September 2011

Game 2 Preview – Frisco at San Antonio

Texas League South Division Series
Frisco RoughRiders at San Antonio Missions
Thursday, September 8 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 – San Antonio leads 1-0

GAME 2 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders look to even up this best-of-five series after mustering only two hits in a 3-0, Game 1 loss Wednesday night. Former Frisco hurler Joe Wieland held the ‘Riders off the scoreboard for seven innings. Nick Vincent and Miles Mikolas each posted a perfect inning out of the bullpen for a hold and a save, respectively. Frisco starter Robbie Ross struck out a career-high 12 Missions in six innings, but he suffered the loss. Frisco fell to 5-12 at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium this season.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – LHP Ben Snyder (11-5, 3.87 ERA): After 26 relief appearances, Snyder joined the RoughRiders’ starting rotation at the outset of the second half. Snyder has been steady for Frisco, posting a 4.15 ERA in his 14 starts. Entering the playoffs, Snyder has notched a quality start in five straight efforts, and he has worked through six frames in his last seven starts. In 12 appearances (three starts) against the Missions in 2011, the RoughRiders’ regular season wins leader is 1-2 with a 3.30 ERA.

San Antonio – RHP Simon Castro (5-6, 4.33 ERA): Castro has made 16 starts with the Missions this season. Since August 1, the righty is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA. Against the RoughRiders, Castro has been pretty solid. He is only 1-2, but his ERA sits at 2.67. He has whiffed 25 in 27 innings of work over the course of four starts. The righty has posted a quality start in five of his last seven starts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • During the franchise’s playoff history, the RoughRiders are 5-5 in a game following a loss. Frisco’s loss to the Missions last night dropped their all-time playoff record to 17-15.
  • In Game 1, the ‘Riders were only one hit better than their season low of one, which came back on June 22 against Midland. San Antonio’s trio of Joe Wieland, Nick Vincent and Miles Mikolas only faced two more than the minimum.
  • The RoughRiders’ 12 losses at San Antonio have come by a combined 27 runs, which comes out to only 2.25 runs per game. The Missions have held the ‘Riders to three runs or less six times during the two clubs’ battles at the Wolff.
  • Cody Decker finished the regular season with a batting average of .186 (8-for-43) against the RoughRiders, yet he was the only Mission to get a base hit against Robbie Ross. It was the RBI double in the bottom of the sixth, a knock that proved to be the game winner.
  • Wednesday was the RoughRiders’ sixth shutout loss this year. Frisco’s pitching staff has six shutouts to its credit, too.
  • It was not a good day for the Rangers’ minor league system, as three other affiliates opened up their postseason journeys. Triple-A Round Rock lost at home to Omaha 4-0. Low-A Hickory spoiled three extra-inning leads in a 5-4, 15-inning loss at Greensboro. Only High-A Myrtle Beach picked up a victory, 4-1 over Kinston.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

Playoff Perspective – Game 1

The RoughRiders dropped Game 1 of this best-of-five Texas League South Division Series to San Antonio 3-0. You can check out the game recap here. Here are some post-game thoughts after Game 1:

PLAYOFF PERSPECTIVE:

- First off, this is what playoff baseball is all about. This was a pitching-heavy, nail-biting type of game that went to the team that took advantage of the few offensive opportunities that were available. Frisco fans have to tip their cap to the Missions.

Robbie Ross struck out a career-high 12 in Game 1 Wednesday (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

- What an effort by Robbie Ross. The southpaw struck out 12 in his six innings of work. He did not surrender a hit until Cody Decker’s RBI double in the sixth, which proved to be the game-winning hit. It was the best start of Ross’ Double-A career, and he wasn’t too shabby (2.61 ERA) during the regular season.

- Joe Wieland was great, and RoughRiders’ fans aren’t surprised. Wieland posted minor league baseball’s fifth lowest ERA during the regular season (1.97). This effort was comparable to his no-hitter with the ‘Riders July 29. He wasn’t untouchable, but he was close, and the stakes were higher.

