October 16th, 2012

Season in Review: May

Carlos Pimentel and the RoughRiders wore Pink for a series in May to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

MAY

Record: 17-11 (T-1st of 8 TL teams)

Average: .268 (2nd)

Home Runs: 24 (3rd)

ERA: 3.27 (2nd)

Top Offensive Players: Mike Olt (.333-5-23, 7 2B, 16 R, .437/.556/.993, 3-3 SB), Jurickson Profar (.322-3-14, 9 2B, 2 3B, 21 R, .385/.513/.898, 3-5 SB), Zach Zaneski (.429-1-8), 3 2B, 7 R, .489/.571/1.061)

Top Pitchers: Chad Bell (7 G, 3 GS, 1-0, 0.69 ERA, 1-1 SV, 0.62 WHIP, .131 BAA), Justin Grimm (6 GS, 4-2, 2.08 ERA, 34.2 IP, 30 K, 6 BB), Joseph Ortiz (10 G, 0-1, 1.74 ERA, 2-3 SV, 10.1 IP, 8 H, 13 K ,3 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .211 BAA), Ross Wolf (9 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 13.2 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 16 K, 3 BB, 3.75 GO/AO, 0.88 WHIP, .188 BAA)

After a solid opening month, the RoughRiders continued their steady ascent in the Texas League in May.  Frisco held at least a share of first place in the TL South for every day in April and claimed sole possession of the division lead for all of May as well.  The ’Riders began the month by winning seven of their first nine games and held a season-best five-game lead over Midland in the division by May 12.

It wasn’t until Frisco’s first trip to west Texas in the middle of the month that Steve Buechele’s squad lost a second series for the season.  The ’Riders first foray to Citibank Ballpark, home of the RockHounds, proved to be a frustrating experience.  Midland walked off with a win in the first game before Frisco rallied the next day to win by one run.  Big innings hurt the RoughRiders in each of the next two games, as the ’Hounds had six-run and five-run innings in the next two games respectively to win the series.  Frisco responded by winning eight of the final 12 games of the month to steady the ship and tie for the best record in the league during the month.

Jurickson Profar authored a 29-game hitting streak that ended in May. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The team’s success coincided with a remarkable period of roster stability, a rarity in this age of baseball.  Frisco benefitted from the Rangers’ relative health and between April 29 and May 23, there were no roster moves made.  That changed later in the month when the ’Riders suffered their first true loss in the game of musical chairs that is in-season player movement.  Closer Johan Yan, who was leading the Texas League with ten saves, was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock on May 25 where he would remain for the rest of the season.  Yan’s worth was evident in that the team was 12-3 in games decided by one run while he was a RoughRider.

During May, the team continued to get excellent work from Justin Grimm, wins from Barret Loux (5-0, but his ERA in the month rose to 4.71), terrific relief from the likes of Joseph Ortiz, Fabio Castillo, Trevor Hurley and Yan, and solid production from newly converted reliever Chad Bell.  The lefty from Tennessee, who arrived in late April from Myrtle Beach, impressed in the bullpen enough to earn a starting role.  In both functions, he combined to post a 0.69 ERA and kept hitters off-guard by working all parts of the strike zone with his deceptive delivery.

Offensively, Mike Olt began to hit his stride offensively, raising his season batting average by 44 points and hitting five home runs with 23 RBI.  His teammate on the left side of the infield continued to improve as well.  Jurickson Profar continued a hit streak and on-base streak that began in April deep into May.  Profar ended up hitting in 29 straight games from April 19 – May 19, tied for the second-longest hit streak in either Major or Minor League Baseball this past season, and he reached base in every game he played over the month.  Meanwhile, backup catcher Zach Zaneski earned himself more playing time by continuing to produce offensively every time he was given the opportunity.

With a four-game lead in the division and just two more weeks left until the end of the season’s first half, another trip to the postseason was looking like a stronger possibility by the day for the RoughRiders.

TIMELINE:

May 1: Tim Murphy and two relievers combine on a 2-0 shutout effort at San Antonio.  The Frisco pitchers outduel former RoughRider Robbie Erlin, who allows two runs in eight innings.  Erlin was part of the Mike Adams trade in July of 2011and was a member of the ’Riders when the deal was made.

May 5: The ’Riders host the RockHounds on Cinco de Mayo in the first game between the top two teams in the South Division.  Trailing by a run in the seventh inning, Frisco strikes for two tallies in the bottom of the frame to win 3-2.  Joseph Ortiz tosses 1.2 perfect innings for the save while Jurickson Profar extends his hitting streak to 16 games with a third inning single.

