Results tagged ‘ Northwest Arkansas Naturals ’

Lineups are in: Monday, April 8, 2013

Here are the lineups for tonight.  First pitch for RoughRiders and Naturals from Springdale, Arkansas is at 7:00 p.m.
 
ROUGHRIDERS

2B Odubel Herrera

SS Guilder Rodriguez

RF Jared Hoying

1B Brett Nicholas

DH Alejandro Selen

Tomas Telis

CF Ryan Strausborger

SS Hanser Alberto

LF Teodoro Martinez
 
*RHP Carlos Pimentel
 
NATURALS

CF Brett Eibner

DH Orlando Calixte

LF Brian Fletcher

1B Matt Fields

2B Rey Navarro

C Manuel Pina

RF Whit Merrifield

SS Alex McClure

3B Angel Franco
 
*RHP J.C. Sulbaran
 

Johnny Whittleman Interview, June 3, 2012

During the last home stand we caught up with former RoughRider Johnny Whittleman. Whittleman played parts of the 2008, 2009, and 2010 seasons with Frisco. He was drafted in the second round by the Texas Rangers in the 2005 draft.

Shot by Michael Damman and Jarah Wright

Sharlon Schoop Interivew, June 3, 20120

Before yesterday’s game, we talked to Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ shortstop Sharlon Schoop about growing up in Curacao and the relationship between his family and Jurickson Profar.

Shot by Jarah Wright and Michael Damman

On The Road: Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas

Texas League travel is renowned in Minor League Baseball circles for the toll it takes on players, coaches, bus drivers and, yes, broadcasters.  With airfare too costly for Double-A teams, all of the trips in the TL are via chartered bus rides.  Google the route from Corpus Christi, Texas to Springfield, Missouri and you’ll get the idea of what sort of monstrosities take place for some teams in our eight-squad circuit.  Fortunately for the RoughRiders, Frisco’s central location makes our travel somewhat more advantageous than for some of our peer teams, notably those from the South Division.

As far as road trips go, the six-game Tulsa-Northwest Arkansas swing has been one of the more enjoyable of the season, with the travel being one of the reasons why.  For most road series, we will leave as a team the day before our first game in a particular city so that the players can salvage as much rest as possible prior to playing.  For example, we left at 3:30 p.m. for Corpus Christi (our longest trip at over seven hours) on a Wednesday with the first game of our series on Thursday night at Whataburger Field.

With Tulsa only about four hours north of the Metroplex, we were able to leave the day of the game last Wednesday.  However, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, which proved to be the case when we arrived in “The 918.”  Our hotel did not have our rooms ready for the team to check in, meaning that we had to wait up to two hours in the lobby to head to our homes away from home (I drew the lucky straw for getting to his room last, leaving me 15 minutes to unpack, change clothes, gather equipment and catch our bus to the ballpark).

The hotel “in” Tulsa is barely in the city; it’s located near the southern edge of its borders, not far from the campus of Oral Roberts University.  Generally, we will have two scheduled bus times to take the team to the ballpark when we are on the road: one at 3 p.m. and another at 4 p.m.  Most of the team will get on the earlier bus, with that night’s starting pitcher taking the other, often by his lonesome self.

The first thing that sticks out about the Drillers’ ballpark is its location.  ONEOK Field (pronounced “one-oak”) is directly adjacent to downtown Tulsa, giving it a terrific view of the skyline over right field and a setting that feels urban, the way it should feel in my opinion.  There is a dearth of views like this in the Texas League (Arkansas’ vista with downtown Little Rock looming past the Arkansas River, is Tulsa’s closest competitor), so it’s a treat to look at the cityscape for three nights.

The second appealing aspect of the Tulsa trip is the ballpark itself.  Built in 2010, ONEOK Field, named after a natural gas utilities company, is the newest park in the TL and it is impressive.  Aside from views it possesses, it boasts a huge clubhouse, a terrific press box and plenty of fan amenities.  I thought the name of a group seating section – “The Oil Field” – was particularly clever, given the importance of the oil industry in Tulsa (hence, the nickname of the team).  The fans support the Drillers in droves, sending Tulsa to the second-highest average attendance in the league (Frisco leads the way by a large margin).  Our final game drew 8,207 fans, making it the largest crowd we have seen at an opposing ballpark this season.