- There is no shame in losing at San Antonio. After all, the Missions are 56-15 at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium this year. However, the Missions have only lost three straight games three times this year (April 8-10, May 3-5 and August 12-14). Thus, Game 2 is critical, because a loss Thursday would mean that the ‘Riders would have to hand San Antonio its fourth three-game losing streak in order to advance.

- Don’t expect to see much change in the RoughRiders’ lineup Thursday. It is probably a safe bet that Elio Sarmiento will be behind the plate instead of Jose Felix because these two trade off at the catcher slot. Other than that, I would anticipate the same personnel.

- The RoughRiders are now 4-5 in playoff series openers. Frisco has never won a series when dropping Game 1, so history is not on the ‘Riders’ side.

- It wasn’t a good day for the Rangers’ affiliates. Triple-A Round Rock lost at home to Omaha 4-0. Low-A Hickory spoiled three extra-inning leads in a 5-4, 15-inning loss at Greensboro. Only High-A Myrtle Beach picked up a victory, 4-1 over Kinston.

- We had a tremendous “Extra Bases Chat” tonight. You can view that until Thursday afternoon here. Be sure to join us on the Chat beginning at 6:45 Thursday for Game 2. That Chat will be available at the above link as well.

- Thursday is another day, and a win in Game 2 makes things much better. Hope you enjoy!

- Brian

Game 1 Preview – Frisco at San Antonio

Texas League South Division Series
Frisco RoughRiders at San Antonio Missions

Wednesday, September 7 – 7:05 p.m.
Game 1 – Series tied 0-0

GAME 1 BACKGROUND:

The RoughRiders begin their sixth postseason journey tonight in San Antonio against a Missions team that finished with minor league baseball’s best record (94-46). These two teams posted the top two records in the entire Texas League. San Antonio won the season series 19-13, which includes an 11-5 mark against the ‘Riders at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium. These two franchises have not met in the postseason since 2008 when the RoughRiders swept San Antonio 3-0.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Frisco – LHP Robbie Ross: Ross earned a promotion to Frisco in early August, and he has an ERA of 2.61 in his six starts with the ‘Riders. With High-A Myrtle Beach, Ross went 9-4 with a 2.61 ERA, which was enough to earn him the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Year honor. The southpaw squared off with San Antonio August 26, and he worked seven innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits. Left-handed hitters are hitting just .143 against Ross.

San Antonio – RHP Joe Wieland: Wieland joined the Missions after Texas shipped the right-hander to San Diego, along with lefty Robbie Erlin, for big league reliever Mike Adams. Since joining San Antonio, Wieland is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five starts. The Reno, Nevada, native earned a victory against the ‘Riders in his only start against his former club August 25. Overall this year with High-A Myrtle Beach, Frisco and San Antonio, Wieland is 13-4 with an ERA of 1.97, which is fifth in minor league baseball.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The RoughRiders are 4-4 all-time in playoff series openers, which is also their record in playoff series. When the ‘Riders win Game 1 of a playoff series, they have always won the series. When they lose Game 1, they have always lost the set.
  • Robbie Ross’ Double-A debut came in Game 4 of the Texas League Division Series last year. He gave up seven runs in three-plus innings in a season-ending loss at Midland.
  • Renny Osuna has been the ‘Riders’ best hitter against the Missions this season. In 29 games, Osuna is hitting .328 with 13 RBIs. Frisco’s home run leader, Mike Bianucci, has also enjoyed some success against the Missions. Bianucci hit seven of his 30 homers against San Antonio pitching.
  • The RoughRiders enter the postseason without a player on the disabled list. San Antonio is missing only Beamer Weems, who has been out of action since July 5. The Missions did get an offensive boost with the return of Vince Belnome, who returned to the lineup August 30 after missing a month and a half. Belnome boasted a .327 average against the ‘Riders in 15 games.
  • Three other Rangers affiliates begin postseason play tonight. Triple-A Round Rock hosts Omaha in their first playoff game since 2006. High-A Myrtle Beach is in the playoffs in its first season as a Rangers farm club, and the Pelicans play Kinston. Low-A Hickory travels to Greensboro for the opener of a best-of-three semifinal.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

