Results tagged ‘ Texas League ’

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.

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

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

Playoff Push: Why Rooting for San Antonio Is OK

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.

Former RoughRider Robbie Erlin can help the 'Riders inch closer to the playoffs (James Garner).

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.

- Brian

Mendonca Named Post-Season All-Star

Frisco third baseman Tommy Mendonca was named the designated hitter on the Texas League Post-Season All-Star Team, the league office announced.

(Photo: James Garner)

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.

- Brian

My Texas League Postseason Ballot

The 2011 Texas League Postseason All-Star ballots are out to managers and media members, and both Aaron and I have a vote. Below, I have my picks along with a brief explanation why.

First off, here are a few notes. As a member of the RoughRiders organization, I cannot vote for a RoughRider. Still, I have included six ‘Riders who could be on this list. Also, anyone who has played in the TL this year is eligible. Finally, all of the ballots are due by tomorrow, so the last two weeks of the season do not factor into the decision.

Share your thoughts at the bottom in the comments section. Here we go.

Catcher: Wilin Rosario (Tulsa)

The Rockies’ number two prospect, Rosario has not had the best season offensively. But, he could get a September promotion to Colorado and he has put up the best numbers of any Texas League catcher (.254, 18 HR, 41 RBI).

First Baseman: Matt Adams (Springfield)

Triple Crown? Matt Adams has a chance in '11 (Photo courtesy of Mark Harrell/Springfield Cardinals).

With Tim Wheeler’s recent struggles and Jermaine Mitchell’s promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, Adams has an outside shot at a Triple Crown. Adams has a league-leading 30 homers (one better than Wheeler) and 94 RBIs, and he is sixth in the league in average at .313. However, the top three (Mitchell, J.D. Martinez and James Darnell) will not have enough plate appearances to qualify barring a return to the TL. His real target is Mike Trout (.326).

Second Baseman: Jose Altuve (Corpus Christi)

I like to steer away from players who did not spend much time in a league for postseason awards, but the second base spot is weak here in the Texas League and Altuve was incredible to watch. He hit .361 in his 35 games with Corpus Christi. During that short stint, Altuve drove in 25 runs and scored 21.

Shortstop: Darwin Perez (Arkansas)

Shortstop is a fairly weak position in the Texas League this season, as well, so Perez is my choice because of his on-base percentage (.378, 11th), stolen bases (22, 6th) and fielding percentage (.982, 1st among qualifiers). If I could vote for a RoughRider, Renny Osuna would be my choice here.

Third Baseman: James Darnell (San Antonio)

With apologies to Arkansas’ Luis Jimenez, Darnell was a machine in his 76 games with the Missions. Darnell hit .333, which still qualifies for third in the Texas League, and he had an OPS of 1.038. Darnell hit 17 homers and drove in 62 runs, and now his home is San Diego.

Outfielder: Mike Trout (Arkansas)

Trout was advertised as the number one or number two prospect in the minors at the start of the season, and he has not disappointed. Trout is hitting .326 with 33 stolen bases, and he earned a brief stint in the big leagues. He is incredibly fun to watch.

Outfielder: Jermaine Mitchell (Midland)

Mitchell still qualifies as the league’s leader in batting average (.355), on-base percentage (.453) and OPS (1.042). He didn’t have the gaudy home run (10) or RBI (50) totals, but he was a menace atop Midland’s order.

Outfielder: Tim Wheeler (Tulsa)

Wheeler has struggled in August, but he still boasts great numbers (Photo courtesy of Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com).

Wheeler has struggled lately (.200, 0 HR, 2 RBIs in August), but you have to wonder if he is getting bored at the Double-A level. He is still second in homers (29) and tied for fourth in RBIs (79).  It was between Corpus Christi’s J.D. Martinez and Wheeler, and I went with Tulsa’s leadoff hitter, who is putting up middle-of-the-order stats. Don’t worry, Martinez fans…

Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez (Corpus Christi)

The Hooks have the worst record in the Texas League, but they are one of three teams to have two offensive representatives on my list. Martinez, like Jose Altuve, is in the big leagues now, but he is fourth in the TL in OPS (.959) and seventh in RBIs (72) despite only playing in 88 games.

Three toughest offensive omissions:
1. Arkansas 3B Luis Jimenez (barely edged by Darnell and Martinez)
2. Springfield OF Alex Castellanos (gave Wheeler edge despite being in recent funk)
3. San Antonio OF Blake Tekotte (outfield was the most loaded position)

Three most likely RoughRiders on the list:
1. Renny Osuna (2B/SS)
2. Tommy Mendonca (3B)
3. Leonys Martin (OF)
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Pitchers:

1. Matt Shoemaker (Arkansas)

Matt Shoemaker has the best ERA in the TL, and it's not even that close (Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Travelers).

Shoemaker started the season in Triple-A, but he came down to the Texas League in early May and began his dominance. He leads the league, by a wide margin, in ERA (2.18) and WHIP (1.00) among qualifiers. He also paces all Texas Leaguers in strikeouts with 121 and is tied at the top with 12 wins.