After each game, the players will shower up, have dinner in the clubhouse (as prepared by the visiting clubhouse manager) and load back up onto the bus to head back to the ballpark, typically 45 minutes or an hour after the game ends.  This takes a bit longer on the last day of the series, as the team needs to bring all of its equipment and uniforms to whichever city is next on the travel log.

The trip from Tulsa to our next destination, Springdale, Arkansas – the home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals – is the shortest route between any two cities in the Texas League.  After numerous seven-hour bus rides this season, the sub-two hour journey following Friday’s game was a welcome trip, especially so because we played a four-hour game against the Drillers in the series finale.  We arrived at our hotel at a reasonable 2:15 a.m. with game time less than 18 hours later.

When ONEOK Field opened, it replaced the Naturals’ Arvest Ballpark as the newest yard in the league (Arvest is a bank headquartered in nearby Bentonville).  Like Tulsa’s home park, Northwest Arkansas’ is quite nice, though the area around it could not be much different.  Instead of the bustling downtown atmosphere you get at the home of the Drillers, Arvest Ballpark is located in a very rural area in the southwest corner of Springdale, a city of close to 70,000 residents.  Grazing horses and cows are not an unusual sight when one looks out onto the rolling fields that surround the ballpark.

While this gives the sense that you are located in the middle of nowhere, people from the area don’t seem to have a hard time finding Arvest.  The park is not far from Interstate 540, the main thoroughfare in the area that runs north to south from Bentonville (the home of Wal-Mart) to Fayetteville (the home of the University of Arkansas).  The rationale for calling the team the “Northwest Arkansas Naturals” and not the “Springdale Naturals” is in part so that the other communities in the region feel a connection with the team that is not exclusive to one city (the Texas Rangers can relate).

While the setting couldn’t be described as exciting, the brand of baseball through two games in Springdale has been, with Frisco and Northwest Arkansas combining to score 29 runs.  The teams have split the first two contests and played a rubber game on Monday afternoon.  A RoughRiders win made the five-hour bus ride back to Frisco seem a lot shorter and truly made this a road trip we won’t mind experiencing again.

Written by: Alex Vispoli

Photos by: Alex Vispoli

Thursday’s News & Notes

It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in Frisco and although hot stove league talk might be a bit premature, there are plenty of things going on right now affecting the RoughRiders and Rangers:

  • After winning his third-career Gold Glove on Tuesday, Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre has just won his third ever Silver Slugger Award.  Beltre was also honored by the award in 2004 (Los Angeles) and 2010 (Boston), as he becomes just the sixth player (both leagues) since the award’s inception in 1980 to win three times as a third baseman.  The only other Texas third baseman to win a Silver Slugger Award was Buddy Bell in 1984.
  • According to the Chicago Sun-Times, two names “at or near the top” of  Theo Epstein and the Cubs’ list for a new

    Will Mike Maddux leave for the Cubs or Red Sox? (Getty Images)

    manager are Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux and one-time Milwaukee interim manager Dale Sveum, who interviewed for the Boston Red Sox vacancy on Wednesday.  Maddux is also reportedly in the mix for consideration by Boston. (We all remember when the Rangers won the pennant in 2010, the club lost hitting coach Clint Hurdle months later when took over as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The unfortunate cost of winning).