You can catch tonight’s game, along with every 2011 playoff game, on 1630 KKGM or online here. You will hear from Frisco skipper Steve Buechele and LoneStarDugout.com’s Jason Cole on the pre-game show, which begins at 6:35.

In-Depth Playoff Coverage

It’s playoff time for the RoughRiders, which means it is time for the Insider Blog to bring its “A” game. Whether the ‘Riders’ run lasts through this weekend or all the way to the Texas League championship, we will have you covered in many ways.

Obviously, you’ll be able to follow the journey via game recaps on the ‘Riders’ website and the play-by-play action both online and on 1630 KKGM. Still, here are some other ways, some new and some enhanced, to connect with the ‘Riders.

Game Previews: For every game of the playoffs, we will post a game preview here on the Insider Blog. You will also be able to access the preview at ridersbaseball.com.

Playoff Perspective: Shortly after each game, we will break down the night’s showdown and talk about how it affects the RoughRiders’ series. More on this in a moment.

Extra Bases Chat: Aaron and I will be chatting with all you RoughRiders’ fans throughout the entire broadcast. Join us to discuss EVERY playoff game, both home and road. This is where your voice can be heard.

Twitter/Facebook: Your instant sources for RoughRiders’ information. Even more updates and links will be offered throughout the postseason.

Now, let’s give you an idea of our post-game feature. Here’s the “Playoff Perspective – Off Day Edition.”

- Carlos Pimentel will start Game 3 for the ‘Riders against San Antonio righty Casey Kelly. Pimentel doesn’t have awesome numbers overall, but he has had success against the Missions all year long. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.97 ERA against San Antonio.

- The RoughRiders were just 13-19 against San Antonio this year, but they did take three of four from minor league baseball’s best team August 23-26. It was the two clubs’ final regular season meeting, and it took place at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

- Proof that this series should be a low-scoring affair: Frisco’s team average against San Antonio is .240 and its ERA is 3.97. San Antonio’s marks are .237 and 3.14.

- Frisco will hope to reverse a recent trend. In both 2009 and 2010, the Texas League squad with the best regular season record went on to win the championship. Northwest Arkansas went 6-3 in its quest last season. Midland went 6-2 for the ’09 crown.

- Reason #29173 why minor league baseball is great: Robbie Ross and Joe Wieland, two very close friends who will be opponents on the mound in Game 1 of this series, had some fun with each other on Twitter. Ross on Wieland: “Dude that’s if Joe can keep it under control haha. No man it will be fun.” Wieland on Ross: “I’m gonna have to show him how its done.” If this were CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander going back and forth, people would be criticizing like crazy. Sports are supposed to be fun, and it will be a fun Game 1 matchup.

- For the first time in a long time, the ‘Riders and Missions are equal–at 0-0. It’s a race to 3. Enjoy the show.

- Brian

VIDEO: Hear from Ross and Snyder

Yesterday, we broke down the pitching matchups for Game 1 and Game 2 of the RoughRiders’ divisional round showdown with San Antonio beginning Wednesday night. Now, here is your chance to hear from both Robbie Ross and Ben Snyder, the two men who will try to lead the RoughRiders to victory at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium. Reid Copeland had a chance to chat with both during the ‘Riders’ most recent series against Midland. The videos are available below.

Game 1 starter – Robbie Ross

Game 2 starter – Ben Snyder

Playoff Pitching Matchups

The RoughRiders and Missions will begin their divisional round series Wednesday night in San Antonio. At this point, we know the probable pitchers for both Game 1 and Game 2. Let’s go inside the matchups.

