June 2011

More Power to the RoughRiders

The RoughRiders are making a jump in our second edition of the Texas League Power Rankings. Exactly how far they jump is available below. But first, here are a few Facts on Frisco’s great month of June.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The RoughRiders have a six-game winning streak, which is the club’s longest since it won seven straight from June 22-28. All seven of those games, believe it or not, were also away from home.
  • Frisco swept a road trip for the first time since April 29-May 2, 2008 when the ‘Riders took all four at the Wolff against San Antonio.
  • Since May 1, the ‘Riders are 24-10. Unfortunately, during that span, the team has only gained ONE game on San Antonio for first place in the Texas League South. The deficit is six games with 14 to go, which sets up a huge four-game series against the Missions tomorrow through Saturday. We’ll preview that set tomorrow.
  • By the way, check out our new feature on the main site. It’s called the Dr Pepper Ballpark Planner, which previews the upcoming home stand on and off the field. If you are planning on coming out to a game this week/weekend, that is a must read.

The season is two-fifths of the way over. Time for our second installment of the Texas League Power Rankings. Like last month, we will include a high point and low point of the month plus a key stat.

1. San Antonio (38-18; April Ranking: 1): Despite a strong charge by Frisco, the Missions have basically held their ground since the last rankings. The offense is still strong (.290 batting average as a team) despite a ridiculously strong start. And the pitching is second in the league with a 3.81 earned run average.
HIGH POINT (June 5): The Missions defeated Springfield 4-3 with a two-run ninth. It was San Antonio’s fourth walk-off win in the previous five games. Because of that, the Missions are 5-1 in June.
LOW POINT (May 16): San Antonio dropped its third in four games at Corpus Christi on this night. But, the Missions responded with a six-game winning streak. The reality is that this club has had few “low points.” Their lead has never been truly threatened.
KEY STAT (9): San Antonio’s magic number with 14 games left. A split or better at Frisco in the next four games would pretty much clinch the first half for the Missions.

2. Frisco (32-24; April Ranking: 6): The RoughRiders were the biggest climbers from April to May. Without a late surge at the beginning of May before I compiled the rankings, the ‘Riders may have been in last in those rankings. Now, Steve Buechele’s squad is hanging around a race it had not business being in a month ago. With Robbie Erlin arriving in Double-A and other starters like Richard Bleier and Carlos Pimentel settling in, the ‘Riders may have the best rotation in the league. That is, unless Martin Perez gets that call up to Triple-A.
HIGH POINT (June 6): This one is easy. Frisco completed a sweep of a six-game, North Division road trip with a 9-4 win at Tulsa. The ‘Riders outscored the Naturals and Drillers on that trip by a combined 27 runs. Really, that run is the reason the North is so competitive now.
LOW POINT (May 21): San Antonio’s Kyle Blanks crushed a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning. It was the second of three straight losses at San Antonio for the ‘Riders, who did manage to salvage the finale of that set. They will need more wins this week to stay alive.
KEY STAT (2.60): Martin Perez’s earned run average, which is second in the Texas League. He has won his last three starts.

3. Northwest Arkansas (26-25; April Ranking: 4): The next four teams are North Division teams, and they are all pretty even. I’ll bank on the Naturals because they just came off a six-game losing streak, and I expect them to take the North. But, I could just as easily see the Naturals in second, third, and fourth when all is set and done.
HIGH POINT (May 16): The Naturals rallied from a one-run deficit in the ninth at Tulsa to win 5-4 and claim their sixth straight win. Since then, it has been a jostling for first between Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa. Right now, the Naturals’ have a percentage-point lead on the Drillers.
LOW POINT (June 4): What a strange game. Christian Colon hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. Then, Midland scored seven times in the top of the 10th to win 16-9. That was the Naturals’ sixth loss in a row.
KEY STAT (12-18 months): The recovery time for Natural and highly-touted hurler John Lamb, who found out in late May that he needs Tommy John surgery. Tough break for a tremendous prospect.

4. Springfield (26-29; April Ranking: 5): Last month, I put the Cardinals above their standings because they were playing above their talent level, in my opinion. Now, I’m putting them here because they are my sleeper pick to take the North. The Cardinals have never had a share of first place, but they have some more talent now. St. Louis’ top two prospects–Shelby Miller and Zack Cox–are on the roster now. Watch out for these guys.
HIGH POINT (May 27): A 12-4 blowout of Corpus Christi completed a sweep and extended the Cardinals’ winning streak to a season-high five games.
LOW POINT (June 5): This loss snapped a three-game winning streak, which may seem a little harsh to name this as the “low point.” But, the Cardinals had a chance to clinch a series win at San Antonio, and they allowed two in the ninth to lose 4-3. The next day, Springfield lost 11-1.
KEY STAT (4): Games back of first-place Northwest Arkansas in the loss column. The Cardinals play four at Northwest June 16-19.