  • In minor league news, it’s no surprise that the San Antonio Missions have been named Minor League Team of the Year and Double-A Team of the Year by MiLB.com.  The Missions recorded the best record in all of the minors at 94-46 while winning both the first and second halves. Their 94 victories were the most in the league since the advent of the 140-game schedule in 1961 and were the second-most in franchise history, just one less than the 95 victories by the 1908 club.  The Missions registered 100 overall wins after going 6-1 in the post-season on their way to capturing the franchise’s 12th Texas League Championship.
  • On July 19, Northwest Arkansas’ Will Smith and Kelvin Herrera combined for the Naturals’ first-ever no-hitter. To make things even better, the no-no was helped out by a sixth-inning 5-4-3 triple play.  The Naturals edged the Arkansas Travelers 1-0 and, as a result, have also won Double-A Game of the Year from MiLB.com.
  • It was announced yesterday that Hickory shortstop, and the Rangers’ No. 2 prospect, Jurickson Profar, has won the Minor League Baseball Yearly Award for Class A Full Season Hitter of the Year.  Only 18-years-old, Profar was previously named 2011 Low Class A Player of the Year by Baseball America to go along with winning the South Atlantic League MVP Award and being named to the SAL Annual All-Star Team this past season.  I guess this kid is pretty good.
  • Starting Friday at 10 a.m., The RoughRiders Foundation will be auctioning off game-used items and autographed memorabilia.  Items start at their low reserve price and are open for bidding through November 18, 2011 at 5 p.m. Notable items include game-worn jerseys by Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz during their rehab assignments in Frisco this season. Questions?  Contact Michael Davidow at 972-334-1978 or mdavidow@ridersbaseball.com.
-AG

 

 

 

 

Mendonca, Team USA Take Silver

As you might have seen on ESPN, Team Canada topped Team USA yesterday to take the gold medal in the Pan American Games.  A familiar name to RoughRiders’ fans, Jimmy Van Ostrand, drove in both of Canada’s runs as they edged Tommy Mendonca and the US team, 2-1.  For what’s it’s worth, Matt Hicks, the “Voice of the Hooks,” told me at one point during the season that Van Ostrand was one of the best guys he’s ever met in minor league baseball.

Tommy Mendonca celebrates with his teammates at home plate. (Arnulfo Franco/AP)

Mendonca, the ‘Riders 2011 everyday third baseman, batted seventh in the championship game and finished 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.  However, those numbers aren’t a fair representation of his overall performance during the Games.  In the opener of the Pan American Games, the Fresno State product went 3-for-4 with two doubles, six RBIs and two runs scored as the United States thumped the Dominican Republic, 20-2.   In his first three tournament games he hit .455 with nine RBIs.

Along with Van Ostrand, the Canadian team featured Northwest Arkansas’ Tim Smith and Jamie Romak.  Arkansas’ Matt Shoemaker, the Texas Leauge Pitcher of the Year, joined Tommy on the US squad.  As did Matt Clark (San Antonio, ’10) and former RoughRider Chad Tracy.

Game 6 of the World Series is tonight (maybe).  The Cardinals’ batting practice is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. with the Rangers hitting an hour later if possible. Game 6 has officially be postponed due to rain.  We’ll have to wait until Thursday.

-AG

Playoff Perspective – Game 4

The 2011 season is over for the RoughRiders after San Antonio’s 11-3 victory in Game 4 Saturday night at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Here are a few thoughts a few minutes after Frisco’s tremendous season came to an end.

PLAYOFF PERSPECTIVE:

- With the pitching talent that both teams possessed, it felt like one big inning would ultimately decide this series. San Antonio’s seven-run first would certainly qualify as that big inning. The Missions sucked the life out of the RoughRiders in that frame and cruised from there to the franchise’s first Texas League Championship Series appearance since 2007.

- The ‘Riders did not reach their end goal, but they posted another fantastic season. Overall, Frisco went 80-64 and played the Missions, minor league baseball’s best team, extremely well. This organization once again churned out the top attendance number in the Texas League, and fan support has never been higher. 2011 was a good year for the RoughRiders.

- After their defeat of Northwest Arkansas in the North Division Series, the Arkansas Travelers will square off with the Missions in the TLCS. The Travs have had a solid season this year, but the Missions will, and should, go into that set as the heavy favorites.

- It has been a pleasure to cover the RoughRiders throughout the season. Thanks so much for making the ‘Riders Insider Blog a success during its first year. We look forward to keeping tabs on everything during the offseason, so be sure to stay tuned. Go RoughRiders!

- 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

Texas League Power Rankings

Only 28 games remain for the RoughRiders and the other seven teams in the Texas League. San Antonio and Arkansas already have their ticket punched to the postseason, and almost every other club in the league has a chance to get into the TL’s final four.

