Donaldson had a big game in the championship tilt.
Winning the Arizona Fall League title has become an annual rite of passage for Oakland A's prospects and the Phoenix Desert Dogs and that tradition continued on Saturday, as Phoenix destroyed Mesa by a score of 10-4 to bring home its fifth straight AFL title.
Josh Donaldson crushed a long three-run homerun and Andrew Bailey and Andrew Carignan combined to toss three scoreless innings to lead the Phoenix Desert Dogs to their fifth straight AFL crown.
The Desert Dogs have built an unlikely dynasty in the AFL over the past five years. Rosters change every year in the AFL and the one constant on all of those AFL title-winning squads for Phoenix has been the presence of Oakland A's prospects. The A's send their prospects to the Phoenix squad every year, as the Desert Dogs' use the A's spring facility as their home park.
Phoenix was an underdog in the Saturday, winner-takes-all championship game. Phoenix went only 18-18 on the regular season, but played in a weak division. Mesa, on the other hand, was one of two teams in its division to win more than 20 games. Mesa earned a spot in the championship game earlier in the week. The Solar Sox were also thought to have a big advantage because they were sending AFL ace Tommy Hanson to the mound for the start.
Hanson was brilliant, as expected, but the Desert Dogs managed to keep the game close enough to mount a comeback once Hanson left the game. Down 4-1 in the sixth, the Desert Dogs scored five runs in the sixth and four in the seventh to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
A's top catching prospect Josh Donaldson had a big game for Phoenix. Playing first base, the Auburn alum went 3-5 with a three-run homerun and four RBIs. Donaldson has had a knack for delivering the big hit since joining the A's organization from the Cubs in early July. He had a number of big hits for the Stockton Ports in their quest for the California League title, as well.
In addition to Donaldson, the A's had two relievers who played big roles in the Desert Dogs' victory. Andrew Bailey, who allowed only two runs in 14 innings in the AFL regular season, worked a scoreless seventh and eight inning. He only allowed one hit and he struck-out two. Bailey walked only one batter during the entire AFL season.
Closer Andrew Carignan finished off the game for Phoenix with a scoreless ninth inning. Carignan led the Desert Dogs with six saves during the regular season and he struck-out 18 in 12 innings for Phoenix. In the championship game, Carignan struck-out one and didn't walk a batter. After walking 44 in 62.1 innings during the regular season, Carignan walked only four in 13 innings at the AFL.
Sean Doolittle, who had been the team's clean-up hitter for most of the AFL season, didn't participate in the championship game because of a previous commitment. However, he will take home a ring along with Bailey, Carignan, Donaldson, Jeff Gray and Adrian Cardenas. Gray has won two AFL rings, as he was part of the 2007 championship squad, as well. A's minor league coach Garvin Alston also earned a ring as part of the coaching staff of the 2008 squad.