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!
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.
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.
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 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.
In case you missed it, the RoughRiders have clinched a playoff spot for the sixth time in franchise history. Frisco will square off with San Antonio in the first round beginning September 7.
How have the ‘Riders fared in the playoffs over the years? Here are the year-by-year results.
Divisional Round: Defeated Wichita 3-0
Championship Series: Lost to San Antonio 4-1
In the RoughRiders’ first season, they qualified for the playoffs and made quick work of the Wranglers in the first round. In 2003, like this season, San Antonio was an all-timer of a team. The Missions went 88-51 in the regular season and cruised past the ‘Riders for the title.
Divisional Round: Defeated Tulsa 3-0
Championship Series: Defeated Round Rock 4-1
After a third-place finish in the first half, the RoughRiders blew away the competition en route to their first and only Texas League championship. Frisco went 45-25 in the second half to punch its playoff ticket. In their three-game sweep of Tulsa, the ‘Riders scored 28 runs. In the championship series against Round Rock, Frisco’s pitching staff gave up only 20 runs. This remains the lone banner in the RoughRiders’ tenure in the Texas League.
Divisional Round: Lost to San Antonio 3-0
Following their title in 2004, the RoughRiders missed the playoffs in ’05 and ’06. They made up for lost time with a record of 85-55 during the 2007 regular season, which was ten games better than any other team in the Texas League. However, the ‘Riders did not translate their regular season success into the playoffs. The Missions outscored Frisco 19-8 in the sweep. San Antonio went on to win the TL title.
Divisional Round: Defeated San Antonio 3-0
Championship Series: Lost to Arkansas 3-2
For the second straight season, the ‘Riders posted the best record in the Texas League (84-56). This time, the ‘Riders made quick work of San Antonio in the first round. In fact, Frisco’s sweep of San Antonio was more lopsided than the Missions’ broom job in ’07, as the ‘Riders outscored the defending champs 20-5. The championship series went back and forth, with Frisco taking Game 2 and Game 4. However, the Travelers dominated the deciding Game 5 11-3 to win their first outright title since 1989.
Divisional Round: Lost to Midland 3-1
Skipper Steve Buechele led the RoughRiders to the playoffs in his first season at the helm, but the RockHounds won back-to-back games at home after the two clubs split the two games at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Midland lost to Northwest Arkansas in the championship series.
All-Time Record (Games): 17-14
All-Time Record (Series): 4-4
For the sixth time in the franchise’s nine-year history, the RoughRiders have qualified for the Texas League playoffs.
San Antonio defeated Midland 8-2 tonight to officially clinch the second-half South Division title. Because the Missions also finished at the top of the South in the first half, the ‘Riders earned a wild card berth because they will finish second in the overall division standings.
The ‘Riders and Missions will meet in the divisional round of the Texas League playoffs, which is a best-of-five series beginning Wednesday, September 7. Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 4 will be at Dr Pepper Ballpark Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10.
Frisco is 17-14 during five other trips to the postseason, which includes the RoughRiders’ 2004 Texas League championship.
San Antonio won the season series with a 19-13 mark against the ‘Riders this season. Frisco managed a split in the 16 games played between the two squads at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
The RoughRiders become the fifth Rangers affiliate to earn a postseason spot here in 2011. Triple-A Round Rock won its division for the first time since 2006. High-A Myrtle Beach and Low-A Hickory claimed first-half titles. The AZL Rangers earned a division crown, too.
Short-season Spokane, the only club in the Rangers’ minor league system that has not guaranteed a playoff berth, entered play tonight tied for the wild card spot in the Northwest League’s East. Overall, Texas’ farm system owns the best record in baseball (412-319; .564 winning percentage).
Click here for ticket information for all playoff games at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
With the RoughRiders’ 3-1 win over Midland and San Antonio’s 6-0 victory over Corpus Christi, Frisco is closing in on its sixth ever playoff appearance. Ultimately, the ‘Riders’ standing in the second-half race means nothing at this point because they already have the wild card spot secured if one is needed.