The ‘Riders dropped a place in the standings last night, but could they hold strong in this month’s Power Rankings? Those are below, and here are the Power Rankings from May, June and July.

POWER RANKINGS:

1. San Antonio (76-36, 27-15; Past Rankings: 1, 1, 1)
The Missions have the best record in all of full-season minor league baseball, with the San Jose Giants of the California League (74-38) the only team less than five games away from San Antonio. Not only has San Antonio been great this season, but they added Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, who had been with Frisco until the Mike Adams deal at the deadline.
KEY STAT (+200): That’s the Missions’ run differential this season, which leads the minors and is 160 runs better than the second-best mark in the TL (Frisco at +40). Thanks to Mike Saeger, the Missions play-by-play broadcaster for this stat.

2. Frisco (61-51, 21-21; Past Rankings: 6, 2, 3)
The ‘Riders have fallen into a bit of a slump, and Midland has climbed above them in the standings. However, the RockHounds will need to leap over San Antonio in order to make the playoffs and, as a result, deny the RoughRiders of a spot in the playoffs. Midland has been better than the ‘Riders over the last two weeks, but Frisco was clearly better for the season’s first 100 games. Thus, the ‘Riders are here.
KEY STAT (9-2, 3.09): The combined record and earned run average of Erlin and Wieland while they were with the RoughRiders. Now, they are on the team that Frisco would play in the first round of the postseason.

3. Northwest Arkansas (57-52, 22-20; Past Rankings: 4, 3, 6)
The Naturals won the league last year, and they have had plenty of big-time prospects on the roster. Finally, Northwest Arkansas has gone on a bit of a run to assume first place in both the overall and the second half standings. Still, last-place Arkansas is three games back, so this race will go down to the wire.
KEY STAT (2): The Naturals are only two losses away from matching their total from all of last year. Northwest went 86-54 en route to a pair of division crowns and a Texas League championship.

4. Midland (49-63, 22-20; Past Rankings: 3, 7, 5)
Talk about a team that has bounced up and down this season. Right now, Midland is one of the hottest teams in the Texas League and they have jumped into second place in the South. The RockHounds have won eight of ten, including their first series victory over Frisco this season Tuesday through Thursday of last week.
KEY STAT (4): Only four games remain for the RockHounds against the first-place Missions, and those aren’t until August 30-September 2 in San Antonio. Midland must win the second-half championship to go to the playoffs, and they are currently five games back.

5. Arkansas (55-54, 19-23; Past Rankings: 7, 6, 2)
The Travelers stunned many and took the first half North Division title by one game over Northwest Arkansas. Right now, Arkansas is in a bit of a rut after going 6-0 to start half two. Since that point, Arkansas is 13-23, but they still have their postseason berth locked up.
KEY STAT (.348): Mike Trout’s average since returning to the Travs August 1. The Angels’ top prospect, who spent almost a month in the bigs, has hit safely in six of his seven games and has scored seven times since arriving back in North Little Rock.

6. Springfield (52-59, 20-21; Past Rankings: 5, 4, 7)
The Cardinals have been hot lately, which pushes them ahead of Tulsa and Corpus Christi. Springfield has gotten great pitching out of top prospect Shelby Miller, and the squad is right there in second in the second half North standings, just one-and-a-half games back of the Naturals.
KEY STAT (8-2): The Cardinals’ record over the last ten games, which has propelled Springfield from last place in the North to second.

7. Tulsa (52-59, 19-22; Past Rankings: 2, 5, 4)
This is the lowest ranking for the Drillers this season, and it comes with the club still very much alive in the second half. Surprisingly, the Drillers have struggled at home this season. They have the worst home record in the TL at 24-30, including an 8-12 mark in the second half.
KEY STAT (20): The number of games that will remain when Drew Pomeranz, the key cog in Colorado’s trade with Cleveland for Ubaldo Jimenez, is eligible to officially join the Rockies’ system. If he joins the Drillers, Pomeranz would be able to make no more than four starts before the regular season ends.