5. Tulsa (28-27; April Ranking: 2): The Drillers may be the most inconsistent club in the league. They got off to a great start, but the team has begun to struggle again. Once again, I would not be surprised if the Drillers won this division in the first half. But I don’t know if they have enough offense or enough in the bullpen.
HIGH POINT (May 9): It is tough to find a high point when a team hasn’t won more than two games in a row during a month. On this day, the Drillers clinched a two-out-of-three series take at Northwest Arkansas with a 6-4 win. The Drillers’ record at that point was 18-11.
LOW POINT (June 6): Jose Ruiz’s three-run homer in the ninth was the exclamation point on Frisco’s 9-4, sweep-clinching win over Tulsa.
KEY STAT (6-11): The Drillers’ record in the last 17 games. That’s why the North is so close.

6. Arkansas (25-26; April Ranking: 7): No disrespect to the Travelers, who enter play today just one game back of first place in the North. The Travs have been hanging around, and they have the pitching to compete down the stretch. Arkansas leads the Texas League with a 3.80 team earned run average. The offense just isn’t that strong.
HIGH POINT (May 28): A 5-4, ten-inning win against Corpus Christi pushed the Travelers back above .500 for the first time since April 27. It also capped off a 7-2 run over nine games.
LOW POINT (June 3): The Travelers outplayed the Missions through eight innings in all three games in San Antonio. However, the Missions walked off with three wins to earn the sweep. June 3 was the finale, a 6-5 San Antonio win.
KEY STAT (10): Ten games over the next eight days beginning tomorrow for the Travs, all at home. Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas will play two doubleheaders–Wednesday and Friday. These games will go a long way to deciding who wins the first half.

7. Midland (23-33; April Ranking: 3): The RockHounds fell further than anyone in the Texas League, and it is understandable why. Since our last rankings in early May, the club is 9-19. Midland has been eliminated in the first half chase, and they are nine games back of the ‘Riders for second.
HIGH POINT (May 8): On that day, the ‘Hounds defeated Frisco 2-1 to improve to 15-15. Midland hasn’t sniffed .500 since.
LOW POINT (May 22): The RockHounds lost their eighth straight game 3-2 at Corpus Christi. Since then, the team has not recovered.
KEY STAT (11-23): The RockHounds’ record since May 1, which is tied for the worst mark in the Texas League.

8. Corpus Christi (20-36; April Ranking: 8): No change for a Hooks team that, like Midland, is 11-23 since the start of May. During the month, the Hooks had to cope with the absence of stud outfielder J.D. Martinez for a significant time period.
HIGH POINT (May 22): The Hooks took their first three games against Midland, capped by a 3-2 win on that day. That matched a season-high in consecutive wins this year.
LOW POINT (May 14): An 11-2 loss at Frisco sent the Hooks to a Texas League-high ninth straight loss.
KEY STAT (3): The Hooks had three losing streaks in the month of May: a nine-game streak May 5-14, a three-game skid May 17-19 and a five-game streak May 23-28.

Agree? Disagree? Share your rankings!

What Do We Do?

Well, you are going to find out today. During today’s game, we are going to give you an inside look at what a day in the life of a broadcaster and a studio host entails.

(NOTE: The updates are in chronological order.)

__________________________

10:00 a.m.: Aaron arrives for duty at ONEOK Field. Normally, he would come with the team, but the shorter trip made it easy for him to take his own car.

10:30: I arrive at our studios at Dr Pepper Ballpark. It is weird to be up in a booth and not see fans in the stands and players on the field.

11:00: By this point, Aaron’s scorebook is ready to go. He gave you an idea of how those look after the RoughRiders blew out Northwest Arkansas Friday night. I have recorded our pre-game show intro, and I am preparing to go on with the pre-game show at 11:35.

During this time, Aaron also sent me a few pictures of his incredible breakfast spread at ONEOK Field. Around any league, the quality of the food will change from one place to the other. And in the Texas League, Tulsa is right at the top of the list.