The first-half champion meets the second-half champion in the Texas League’s divisional round. However, San Antonio won the first half and lead the second half by six games with nine to go. This is where the wild card comes into play.
When one team wins both division titles in a season, the team with the second best overall record punches a ticket to the postseason. Frisco (73-58) already has the second-best mark clinched in the South Division, with Midland (59-72) and Corpus Christi (48-83) well below .500.
The only thing that can prevent the ‘Riders from going to the playoffs is a huge comeback by Midland for the second-half crown (Corpus has already been eliminated from the race). Midland’s “elimination number,” which is calculated just like a magic number but isn’t nearly as magical, sits at three. Thus, if the number of Midland losses plus San Antonio wins from now until the regular season equals or surpasses three, San Antonio wins the second half and Frisco claims the wild card.
With that being said, let’s set the table for the two games that matter tonight:
Frisco (Ben Snyder; 9-5, 4.21) vs. Midland (Gary Daley; 6-5, 4.50)
6:00 p.m. – Citibank Ballpark
The ‘Riders have owned Midland this season, posting a 15-8 record against the men from the Permian Basin. Four of Ben Snyder’s nine wins have come against the RockHounds, and his ERA sits at 4.26 in his eight appearances against them. However, Gary Daley loves facing the ‘Riders. Daley is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 22 2/3 frames in three starts against Frisco in ’11. The rest of Midland’s pitching staff has an ERA of 5.68 against the ‘Riders.
San Antonio (Robbie Erlin; 0-0, 2.12) v. Corpus Christi (Erick Abreu; 6-6, 4.07)
6:05 p.m. – Whataburger Field
The Padres monitor their minor league pitchers’ innings more than most systems, so Robbie Erlin has only worked 17 innings in his four starts with the Missions. In his last two efforts, Erlin has tossed only five innings, so don’t expect a workhorse-like effort from the former RoughRider tonight. Abreu has labored against San Antonio this year (7 IP, 7 ER, 11 H). The Missions have a 19-4 mark against Corpus this season, which is the second-most lopsided season series in the TL (Frisco’s 10-2 record against Tulsa is the most lopsided).
If the ‘Riders win and the Missions lose tonight, then Frisco can clinch a playoff spot as early as tomorrow. Then, it’s time to think playoffs in North Texas for the second straight season.
Frisco third baseman Tommy Mendonca was named the designated hitter on the Texas League Post-Season All-Star Team, the league office announced.
The league’s Player of the Month for June, Mendonca is currently fourth in the TL in home runs (25), second in RBIs (87), and tied for eighth in runs scored (73). Mendonca is batting .283 this year, his first at the Double-A level.
Mendonca has hit at least four home runs and driven in at least 11 runs in all five months this season. Before the All-Star break, Mendonca was among the league’s leaders with a .324 batting average.
The Turlock, Calif., native hit three home runs against Corpus Christi July 22, a night that saw the ‘Riders match a franchise high with 19 runs. Mendonca also has 40 multi-hit games and 20 multi-RBI games.
Mendonca is the only RoughRider to earn a spot on the 18-player All-Star Team. Former RoughRider Joe Wieland, now a member of the San Antonio Missions, was one of the six pitchers honored. The quartet of Arkansas, San Antonio, Springfield and Tulsa led the way with three representatives.
Arkansas right-hander Matt Shoemaker earned the TL’s Pitcher of the Year, while Springfield’s Triple Crown candidate Matt Adams is the Player of the Year. San Antonio skipper Doug Dascenzo, who has led the Missions to the best record in full-season minor league baseball, is the Manager of the Year.
The ‘Riders are back in action tonight against Midland. First pitch is set for 7:00, and pre-game coverage along the RoughRiders Baseball Network begins at 6:30.
July 31 was a big day for both the RoughRiders and the San Antonio Missions. Two days after Joe Wieland pitched a no-hitter in San Antonio, Wieland and Robbie Erlin made the surreal walk from the visitor clubhouse to the home clubhouse at the Wolff. Wieland and Erlin were traded to San Diego for big league reliever Mike Adams.
