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Fall Ball Update: Saguaros, Team USA eye championships

The Brewers' Arizona Fall League team has all but clinched a spot in next weekend's championship game, while Brett Phillips and the Americans are through to the semifinals of the Premier 12 tournament

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With just a week left to go, the Surprise Saguaros, Milwaukee's Arizona Fall League affiliate for 2015, appears headed to next Saturday's championship game. Holding a three game lead with four to play, it would take something resembling the 2011 twin collapses of Boston and Atlanta to hold Surprise out of the game now. It was a shaky week for the Brewers' contingent. Milwaukee's only remaining position player, Yadiel Rivera, went 4 for 15 with a walk and five strikeouts. Josh Hader, promoted to the starting rotation in the wake of the 50-game suspension the Cardinals' Alex Reyes was hit with, was strong in spot duty on Thursday, tossing four shutout innings while striking out three; he was relieved by Jacob Barnes, who turned in two scoreless innings of his own with a pair of strikeouts.  Adrian Houser took the loss on Wednesday in a shaky three-inning start, allowing three runs on seven hits. Damien Magnifco had a disastrous week in which his ERA rose from 1.76 to 8.10 -- hold that thought for me for a minute, and I'll come and get it from you shortly.

Meanwhile in Taiwan, Team USA earned a berth in the quarterfinals with their 3-2 performance in pool play in the inaugural Premier 12 tournament. They faced former Brewers farmhand Shawn Zarraga and the Netherlands at 12:30 pm local time on Monday, but I time-traveled last night to get the results for you this morning, and the Americans advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1 win over the Dutch. As you know Brett Phillips, formerly of the Saguaros, is with Team USA in Taiwan, appearing in four of the team's six games, including last night's elimination game. Phillips went 2 for 4 with a triple last night and is now batting .352 in the tournament.

The Premier 12 tournament now moves to Japan, where the semifinals and championship games will take place. The United States will play their neighbors to the south very early on Thursday morning in another inter-continental battle after Mexico ousted the previously undefeated Canadians 4-3. In the other semifinal, undefeated and heavily-favored Japan will meet South Korea, who defeated Puerto Rico and Cuba, respectively.. Those games are being streamed online for free, though you'll need to stock up with a couple thousand cc's of caffeine to stay up that late.

Other News and Notes:

  • There's an update on 2B Nathan Orf, whom, as I mentioned last week, was leading the AFL in hitting but has not appeared in a game since Halloween. In the absence of any news to the contrary, we assumed he was just riding the pine for a bit -- Orf was only added to the roster late and therefore was always likely to get less at bats than players who were assigned to the Saguaros initially. On Thursday, we finally learned why Orf has been MIA:

    We got a smidgen more information in a quick note from Haudricourt on JS Online, and it appears Orf will be ready to go for Spring Training next year. It's unknown if the surgery was related to a baseball injury. All the best to Orf in his recovery.

  • Magnifico, who had been pitching extremely well, hit a speed bump on Saturday. Called on to protect a four run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Magnifico went double, wild pitch, walk, single, strikeout, single, walk and was charged with all four tying runs. He likely would have been saddled with the loss if not for a bizarre 9-2 force out at home made possible by a blooper that fell in but forced the runner at third to hold. Surprise escaped the inning allowing only the tie, and scored the game winner on another bizarre play in the 10th when a throw from the pitcher to check on a missed bag at first sailed into the stands, giving the runners two bases and causing the go-ahead run to score. You can read all about that game here.