11:10: Fortunately, it hasn’t been a hectic day despite the early start time. When you are “behind the scenes” in baseball, an early game is awful before it begins and amazing after it ends. The preparation normally begins the night before, and you roll through the day on little sleep.

I would compare it to final exams in college. We cram a day’s worth of preparation into an hour or two before we go to sleep and the few hours we have before the game begins. But kids, don’t cram for exams. Always keep up on your studies. I may not have done it, but I have heard it is smart.

11:30: The pre-game show is about to start. Aaron takes the first segment, we chat about the game in the second segment, and I take the third and the fourth segments. Then, it’s out to ONEOK Field for all of the action. You can listen live to all of the action here.

12:05 p.m.: Now that the game is underway, Aaron does his thing and paints a great picture of the game. For me, this is a time to run our “Extra Bases Blog” and produce the game.

When someone produces a game, he or she is the one who orders and plays the commercials that you hear between innings. We run everything in house, so it is all up to me to make sure that everything is played correctly. That being said, Aaron and I both hear many of these commercials two or three times per day, every day. It is safe to say that we have memorized some of the more popular ones.

Now, while I produce the game, I will write a story on the Texas League’s Pitcher of the Week–Frisco’s Richard Bleier.

12:30: The release on Bleier is done, but I have sent it off for a quick edit. It will be up on the website soon. Now, it is time for me to prep for my first scoreboard update, which comes up after the top of the third inning.

I’ll show you how I organize information for that in a little bit. By the way, 0-0, bottom of the second between Frisco and Tulsa.

12:55: I just finished my first scoreboard update, which is 90 seconds of me blabbering about the Texas League and the Rangers’ organization. Today, things are a little easier because only one game is going on (low-A Hickory). But you can see how I organize this sheet. Normally, there is much more text.

1:15: It is fun to watch baseball as a whole on a day-to-day basis. Some guys make it even more fun, and one of those players for the ‘Riders this year has been Leonys Martin. He has four RBIs as the RoughRiders lead Tulsa 5-2 through three and a half.

During all of these runs, Aaron is busy cutting up the highlights from Martin’s two-run homer and two-run single. He will play those during the scoreboard show.

1:35: The Richard Bleier Pitcher of the Week story that I wrote a little while ago has been posted online. The posting process normally takes about five minutes. Now, it’s time to prepare for my second scoreboard update of the broadcast after the top of the 6th.

1:55: Once the game starts to reach the late innings, Aaron begins to ramp up his highlight editing and I start to write the game story. I also keep the Extra Bases Blog going, and we’ve been talking about a possible All-Star berth for Leonys Martin. It’s a pretty interesting debate to have.

2:10: I am about set to finally start writing the game story as the ‘Riders take a 5-4 lead into the eighth. I fell behind because I was finishing up a new feature that we have at ridersbaseball.com. It’s called the “Dr Pepper Ballpark Planner,” and it sets the table for the upcoming home stand. Check out this week’s version. It will be a busy four days in Frisco!

2:40: Right now, the “frame” of my game recap is done. I have a few things to add and adjust as the ninth inning progresses, but I am close to being done–that is, unless something very significant happens. I have to be careful of that, which is why a comeback by the Drillers would haunt my game story. These are the things guys like me worry about. Frisco leads 5-4 in the top of the ninth.

3:00: The game is over, and the ‘Riders win it 9-4. Now, my multi-tasking skills begin. I will post the game story, produce and post-game show, and do a few segments on the air. I will update afterward!

3:40: Well, the broadcast is over and the story has been posted online. The team is about set to head back to Frisco after a 6-0 road trip. Other than a few technical problems, it was a smooth day for Aaron and me. Thanks for taking part, and we hope you enjoyed an inside look at the life of a broadcaster!

Breaking Buckeye Hearts

No, this is not a rip on Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who still insists on staying in the news. It is praise for Derek Holland, who tossed a complete game, five-hit shutout in his home state in front of some friends and family. Holland, who grew up in Newark, Ohio, dominated, and a pair of former rehabbing RoughRiders this year–Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz–went deep again.

Look out for the Rangers, folks. They are clicking for the first time since the season’s first week.