Game 1 – Wednesday
Frisco at San Antonio
LHP Robbie Ross (1-1, 2.61 ERA) v. RHP Joe Wieland (3-1, 2.77 ERA)
These two hurlers led the Rangers’ High-A affiliate–the Myrtle Beach Pelicans–to a first-half division title earlier this season. Wieland earned a promotion to Frisco in late June. All the righty did with the RoughRiders was post a 1.23 ERA in seven starts. Two days after tossing a no-hitter in San Antonio, Wieland joined the Missions after the Rangers’ shipped him and Robbie Erlin to San Diego’s system for Mike Adams.

Robbie Ross gets the call for Game 1 Wednesday (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

With the Missions, Wieland still has great numbers. However, his final outing of the regular season was his shakiest at the Double-A level. Wieland surrendered four runs on ten hits in five innings Wednesday night against Midland. He needed more than 100 pitches to get through those five frames.

Ross remained with the Pelicans through July and earned the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year honor. Despite the tougher competition, Ross has had similar success with the RoughRiders. In 38 innings of work, Ross has struck out 36 and given up only 11 earned runs.

The southpaw faced San Antonio August 26 and lasted seven innings. He gave up three runs, two of which were earned, on seven hits. While Ross did not get the win, Frisco earned the victory that night.

Game 2 – Thursday
Frisco at San Antonio
LHP Ben Snyder (11-5, 3.87 ERA) v. RHP Simon Castro (5-6, 4.33 ERA)
After 26 relief appearances, Snyder joined the RoughRiders’ starting rotation at the outset of the second half. Snyder has been steady for Frisco, posting a 4.15 ERA in his 14 starts. Entering the playoffs, Snyder has notched a quality start in five straight efforts, and he has worked through six frames in his last seven starts. He leads the club in wins with 11.

Ben Snyder hopes to continue his success against lefties Thursday night (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

Snyder is dominant against fellow left-handers, who have just a .202 average against the Bellevue, Ohio native. This could be a huge asset against San Antonio. The Missions carry six lefties, including the likes of Jaff Decker, Sawyer Carroll and Blake Tekotte.

The Padres’ number three prospect according to Baseball America, Castro has made 16 starts with the Missions this season. Castro is a specimen at 6’5″, 210 pounds, and he has strong strikeout numbers (73 in 89 1/3 innings). Since August 1, the righty is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA.

Against the RoughRiders, Castro has been pretty solid. He is only 1-2, but his ERA sits at 2.67. He has whiffed 25 in 27 innings of work over the course of four starts.

Beyond these two games, the RoughRiders’ starters have yet to be announced. For San Antonio, right-hander Casey Kelly will start Game 3. Game 4 and Game 5′s hurlers have not been set yet. Stay tuned for continuing playoff coverage, including an interview with Frisco’s Game 1 starter–Robbie Ross.

- Brian

Texas League Playoffs Set

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!

- Brian

Tim Murphy Eyes 2012


It was exactly a year ago today that Tim Murphy pitched two innings of relief to earn his first career Double-A save in a 2-1 win over Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field for the ‘Riders.  Unfortunately for Murphy, in the ninth inning he began to feel pain in his left elbow and by the end of the frame, his fastballs were floating home in the upper 70s.

After an MRI, it was apparent that the injury was significant and that the left-hander needed Tommy John surgery.  This is a tough blow no matter the pitcher, but it was especially poor news for Murphy who had been selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League immediately after the season.  Furthermore, in his first season as a reliever, Tim was putting up better numbers in Double-A than he did in High-A Bakersfield (BAK: 19-G, 36.0-IP, 3.25-ERA, 24-BB, 23-K; FRI: 17-G, 22.2-IP, 1.59-ERA, 4-BB, 23-K).