May 7: In a matchup of two players that would soon be in the big leagues, Justin Grimm (6 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 5 K) tops A.J. Griffin (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K) as the ’Riders beat Midland 4-2.  Frisco scores three runs in the decisive fifth inning, capped by Ryan Strausborger’s second home run of the season.

May 8: The RoughRiders beat up another future Major League hurler, Dan Straily (5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, BB, 6 K), in a 9-3 win to capture the series victory.  Later that day, Grimm is named the Rangers’ “Minor League Pitcher of the Month” for April.

May 10: Frisco wallops Corpus Christi 10-2 in the first game of a series in south Texas.  Profar runs his hit streak to 20 games with a 2-for-6 effort while Barret Loux (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K) improves to 7-0 on the season.  The true star is Brad Hawpe, who goes 4 for 5 with a double, one run batted in and three runs scored in the game.  After the game Hawpe moves into second place in the Texas League in both batting average (.338) and on-base percentage (.455) but struggles moving forward.

May 14: After splitting their series in Corpus, the ’Riders pay their first visit to Midland and go on to lose in walk-off fashion for the first time in 2012.  After Chris McGuiness was robbed of an RBI single on a line drive back to the pitcher to end the top of the ninth inning, Shane Peterson wins it for the RockHounds with a bases-loaded RBI hit off Ortiz to give Midland a 6-5 victory.

Closer Johan Yan bedeviled Texas League hitters, converting ten saves in 11 chances before a promotion. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

May 15:Johan Yan enters the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead over Midland but commits an error, gives up a run and loads the bases with one out.  He gets out of the jam thanks to a spectacular stop and glove flip by second baseman Guilder Rodriguez that starts a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.  Frisco wins 5-4 as Loux becomes the Minors’ first eight-game winner.

May 18: On the heels of their second series defeat of the season, the ’Riders look worn down against former big leaguer and San Antonio Mission Josh Geer, who takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning.  Jared Prince breaks it up with a double to start off the frame, but Frisco goes on to lose 5-2.  Profar narrowly extends his hitting streak to 28 games by tripling in his final at bat in the ninth inning.

May 19: A night after nearly being no-hit, the ’Riders come close to no-hitting San Antonio in a 13-0 victory.  Chad Bell (4 IP), Carlos Pimentel (3 IP) and Corey Young (0.2 IP) combine to get to within four outs of the no-no but Young allows a double to Jeudy Valdez with two outs in the frame to spoil the bid.  Profar wastes no time in moving his hit streak to 29 games, the longest in the Minors at that point, with a first inning double.  Mike Olt closes the affair with a two-run home run in the eighth inning, his ninth of the season.

May 20: Profar fails to get a base hit in a game for the first time since April 17, ending his 29-game hitting streak in a 2-1 Frisco win over the Missions.  By the end of the season, the streak would be tied for the second-longest in Major or Minor League Baseball in 2012.  Profar does work a walk in the fourth inning to push his consecutive games on-base streak to 39.

May 21: Yan blows his first career save by giving up two runs in the ninth inning to San Antonio.  He had been 25-for-25 in save opportunities since he converted from playing infield before today.  His offense, with some help from a fortuitous Jonathan Galvez error, picks him up by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning en route to a 6-5 win.

May 23 – 25: Division leaders Frisco and Tulsa play for the first time at the Drillers’ ONEOK Field.  Tulsa wins two of three games to claim the series victory, in part thanks to a walk-off wild pitch uncorked by Wilfredo Boscan in the series finale.

May 26: The ’Riders score five runs in the bottom of the first inning off Northwest Arkansas’ Chris Dwyer, but the lead is short-lived as Loux surrenders five runs as well in the bottom of the frame.  The big righty settles down to pitch six innings as the offense provides four more runs in a 9-6 win.  Loux improves to 10-0 in his first ten starts of the season, setting a new Frisco record for most consecutive victories.

May 27: Hawpe, mired in a slump, goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in what proves to be his last game of the season, one the ’Riders lose 9-5 to the Naturals.  Since his four-hit game on May 10, the former Major League All-Star has hit .130 (6-for-46) with no extra-base hits and one RBI.

May 28: Memorial Day becomes truly memorable for one RoughRider as Val Majewski and Alex Buchholz combine on back-to-back solo home runs off Northwest Arkansas’ Noel Arguelles in a game Frisco wins 9-6.  It was Majewski’s first and only home run of the season; he goes 3-for-5 with another RBI and run scored for the day.

May 31: Frisco closes out the month of May with a 10-4 win at home over Tulsa.  After a few days off, Hawpe goes on the disabled list with elbow fatigue (he had “Tommy John” surgery on his left elbow the previous August).  Three weeks later he is granted his release by the Rangers organization and does not play again in 2012.

 

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of June.

-          Alex V.

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