September 4th, 2011
With Northwest Arkansas’ victory over Tulsa last night, the Texas League Playoffs are set. In the South, San Antonio will square off with Frisco. In the North, Arkansas will tangle with Northwest Arkansas. Let’s break down the two matchups, which both begin Wednesday night.
San Antonio (First/Second Half Champion) v.
Frisco (Wild Card Winner)
Game 1: Frisco at San Antonio – Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
Game 2: Frisco at San Antonio – Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
Game 3: San Antonio at Frisco – Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Game 4: San Antonio at Frisco – Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Game 5: Frisco at San Antonio – Sunday at 6:05 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: All the Missions did was post the best record in minor league baseball this season. They have been in first place for the vast majority of this season. After a rough April, though, the RoughRiders were right with San Antonio. The ‘Riders have had the second-best mark in the Texas League for much of the campaign.
SEASON SERIES: The Missions won the season series 19-13. In fact, San Antonio won every season series this year. However, the ‘Riders took three of four from San Antonio in the two clubs’ final regular season showdown (August 23-26).
SAN ANTONIO WILL WIN IF…: they improve offensively. San Antonio was an offensive-heavy unit in April and May, but the team’s depth now lies in the pitching staff. To the surprise of no one, the Missions boasted the best record in the TL during August at 20-9. However, they hit just .251 as a team. The pitching staff won all those games (2.53 ERA). If the Missions’ bats get going again, they will be very dangerous.
FRISCO WILL WIN IF…: they continue to get good starting pitching. The RoughRiders took three of four against San Antonio last week because of their arms. In their three wins over the Missions, Frisco’s starters combined for 22 innings and just seven earned runs. The ‘Riders’ offense is better than San Antonio’s right now. The starting pitching just needs to match the Missions’ prospect-laden staff.
Arkansas (First Half Champion) v.
Northwest Arkansas (Second Half Champion)
Game 1: Northwest Arkansas at Arkansas – Wednesday at 7:10 p.m.
Game 2: Northwest Arkansas at Arkansas – Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
Game 3: Arkansas at Northwest Arkansas – Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Game 4: Arkansas at Northwest Arkansas – Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
Game 5: Arkansas at Northwest Arkansas – Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Northwest Arkansas really had to sweat it out this year in order to earn their fourth playoff berth in as many seasons as a franchise. Arkansas edged the Naturals for the first-half crown by one game to punch its first playoff ticket since 2008. The Naturals then had to swat away a late charge by Tulsa, who won nine in a row to draw even with Northwest. Still, the Naturals downed the Drillers Saturday night to get to the postseason.
SEASON SERIES: The Travelers edged the Naturals in the season series with a 15-14 month against their in-state rival. These two clubs had three games washed out due to rain in the first half of the season. However, Northwest Arkansas is 9-3 against the Travs since mid-July.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF…: they get some of their first-half momentum back. The Travs have struggled mightily in the second half. They are 30-38 in this half, which began with a six-game winning streak. The man who can get the Travs some momentum is Matt Shoemaker, who won the Texas League Pitcher of the Year honor. However, he has lost his last three starts. If he drops a game against Northwest Arkansas next week, it will be tough for the Travs to recover.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF…: their pitching staff’s improvement continues. The Naturals posted a 4.08 earned run average in August, which was their lowest mark for a month this season. Northwest has been in the bottom half of the season in ERA for much of the year. If they can slow down Arkansas’ offense, the Naturals’ lineup should carry them to the championship series for the third straight season.
Stay tuned to the Insider Blog for continuing coverage of the RoughRiders’ run in the playoffs. We will have game previews and post-game reactions throughout Frisco’s sixth trip to the postseason. Enjoy!