But the RoughRiders are impressing some folks, too. Does Frisco have one surge in it for a chance at a first half title? We break that down, plus more, in today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The ‘Riders are the only team still without a loss during the month of June, which is impressive considering the fact that Frisco has been on the road facing the third and fourth best teams in the Texas League: Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa.
  • Overall, since May 1, Frisco is 22-10, which is the best record in the Texas League. The ‘Riders’ Pressbox did the research, and they say that the RoughRiders have the second best Double-A record during that span. The Trenton Thunder (24-9) are in the top spot. Overall in the minors, the club is tied for fifth in record since the beginning of May.
  • However, despite all of this, the ‘Riders have only gained one game on San Antonio since May 1. That’s why the Missions have a six-game lead with 16 games to go in the first half.
  • One of the two season-long road on-base streaks came to an end last night. Mike Bianucci went 0-for-4, which snaps his 24 game streak on the road. Bianucci had been tied with his buddy Tommy Mendonca, and Mendonca did extend his streak to 25 games right away with a first-inning double.
  • These two streaks are impressive for anyone in the order, but think about where these two players hit. The asset of getting on base is a focal point for men at the top of the order, but Bianucci and Mendonca are middle-of-the-order mashers. However, they have been steadily finding a way to make an impact, whatever that may be, all season long.
  • With their recent surge, the RoughRiders have started to climb the team rankings. Not only is Frisco the second best club in the league now, but it is also second in hitting (.270) and third in earned run average (4.45).
  • Individually, Bianucci and Mendonca each have 12 homers, which is tied for fourth in the league. Both Bianucci (40) and Mendonca (38) are also in the top 10 in runs batted in, and Renny Osuna (.321) and Jonathan Greene (.309) are in the top 11 in batting average.
  • Speaking of Greene, he has been huge for the RoughRiders in his last eight games. He is hitting an absurd .446 (13-for-29) with two homers and 11 RBIs. He has posted multi-hit efforts in six of his last eight contests.
  • Leonys Martin has missed the last two games with lower back tightness. He was a late scratch from Friday’s game because of that injury. Martin is currently day-to-day.
  • Good for Jose Ruiz, who fell into his first slump of the season this week. His leadoff double in the seventh inning not only sparked Frisco’s game-winning three-run seventh, but it snapped an 0-for-20 skid. Ruiz is still hitting .295 for the season, which shows you how strong he was swinging the bat before this brief rough patch.
  • Finally, kudos to my man Aaron Goldsmith for a great blog post from Tulsa yesterday. He will post on the blog a couple of times each road trip.

Today’s pre-game begins at 1:35, with first pitch at 2:05. Enjoy!

- Brian

Checking In From Tulsa

It’s a warm, sunny morning here in Tulsa, Okla., and while Brian is back in Frisco getting his usual Saturday morning massage and facial, this seemed the perfect opportunity for me to hijack the blog. In all seriousness, Brian has done a fantastic job on the blog this season (and will continue to do so), but we both agreed that it would be fun for me to check in with you while on the road a couple of times each trip.

FRIDAY NIGHT

If you didn’t catch last night’s game in Springdale, Ark., you missed out on what will probably be the most lopsided win for the ‘Riders we’ll see for a while.  In the fifth inning my phone vibrated with a text from my wife that simply read “13-1???”  And that wasn’t even the final.  At the end of nine innings, the RoughRiders thumped the Naturals 18-5, setting their season-high in runs scored.  It marks the most runs Frisco has scored since July 4, 2009 at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo. when they crushed the Cardinals 18-4 (happy Independence Day, Cardinals’ fans).  The win also represented Frisco’s first road series sweep since June 25-28 of last year at Corpus Christi.  Lastly, Mike Bianucci drove in 1/3 of Frisco’s runs while Carlos Pimentel went a season-high seven innings and earned his second win of the season.  (My scorebook from last night above).

WHY TULSA IS SO GREAT

Well, there are a number of reasons.  ONEOK Field is my favorite in the league, the drive back to Frisco is a short one, and the team hotel is one of the best in the league.  But the number one reason is because of the picture to the right (photo credit: Aaron Goldsmith).  Yes, there is a Panera Bread within walking distance from the hotel.  If you’re like millions of Americas you enjoy the endless coffee, free WiFi, and soothing music Panera has to offer. However, odds are that you take for granted the fact that you can drive to Panera virtually whenever you want. When you travel with a minor league baseball team, your lunch options are limited to restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and, in many cases, the options are limited and uninspiring.  Not the case in Tulsa.  I’m the happiest guy in this Panera right now.