8. Corpus Christi (42-70, 17-25; Past Rankings: 8, 8, 8)
I’ve tried to move these poor Hooks up in the rankings, but I just can’t do it. Corpus Christi’s roster is depleted now because many key pieces have moved up to Triple-A Oklahoma City or Houston.
KEY STAT (23%): The percentage of the Astros’ current position players that were with the Hooks a month ago. Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Jimmy Paredes are the Hooks-turned-Astros.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

- Brian

RoughRiders Staying Steady

The month of July is upon us, and the Texas League has been full of surprises. The Missions continue to roll, the Travelers have turned into the power of the North, and the RoughRiders are right there in the conversation for the league’s best teams.

Last month, the RoughRiders were ranked second in our Texas League Power Rankings. Can they hold onto that ranking? Find out in this month’s Power Rankings (past rankings in order from earliest to most recent).

POWER RANKINGS:

1. San Antonio (55-23, 6-2; Past Rankings: 1, 1): The Missions have held this title since our first rankings back in April, and there is no reason to lower them now. Since our last ranking when the Missions were 38-18, they have gone 17-5, raising their winning percentage to a ridiculous .705. San Antonio is trying to replicate Northwest Arkansas’ dominance in the North last year, when the Naturals won both halves and the league title in September.
HIGH POINT (June 12): San Antonio clinched the first half title on this day with a 6-4 win over Corpus Christi, a last at-bat win that wrapped up a first half title that seemed inevitable after the team’s incredible start.
LOW POINT (June 22): This was the day that everyone’s records were reset to 0-0, which was a drop from 28 games above .500 to, well, 0. The Missions overcame this adversity with a 5-3 win over the Hooks.
KEY STAT (1st): San Antonio has the best record in all of full-season minor league baseball. No other team has a winning percentage above .700 like the Missions do.

2. Arkansas (42-33, 6-2; Past Rankings: 7, 6): Boy did I mess this one up last time. I had the entire North Division slotted 3-6, and I had the Travelers sixth. I learned my lesson. The Travs may be playing the best baseball in the Texas League over the last two weeks, and they would be first if it weren’t for, you know, the best team in all of minor league baseball.
HIGH POINT (June 21): Arkansas clinched its first playoff berth since 2008 with a 17-6 thumping of Springfield at Hammons Field. That victory capped a 13-6 run to end the first half and get that postseason bid.
LOW POINT (June 11): The Travelers lost their second straight game to Northwest Arkansas on that day, 6-4. The Travs finished 7-3 to get that playoff berth.
KEY STAT (+45): That was Arkansas’ run differential in June after posting a -1 in April and a -3 in May.

3. Frisco (43-35, 3-5; Past Rankings: 6, 2): The RoughRiders finished second in the Texas League during the first half of the season. It’s too bad the ‘Riders didn’t play in the North. Frisco would have won the division fairly easily. Instead, the ‘Riders sit in pretty good position in the playoff chase provided that San Antonio continues to roll. Only a Midland or Corpus Christi second-half crown should keep the club out of the playoffs.
HIGH POINT (June 19): The ‘Riders wrapped up a 6-2 road trip with a 9-8, 12-inning victory over Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field. In the month, Frisco went 13-5 away from Dr Pepper Ballpark.
LOW POINT (June 26): T.J. Steele’s walk-off, two-run homer gave Corpus Christi a 4-3 victory over the ‘Riders, which was the Hooks’ third straight against Frisco. That loss dipped the ‘Riders’ mark in the second half to 1-4.
KEY STAT (11): Frisco is 11 games up on Midland for second place in the overall standings, which means that if San Antonio wins both halves, the RoughRiders are in the driver’s seat for the second playoff spot from the South. The team with the second best overall record goes to the playoffs when the same team wins the division in both halves.

