Showdown: Mavs go for first half title

Luis Cota will get the start on Tuesday

After dropping Monday night's game to the Inland Empire 66ers, 5-0, the stage is set for a one-game showdown between the High Desert Mavericks and the 66ers on Tuesday night. Luis Cota (3-6, 6.91 ERA) will get the start for High Desert.

The two teams finished the first half with identical 39-31 records, so the winner on Tuesday night (which is the first head-to-head contest of the second half for both teams) will lay claim to the first half California League South Division championship and an automatic berth in the California League playoffs.

At least, that's the latest theory. There has been rampant confusion around the league about the tiebreaker procedures, due largely to an uneven schedule and poor communication from the league office. The Mavs actually completed their first half schedule with a win over Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday, but the 66ers didn't finish theirs until Monday night's win over the Mavs, which coincidentally was High Desert's first game of its second-half schedule. Had the Mavericks won the game, they would have won the title outright, but now the deciding game will be played between the two teams on Tuesday.

Monday's loss aside, the Mavericks have been playing excellent baseball all month, making up eight and a half games on Inland Empire since May 29 while winning 16 of 20. Before the loss to the Sixers, the Mavs had reeled off nine straight victories in which they outscored their opponents 67-37, and Tuesday's game gives them an opportunity to complete a miraculous turnaround.

The Mavs will send pitching prospect Luis Cota to the hill to oppose the 66er's Justin Thomas, who is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts since his promotion from the Midwest League. Cota got his season off to a dreadful start this year, and he entered June with an ERA of 7.59. However, he began making progress this month, and in a stretch of three starts between March 31 and June 10, Cota threw 20.1 innings without surrendering an earned run. That streak ended in rude fashion with Cota's last start, when he lasted just 3.1 innings while allowing eight earned runs, but his last appearance vs. the 66ers was a dandy – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 7 Ks on June 5.

It's anyone's guess as to which Cota will show up on Tuesday, but the Mavs are certainly hoping to ride his right arm to another postseason.

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