A STAR HAS BEEN BORN

If you follow the ‘Riders on twitter (@ridersbaseball), or are a “fan” of the team on Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of the videos we’ve been posting lately about an hour before first pitch each night.  I’m happy to report that under my direction, RoughRiders’ Strength and Conditioning Coach Eric McMahon has developed into an overnight multimedia sensation.  Our video with Eric the other day has over 100 views, which I think has caused him to now hire a talent agent.  He’s new to twitter (@ericlmcmahon) and we plan on doing a weekly “Trainer’s Tip” video segment with him each week.  Eric is a great guy who loves what he does and will be a fantastic addition to the team’s video coverage – as long as his agent doesn’t ask for too much.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR

The first time the ‘Riders traveled to Tulsa last season (June 5-7), the final game of the series was canceled because of wet grounds and was never made up.  It was a clear, warm afternoon, but no baseball was played because the field wasn’t covered the night before when it poured rain.  The infield took so much water that it looked like a wet sandbox.  I remember that road trip well because instead of driving back to Frisco on the bus with the team, I flew home to St. Louis where I was married days later to my wonderful wife Heather.

Tonight is the first of three against the Drillers … Brian is on with the pre-game show at 6:35 p.m., first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.  Talk to you then!

- AG

Shaq Diesel

The career of center Shaquille O’Neal has come to an end, and he went out in style. Shaq invited the media to his house, and he treated them to lunch and a laugh-filled press conference.

O’Neal played for six franchises, and he was a winner everywhere he went. However, his lasting legacy will be the incredible personality that he had. It was awesome to watch him joke his way through a “goodbye” press conference.

Oh, and one more basketball note: Dirk Nowitzki is really, really good at basketball. And Miami is spinning with that reality right now.

Now, some baseball in today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • We talked about Renny Osuna in yesterday’s blog, and he came through yet again. But, Osuna would not have been the hero without Tommy Mendonca’s big blast in the ninth. Mendonca has been great in the late innings this year. He has hit five of his 12 homers in the eighth inning or later, and he has a .302 batting average in the “late innings.”
  • It looked very bleak for the ‘Riders going into that final inning. Frisco had mustered only a walk in four innings against the Northwest Arkansas bullpen. Both Mendonca and Mike Bianucci, who led off the ninth with a single, had been 0-for-3 prior to the frame. The single and homer extended both men’s road on-base streak to 23 games, which spans the entire season.
  • For what it is worth, Osuna was also hitless in three at bats when he gave the RoughRiders their first lead of the game in the tenth inning. His long ball was the catalyst to the club’s sixth extra-inning win and 11th comeback victory.
  • Jake Brigham had to labor through his outing yesterday, but the righty found a way to gut through five innings. Over his last three starts, Brigham has not had his best stuff (9.26 ERA), but he still has worked through five innings in ten of his 11 starts this season.
  • Jose Felix’s shoulder injury, which put him on the disabled list yesterday, will give Robbie Diaz and, likely to a slightly lesser extent, Elio Sarmiento a chance to shine. Diaz figures to get a few more starts that Sarmiento during the process, but that’s just my educated guess. Diaz has hit well while in Frisco, boasting a .308 average. During his month-plus in Triple-A Round Rock, Diaz hit .346 in 13 games.
  • The RoughRiders just cannot catch a break in the standings. Despite a pair of narrow victories in the first two games of this series, the ‘Riders have not gained any ground on San Antonio. The Missions have won back-to-back games in walk-off fashion at home against Arkansas. Frisco remains seven games back of San Antonio with 18 left in the first half. The Missions’ magic number is 12.
  • On the flip side, Tulsa leads the North by one game on Northwest, two on Arkansas and three on Springfield. If the ‘Riders were in the North, they would be in first place.
  • Programming note: Aaron Goldsmith will blog from Tulsa tomorrow here in the Insider Blog. He will chat about life on the road in the Texas League along with some news and notes.
  • Aaron has also begun to load some videos to our Twitter account, and I will do my best to link those to the blog. Here is his chat with strength and conditioning coach Eric McMahon from yesterday, and here is his talk with newly activated lefty Corey Young.

Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 tonight. Enjoy!

- Brian

Another Blog From Us Bloggers

Each and every game, you can chat along with Aaron, Reid and me on the Extra Bases Blog. We will periodically post some of the previous day’s Extra Bases Blog here on the Insider Blog. Confused yet?

Here is yesterday’s blog, which was one of our best one yet. Check it out again today for game two of this three-game series.