4. Tulsa (38-40, 5-3; Past Rankings: 2, 5): The Drillers got off to a great start in the first half before fading and finishing the half in third. So far, so good for Tulsa in the second half. It’s hard to believe that a team two games below the break-even mark would be fourth, but that’s the set-up in this top-heavy Texas League.
HIGH POINT (June 27): With two down and his club down by two in the top of the 9th, Tim Wheeler hit a three-run home run to give the Drillers a 6-5 lead over the Cardinals that they would not lose. It was Tulsa’s third straight win, and it ushered in the All-Star Break in a big way.
LOW POINT (June 19): The Drillers were already out of the chase by this point, but Arkansas delivered a knockout with a 3-1 win over Tulsa, the Travs’ third straight win over the Drillers.
KEY STAT (19): Wheeler’s home run total, which leads the Texas League by two over Frisco’s Mike Bianucci and Springfield’s Matt Adams.

5. Midland (32-46, 5-3; Past Rankings: 3, 7): Maybe it is a bit early to call the RockHounds “contenders” in the second half, but they are 5-3 and they rallied for a series split of San Antonio last week. Midland is off to a great start against the three best teams in this league (and the three top teams in this poll).
HIGH POINT (June 27): Midland went into the break with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over San Antonio. The ‘Hounds scored one in the seventh to tie and one in the eighth to win.
LOW POINT (June 25): Two days prior, the RockHounds were shutout by the Missions for the second straight day, 2-0. It looked like more of the same for Midland in the second half. The last four games have changed that outlook.
KEY STAT (3.9): That’s the average number of runs Midland’s opponents have scored in the first eight games of the second half. The RockHounds had the worst ERA in the first half (5.22).

6. Northwest Arkansas (36-39, 1-7; Past Rankings: 4, 3): The next two teams share the biggest drops of the month. I had the Naturals as the favorite in the North in early June, and they finished one game back of Arkansas. The second half, however, has been a struggle. The Naturals have lost seven in a row and sit with the worst record in the Texas League’s second half.
HIGH POINT (June 22): It was a modest high point, as the Naturals began the second half with a 6-2 win at Tulsa. At that point, the Naturals were four games above .500.
LOW POINT (July 1): Yesterday, the Naturals dropped their seventh straight, 4-1 at San Antonio. This skid ties a franchise high for most consecutive losses in team history. The only other time a seven-game losing streak has occurred for the Naturals–August of ’09.
KEY STAT (41-21): That’s the margin of runs for the Naturals’ opponents and the Naturals in the second half. Northwest has posted two runs or less in five of the eight games.

7. Springfield (34-44, 2-6; Past Rankings: 5, 4): I was higher on the Cardinals than most in the first half, but Springfield still finished last in the North with a 32-38 mark. So far in the second half, things haven’t gotten much better for a team that does have significantly more talent than it had at the beginning of the year.
HIGH POINT (June 15): Shelby Miller, St. Louis’ top prospect, tossed eight shutout innings against Arkansas in Springfield’s 8-1 win over the first-place Travs to keep the Cardinals alive (barely). Miller scattered four hits and whiffed eight.
LOW POINT (June 30): The Cardinals lost the lead in the eighth inning and fell victim to a RoughRiders walk-off win 7-6. It was the final loss during a four-game skid.
KEY STAT (1.89): Miller’s ERA through six Double-A starts. He has been great since his call-up from high-A Palm Beach.

8. Corpus Christi (29-49, 4-4; Past Rankings: 8, 8): The rankings have been consistent at the beginning and the end. The Hooks have been in the basement all year long. However, the Hooks have shown some life in the second half, and players like Jose Altuve, Xavier Cedeno, Jake Goebbert, Dallas Keuchel and J.D. Martinez make it fun to watch Corpus Christi. The Hooks may not be in the hunt, but they will post their fair share of wins in the second half.
HIGH POINT (June 26): T.J. Steele’s walk-off, two-run homer gave the Hooks a 4-3 victory over Frisco and a 3-2 record in the second half.
LOW POINT (June 27): The Hooks were three outs away from their first series sweep of the season, but the RoughRiders responded with four runs in the top of the ninth to stun Corpus 6-3.
KEY STAT (.500): The Hooks’ winning percentage through eight games in half number two, which is significantly better than the .357 mark they posted in the first half.

How would you rank the Texas League? Let us know. Enjoy our coverage tonight on TXA 21 beginning at 7:00 and on the RoughRiders Baseball Network beginning at 6:35. Hope you are along for the ride!

- Brian

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