Erlin squared off against the ‘Riders August 8 and held them to one run on two hits in six innings. Last night at Dr Pepper Ballpark, Wieland was just as good.
Wieland blanked his former club over five quick innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked two. He only allowed one runner to reach third base. Before he threw pitch number one, the Missions led 3-0. After an inning and a half, San Antonio extended that lead to 8-0.
When you combine his stats during his time in Myrtle Beach, Frisco and San Antonio this season, Wieland is 13-3 with a 1.79 earned run average. In 150 2/3 innings, Wieland has struck out 144 and walked 18. In his first four starts with the Missions, Wieland is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Yesterday, Wieland was our pre-game guest. He discussed his comfort level in San Antonio, his excitement for the playoffs, and his scheduled start in game one of the first round of the playoffs, which will most likely come against the ‘Riders.
You can listen to Wieland’s interview below.
The ‘Riders will welcome outfielder David Paisano back to Frisco today, while infielder Matt Leeds is heading back to the Arizona League.
Paisano opened the season with the RoughRiders and hit .213 with 12 runs scored five RBIs in 27 games. He was sent to High-A Myrtle Beach May 14. Paisano hit .241 with the Pelicans in 65 games.
Paisano is not in the RoughRiders’ starting lineup tonight in game three of this four-game series.
Leeds spent a little more than a week with the RoughRiders and played in three games. The College of Charleston product went 3-for-9 with two RBIs. Leeds will return to Surprise to rejoin the first-place AZL Rangers. This season in Arizona, Leeds is hitting .264 with three homers and 23 RBIs.
Unfortunately for Paisano, he will not get to take part in the “Hurricane Party” at the Pelicans’ home game tonight at BB&T Coastal Field. The team tweeted today that anyone with the name Irene gets free admission.
That sound is the RoughRiders making quite a charge late in the regular season. The ‘Riders own a four-game winning streak, with the last two victories coming against the San Antonio Missions. This will most likely be the first round playoff matchup in the Texas League South, and it should be fascinating based on the last two games. Here are some notable stats after last night’s win.
5: The RoughRiders’ current home winning streak, which is the longest of the year. Three of those five victories have come by just one run. Overall this year, the club is 38-27 at home.
7: The ‘Riders have hit seven home runs in their last three games, all of which were wins. During Frisco’s four-game losing skid that preceded this run, the club only hit two homers. In the entire month of August, the ‘Riders have only hit 16 long balls, so the power is coming back for the RoughRiders.
13: How many one-run games the RoughRiders and Missions have played this season. San Antonio owns a narrow 7-6 edge in these games. Overall in the season series, the Missions lead 18-12, but Frisco is an even 7-7 at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
14: Frisco is now 14 games above .500, which is one away from matching a season high. The ‘Riders were 15 games above .500 three times (July 14, July 24, and July 26).
29-2: This stat is courtesy of Mike Saeger, the play-by-play broadcaster for the Missions. San Antonio is 29-2 when hitting two or more home runs. The second loss came last night against the RoughRiders.
30: Mike Bianucci’s home run total this season, which puts him second on the RoughRiders’ all-time list for a single season home run mark. Bianucci is four away from Nate Gold’s record of 34. If Bianucci plays in every game the rest of the regular season, he is on pace for 33 homers.
39.1: The number of innings Carlos Pimentel has worked against San Antonio, and the righty is 2-0 with a 2.97 earned run average. Not bad for a guy who has a 5.21 ERA overall.
And most importantly…
14: The number of days until Game 1 of the Texas League playoffs.
If the season ended today, every team within the Rangers’ minor league system–from Arlington to Surprise–would make the postseason. As a result, it isn’t surprising that the Rangers’ farm clubs have the best combined record in all of baseball (394-303; .565 winning percentage).