Fabio Castillo replaced him the AFL as Murphy began the 18-month road to recovery from surgery.

All of that takes us the present day.  When I got on the team bus in Corpus Christi Tuesday night following the ‘Riders loss to the Hooks, who else was sitting behind my seat then Murph!  Needless to say I wasn’t expecting to see him this season at all, let alone all the way down in South Texas.

I got to chatting with him and he told me about his rehab work and how he flew to Corpus to work with Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews because the Rangers’ training complex in Surprise was closing down for a short while this time of year.

A couple of days later I had a chance to formally sit down with Tim on the pre-game show to talk about how his year has been and what his rehab is like.  Murph appears to be in a great mental state and has handled the injury and setback as best as someone possibly can.

Will be nice to hopefully see Murph back in a ‘Riders uniform in 2012.

-AG

 

 

‘Riders in the Fall League

Once the playoffs end for the RoughRiders this year, Dr Pepper Ballpark will close its doors, the players will pack up their lockers, and everyone will deserve a long vacation. But what many don’t realize is that for a number of RoughRiders, the season doesn’t end. Many players travel to Venezuela, Puerto Rico, or Mexico to play in winter leagues to continue to get better and prepare for the next year.

A few select players, however, get the chance to remain stateside and play in the highly regarded Arizona Fall League. The 12-week, prospect driven league is entering its 20th season and is owned and operated by Major League Baseball.   Big league All-Stars such as Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun have all spent time in the AFL.  This year, three current ‘Riders have been tabbed to play in the Fall League with the Surprise Rafters.

RHP, Neil Ramirez

The former 44th overall pick in the 2007 draft is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in Double-A this season through six starts.  The bulk of his season has been spent in Triple-A Round Rock where he made 17 starts and went 4-3 and had a 3.68 ERA.  The right-hander was placed on the disabled list in mid-July because of shoulder fatigue which has limited his innings in the Texas League.

When I talked with Neil following his start Thursday night in Corpus Christi he was excited to be selected for the Fall League.  “It’s a big honor, for sure.  It’s good competition and will great to see how you stack up.”  The righty wants to continue to hone his mechanics while he’s there.  “I plan on working on making good pitches and will focus on the backside of my delivery.  The Fall League will also give me a good idea what my off-season conditioning will look like.”

C, Elio Sarmiento

The ‘Riders switch-hitting catcher has had a terrific season in Frisco.  He hit .327 in 16 July games and has been a constant presence behind the plate for the ‘Riders.  He has always had a great rapport with the staff, but this has been his best offensive season in Double-A.  Elio is batting .378 with runners on base, and is hitting .356 with runners in scoring position.

His selection to the AFL is a great way to conclude his 2011 campaign and he’s clearly grateful.  “I feel blessed, it’s a great opportunity for me and I consider it a reward for all the hard work,”  His goals for the AFL season are pretty simple, “I want to finish healthy, do my best, and hope for even more opportunities with the Rangers.”

The Fall League works out well for Sarmiento because he makes his off-season home in Phoenix along with his wife and two children.  His mother-in-law is also in Phoenix and for just the second time, Elio’s mother will visit the U.S. from Venezuela and will be able to watch him play in Surprise.

RHP, Johan Yan

He was originally a shortstop then got too big for the position and moved to third base. Then his bat wasn’t cutting it so the Rangers’ moved him to the mound.  That didn’t work at first either.  The last ditch effort was to change Yan from the traditional over-the-top delivery to a side-arm approach.

Bingo.

The right-hander went from thinking his playing days were over to now being selected to the top off-season league in the country.  In 43 appearances combined between High-A Myrtle Beach and Frisco, Johan has allowed just eight earned runs in slightly over 66 innings of work and has a Double-A earned run average of 0.36.  On August 15th against Tulsa he gave up his first earned run since June 1 when he was pitching with the Pelicans.