2. Garrett Richards (Arkansas)

Richards is the man who is deadlocked with Shoemaker in wins. Both hurlers are 12-2, and Richards is the league leader in innings with 141. Richards, who is currently with the Angels, is 12-2 with an ERA of 3.06, which is second to Shoemaker among qualifiers.

3. Dallas Keuchel (Corpus Christi)

Don’t let his 9-7 record fool you—Keuchel has been a legitimate ace all season long. The lefty has worked through five innings in all but one of his 19 starts, and he has only surrendered more than three runs four times. He is not overpowering (76 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings), but he is second among qualifiers in WHIP at 1.12.

Joe Wieland tossed a no-hitter with Frisco, and he is now dominating with San Antonio (Photo courtesy of James Garner).

4. Joe Wieland (San Antonio)

Casey Kelly is San Diego’s top prospect, and Jorge Reyes has the best numbers of any San Antonio starter who has been on the club all year. However, who has made a bigger impact in the Texas League this season than Wieland? Wieland tossed a no-hitter with the RoughRiders against San Antonio, and then he went to the Missions. Wieland’s ERA is 1.50 in Double-A, and he has a 1.85 overall this season.

5. Nick Vincent (San Antonio)

Vincent has made more appearances (58) than anyone else in the Texas League. The reliever is 7-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 70 innings, and he has 82 strikeouts to 14 walks. In the eighth inning, the righty owns a 1.91 ERA. In the ninth, that mark falls to 1.50. The Missions have been dominant all year long, and the bullpen is a big reason why.

6. Brad Brach (San Antonio)

Closers are not that common in the minors, but Brach was the man who dominated the ninth inning while in San Antonio. Brach had a 2.25 ERA and went 23 for 25 in save opportunities with the Missions before earning a promotion to Triple-A Tucson. When ahead in the count, the TL’s save leader held his opposition to an .097 average (7-for-72).

Three toughest pitching omissions:
1. Springfield’s Shelby Miller (good numbers, but not good enough to overcome small sample size)
2. Tulsa’s Juan Nicasio (better numbers than Miller, but fewer innings)
3. San Antonio’s Jorge Reyes (4th in ERA, but only worked more than five innings once)

Three most likely RoughRiders on the list:
1. LHP Martin Perez
2. RHP Justin Miller
3. RHP Tyler Tufts

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Springfield’s Matt Adams

He is the most dangerous hitter in the Texas League right now, and he has a chance at the Triple Crown. He may not have the upside that some other players in this league possess, but he has been the best hitter on the best offense, by far, in the TL.

ON THE MEDAL STAND: 2. Arkansas’ Mike Trout; 3. San Antonio’s James Darnell.

PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Arkansas’ Matt Shoemaker

The Travelers earned a first-half title because of their pitching staff, and Shoemaker has been the go-to guy. Shoemaker stumbled a bit in Triple-A earlier this season, but he figures to do much better in his second go-around at that level after an incredible season at the Double-A level.

ON THE MEDAL STAND: 2. Arkansas’ Garrett Richards; 3. Corpus Christi’s Dallas Keuchel.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: San Antonio’s Doug Dascenzo

The Missions have the best record in minor league baseball, and they have had many good players. However, Dascenzo has navigated his club through many promotions, and they haven’t slowed down at all. This San Antonio club is a dominant force that will go into the playoffs as the heavy favorites, and Dascenzo is a big reason why.

ON THE MEDAL STAND: 2. Frisco’s Steve Buechele; 3. Northwest Arkansas’ Brian Poldberg.

- Brian

Talking About Playoffs?!?!

Yes, we’re talking about playoffs today on the ‘Riders Insider Blog. If the playoffs were to end today, the RoughRiders would be in the postseason for the fifth time in the franchise’s nine-year history.

However, it may be strange to read this, but fans in Frisco should be rooting for San Antonio when they aren’t cheering for the ‘Riders. The Texas League operates with two halves, and San Antonio dominated the field to win the first half title and one of the two playoff berths in the South Division.

The second half division champion also earns a postseason spot out of the South. But what happens if the first half champion wins the second half, too?

The team with the second-best record overall in the division would get that second spot. Right now, the RoughRiders (64-53) lead Midland (54-63) by ten games in that category. This fact, along with San Antonio’s spot at the top of the South, means the ‘Riders would get a chance against the Missions in the playoffs if things remain the same.

However, San Antonio doesn’t have a stranglehold on the top spot here in the second half. Those pesky RockHounds from Midland are peaking right now. The RockHounds own the best record in the Texas League here in August (10-1), and their doubleheader sweep of Tulsa yesterday pushed them within three games of San Antonio for first place.

There is a very good chance that the ‘Riders will not only finish with the second best record in the South, but also with the second best mark in the TL. However, they will need to hope the RockHounds do not steal the second half title and, thus, the ‘Riders’ postseason berth.

The RoughRiders and RockHounds play six more times this season, and all of those games come during the final ten games of the regular season. In other words, the push for the playoffs could come down to early September. We hope you are ready for a fun run.