RoughRiders at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (June 1)

Just a few Frisco Facts before tonight.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • One RoughRider who can sometimes slip through the cracks when dishing out compliments is Renny Osuna, but the infielder has been steady all season long. His fifth-inning home run was the difference in yesterday’s 5-4 win at Northwest Arkansas. Osuna’s average has been above .300 since May 14, and it currently sits at .322. He is not phased by a lefty (.327) or a righty (.320). With men in scoring position, Osuna is hitting .359 with 18 of his 22 RBIs.
  • Martin Perez may not have “deserved” the win last night as he allowed a season-high four runs in six innings, but the southpaw had been robbed of a few wins earlier in the season. Baseball evens things out. To prove once again why Perez’s improvement from last year is very significant, consider this: Perez’s earned run average last night was a 6.00, his worst showing of the season. Last year in 24 outings, Perez had a 5.96 ERA.
  • Perez is still second in the league with a 2.41 ERA, and the only man ahead of him (Juan Nicasio) just pitched for the Rockies last weekend.
  • Just some food for thought: with a few more good starts, former RoughRider Alexi Ogando could have an excellent chance to start for the American League in the All-Star Game. Ogando’s 2.33 ERA is seventh in the American League, but he has the best WHIP (0.91) and is the only pitcher with more than 40 innings of work who has yet to lose this year. Plus, Ogando has a big advantage–the A.L.’s manager is his manager. Ogando has a big test tomorrow in Cleveland against the league’s best team, but it is something to monitor. It would be pretty cool to see after Ogando pitched in Frisco last year.

It’s a special start time of 6:00, with pre-game on the RBN at 5:30. Enjoy!

- Brian

Feeling of Freedom

The month of June is upon us, believe it or not. Back in the day, June meant freedom to me because summer vacation was here. Because of that, June was, by far, my favorite month.

On the baseball calendar, June is quite the opposite. June is the month where the beginning of the season is too far in the past to remember, and the end of the season is too far away to imagine. This is the time of the season where baseball’s season turns into a grind.

Throw in the warmer temperatures and the fact that the season’s first half ends in less than four weeks, and you’ve got an interesting month of baseball.

Let’s set the table for June 2011 in today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • There are 20 games left in the first half of the season, and the RoughRiders trail San Antonio by seven games for the top spot in the Texas League South. Unfortunately, the schedule makers did not give the ‘Riders any breaks for a possible June surge. Frisco will play 14 of those final 20 games away from home, while the Missions get 14 of 20 at home during that stretch. San Antonio has the best record in the league at home this season (18-4).
  • Four of Frisco’s six home games do come against San Antonio, though. The four-game series begins next Wednesday. It is pretty safe to say that if the ‘Riders want to have a fighting chance in the race down the stretch, they need at least three of those four games.
  • This year, it pays to be in the North. If the RoughRiders were in that division, they would be a half-game back of first. Springfield, the last place team in the North, is only three games back of the top spot, and the Cardinals would be nine and a half games away from San Antonio if they were in the South.
  • Still, as we have talked about on the broadcasts some, the RoughRiders are in a pretty good position with regards to the playoffs. San Antonio is playing the part of juggernaut thus far this year, and if the Missions win both halves, then the team in the division with the second best record throughout the season would get the other spot. Frisco is five games better than Midland and eight up on Corpus Christi.
  • Last season, Northwest Arkansas cruised to a pair of division titles, but Springfield pushed the Naturals to the limit in a first round series. The Cardinals took a 2-1 series lead before Northwest rallied to take the series 3-2.
  • By the way, do not be fooled by the Texas League All-Star Break. The first half of the season comes to an end after play on June 21st, which is the 70th game of the season. All eight teams are scheduled to be six games into the second half when the All-Star festivities take place.
  • Martin Perez returns to the mound tonight for the opener of this three-game series at Northwest Arkansas. Perez rolled the Naturals lineup Thursday morning, going seven scoreless innings and striking out five.
  • Perez leads the Texas League in earned run average (2.01), and he is near the top of many other categories. He is second in stirkeouts per nine innings (8.9), second in opponents batting average (.222), third in strikeouts (53), and eighth in WHIP (1.25).
  • The Rangers’ number one prospect will face off against a below average offense. The Naturals come in hitting .258 as a team, which is seventh in the league. The Naturals are averaging 4.8 runs per game, good for sixth in the league.
  • After a rough day with the ‘Riders Monday in his rehab debut, Julio Borbon played well in defeat with Triple-A Round Rock. Borbon went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and steals in the Express’ 7-5 loss at Oklahoma City. Borbon is expected back in the Express’ lineup tonight.

The ‘Riders make their first appearance at Arvest Ballpark tonight for a 7:00 showdown with Northwest Arkansas. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30. Enjoy!

- Brian

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