Like Neil and Elio, Yan is a hard worker who has really made the most of his opportunities and will only get better in Arizona.

Former ‘Rider from early in the season Miguel de los Santos will also be going to Surprise to play in the AFL.  He’s pitched with Myrtle Beach after being placed on the DL with a shoulder injury after making six starts with Frisco.

The remaining prospects tabbed to play in Arizona who you have to imagine will be future RoughRiders are RHP Ryan Kelly, SS Leury Garcia, 3B Mike Olt, and OF Ryan Strausborger.

Congrats to Neil, Elio, Johan, and the rest of the group.  We’ll keep you posted on how their season goes here on the Insider Blog.

-AG

PlayBall! Preview

We have been working on a special version of the PlayBall! game program for the playoffs, and you can get a sneak peak at the feature story here. It is a summary of the 2011 season, and it brings back some memories from a tremendous five-month.
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The RoughRiders’ Run to the Playoffs

For the sixth time in franchise history, the RoughRiders are in the Texas League playoffs. Find out how the ‘Riders reached this point in our season rewind.

A Texas League season is a grind, with long trips, steamy temperatures, and few breaks. It is a long journey with peaks and valleys. Here in the RoughRiders’ ninth season, there were enough peaks for Frisco to enjoy playoff baseball for the sixth time.

April was a struggle for second-year skipper Steve Buechele’s club. The ‘Riders finished the month in the South Division’s basement at 8-14. The signature moment of the rough April was quite a notable one, though. Martin Perez, the Rangers’ top prospect, tossed a rain-shortened perfect game at Arkansas April 19.

By May 13, the ‘Riders worked their way back to the .500 mark. Later in the month, Frisco staked its claim to second place with a four-game sweep of Midland at Dr Pepper Ballpark. From this point on, the ‘Riders spent more time in second place than any other team in the Texas League.

The RoughRiders received some temporary help in May. Last year’s American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton hit a home run during his two-day rehab stint in Frisco. Nelson Cruz also graced the middle of the ‘Riders’ order for three games while battling back from an injury. Big name pitchers like Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter and Brandon Webb rehabbed in Frisco, too.

Leonys Martin's stateside career began in Frisco, and he is now in Arlington. (James Garner)

Also, outfielder Leonys Martin made his stateside debut with the RoughRiders after the Rangers inked Martin to a $15.5 million dollar contract. Martin hit .348 in 29 games with the ‘Riders before heading to Triple-A Round Rock.

Frisco finished the first half strongly, but a 40-30 mark was not good enough to notch a division championship after San Antonio’s 49-win showing. Individually, Tommy Mendonca was the star of the show in June. Mendonca was the Texas League’s Player of the Month after boasting a .375 batting average and driving in 30 runs.

July was a month for the record books in Frisco. The ‘Riders matched a franchise-high in runs in their 19-4 thumping of Corpus Christi July 22. Mendonca hit three of the RoughRiders’ record-setting eight home runs.

One week later, Joe Wieland became the first RoughRider to single-handedly throw a nine-inning no-hitter at San Antonio. Less than 48 hours after the no-no, the Rangers dealt Wieland and Robbie Erlin to San Diego for big league reliever Mike Adams. As a result, the former Frisco duo joined San Antonio’s loaded rotation.

The 'Riders begin their 2011 playoff journey Wednesday in San Antonio (Alex Yocum-Beeman).

The RoughRiders spent the month of August holding off Midland for a playoff berth. They officially clinched a spot in the season’s final week, a few days after the ‘Riders took three of four from their first round opponent—San Antonio.

Over the course of 140 games, the ‘Riders played well enough to earn a chance to vie for the Texas League’s richest prize. The club has been among the best in the league in most categories this season, and Frisco is well positioned to have a September to remember for the first time since 2004—the franchise’s first and only championship season.

The RoughRiders have won regularly here in 2011, and now only six playoff wins separate the ‘Riders from a title.

- Brian

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