Let’s take a look at these teams’ successes in the regular season and likely journeys in the playoffs.
Texas Rangers (74-56; 3.5 game lead in the A.L. West)
MAGIC NUMBER: 30
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Los Angeles Angels, who have won five in a row to pull within three and a half games. The Rangers and Angels meet this weekend in Arlington.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: With the American League wild card likely going to the second-place team in the East, the Rangers will get either the Yankees or the Red Sox. The two teams are tied for first in the division. New York has the better offense, while Boston has the better pitching staff, so it is a “pick-em” situation.
FUN FACT: The Rangers have shut out their opponent 15 times this year, which is good for 11% of the Rangers’ games.
Round Rock Express (79-52; 14.0 game lead in the PCL’s American Southern)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Getting to playoff baseball healthy and intact. The Express clinched its first division title since 2006 last night after a win over New Orleans and an Albuquerque loss to Memphis.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: The two American Conference division winners will square off in a best-of-five semifinal series. Entering play Wednesday, the Omaha Storm Chasers lead that division, with the Memphis Redbirds four games back. The Express is 9-3 against Omaha in 2011.
FUN FACT: Round Rock joined Columbus (81-51) as the earliest playoff qualifiers at the Triple-A level. Both clubs clinched last night.
Frisco RoughRiders (70-57/30-27; 14.0 game lead in TL’s South wild card)
MAGIC NUMBER: 6
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Rooting for the first-place San Antonio Missions. Frisco’s magic number to clinch the wild card spot is also San Antonio’s magic number to clinch the second-half title. Only Midland (eight games back) can prevent the ‘Riders from going to the postseason for the fifth time in franchise history, and it would take a miracle for that to happen.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: As discussed yesterday, it will be the Missions, who own the best record in full-season minor league baseball (86-41). The ‘Riders are 11-18 against San Antonio this year.
FUN FACT: The ‘Riders have now won 70 or more games in eight of the nine seasons as a franchise. Frisco is the only Texas League team with at least 70 wins every year since 2006.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (67-59/27-30; first-half champion in CL’s Southern)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Turning things around after a stellar first half. The Pelicans are three games below .500 in the second half, which puts them four games back of first place. Fortunately, a key piece is back in action–Mike Olt is back from his broken collarbone, and he is 4-for-10 with four RBIs in three games.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: Kinston currently leads the second half at 31-26, a game and a half better than Winston-Salem. It will go down to the wire, but Kinston is the sentimental favorite because the franchise is moving after the 2011 season.
FUN FACT: According to the Pelicans’ web site, Myrtle Beach owns a walk-off win against every Carolina League team this season.
Hickory Crawdads (71-52/31-24; first-half champion in SAL’s Northern)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Kannapolis Intimidators, who currently lead the second-half standings. It is looking like a Kannapolis-Hickory semifinal series in the South Atlantic League.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: Well, the Intimidators. So far this season, the ‘Dads are 10-5 against Kannapolis.
FUN FACT: The Crawdads beat Stephen Strasburg and the Hagerstown Suns Monday. It was just the third minor league loss in Strasburg’s career.
Spokane Indians (32-34/12-16; 3.0 game lead in NWL’s East wild card)
MAGIC NUMBER: 7
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: The Boise Hawks, who trail the Indians by three games in the wild card standings. The Indians finish with five at Eugene and three at home against Everett.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: The Tri-City Dust Devils, who have led this division most of the season. Tri-City is tied with Eugene for the best overall mark in the Northwest League at 39-27.
FUN FACT: Spokane leads the NWL in attendance with an average of 4,828 fans per game.
Surprise Rangers (33-18; champion in AZL West)
MAGIC NUMBER: 0
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: At this point, nothing other than waking up early for baseball in warm temperatures out there in Arizona.
LIKELY PLAYOFF OPPONENT: The AZL Rangers have the second best record in the league, which means they will likely face the worst division winner. At this point, that is the AZL Dodgers.
FUN FACT: Five players who have played in at least 27 games have a batting average above .300.