- Brian

More Power to the RoughRiders

The RoughRiders are making a jump in our second edition of the Texas League Power Rankings. Exactly how far they jump is available below. But first, here are a few Facts on Frisco’s great month of June.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The RoughRiders have a six-game winning streak, which is the club’s longest since it won seven straight from June 22-28. All seven of those games, believe it or not, were also away from home.
  • Frisco swept a road trip for the first time since April 29-May 2, 2008 when the ‘Riders took all four at the Wolff against San Antonio.
  • Since May 1, the ‘Riders are 24-10. Unfortunately, during that span, the team has only gained ONE game on San Antonio for first place in the Texas League South. The deficit is six games with 14 to go, which sets up a huge four-game series against the Missions tomorrow through Saturday. We’ll preview that set tomorrow.
  • By the way, check out our new feature on the main site. It’s called the Dr Pepper Ballpark Planner, which previews the upcoming home stand on and off the field. If you are planning on coming out to a game this week/weekend, that is a must read.

The season is two-fifths of the way over. Time for our second installment of the Texas League Power Rankings. Like last month, we will include a high point and low point of the month plus a key stat.

1. San Antonio (38-18; April Ranking: 1): Despite a strong charge by Frisco, the Missions have basically held their ground since the last rankings. The offense is still strong (.290 batting average as a team) despite a ridiculously strong start. And the pitching is second in the league with a 3.81 earned run average.
HIGH POINT (June 5): The Missions defeated Springfield 4-3 with a two-run ninth. It was San Antonio’s fourth walk-off win in the previous five games. Because of that, the Missions are 5-1 in June.
LOW POINT (May 16): San Antonio dropped its third in four games at Corpus Christi on this night. But, the Missions responded with a six-game winning streak. The reality is that this club has had few “low points.” Their lead has never been truly threatened.
KEY STAT (9): San Antonio’s magic number with 14 games left. A split or better at Frisco in the next four games would pretty much clinch the first half for the Missions.

2. Frisco (32-24; April Ranking: 6): The RoughRiders were the biggest climbers from April to May. Without a late surge at the beginning of May before I compiled the rankings, the ‘Riders may have been in last in those rankings. Now, Steve Buechele’s squad is hanging around a race it had not business being in a month ago. With Robbie Erlin arriving in Double-A and other starters like Richard Bleier and Carlos Pimentel settling in, the ‘Riders may have the best rotation in the league. That is, unless Martin Perez gets that call up to Triple-A.
HIGH POINT (June 6): This one is easy. Frisco completed a sweep of a six-game, North Division road trip with a 9-4 win at Tulsa. The ‘Riders outscored the Naturals and Drillers on that trip by a combined 27 runs. Really, that run is the reason the North is so competitive now.
LOW POINT (May 21): San Antonio’s Kyle Blanks crushed a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning. It was the second of three straight losses at San Antonio for the ‘Riders, who did manage to salvage the finale of that set. They will need more wins this week to stay alive.
KEY STAT (2.60): Martin Perez’s earned run average, which is second in the Texas League. He has won his last three starts.

3. Northwest Arkansas (26-25; April Ranking: 4): The next four teams are North Division teams, and they are all pretty even. I’ll bank on the Naturals because they just came off a six-game losing streak, and I expect them to take the North. But, I could just as easily see the Naturals in second, third, and fourth when all is set and done.
HIGH POINT (May 16): The Naturals rallied from a one-run deficit in the ninth at Tulsa to win 5-4 and claim their sixth straight win. Since then, it has been a jostling for first between Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa. Right now, the Naturals’ have a percentage-point lead on the Drillers.
LOW POINT (June 4): What a strange game. Christian Colon hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. Then, Midland scored seven times in the top of the 10th to win 16-9. That was the Naturals’ sixth loss in a row.
KEY STAT (12-18 months): The recovery time for Natural and highly-touted hurler John Lamb, who found out in late May that he needs Tommy John surgery. Tough break for a tremendous prospect.

4. Springfield (26-29; April Ranking: 5): Last month, I put the Cardinals above their standings because they were playing above their talent level, in my opinion. Now, I’m putting them here because they are my sleeper pick to take the North. The Cardinals have never had a share of first place, but they have some more talent now. St. Louis’ top two prospects–Shelby Miller and Zack Cox–are on the roster now. Watch out for these guys.
HIGH POINT (May 27): A 12-4 blowout of Corpus Christi completed a sweep and extended the Cardinals’ winning streak to a season-high five games.
LOW POINT (June 5): This loss snapped a three-game winning streak, which may seem a little harsh to name this as the “low point.” But, the Cardinals had a chance to clinch a series win at San Antonio, and they allowed two in the ninth to lose 4-3. The next day, Springfield lost 11-1.
KEY STAT (4): Games back of first-place Northwest Arkansas in the loss column. The Cardinals play four at Northwest June 16-19.

5. Tulsa (28-27; April Ranking: 2): The Drillers may be the most inconsistent club in the league. They got off to a great start, but the team has begun to struggle again. Once again, I would not be surprised if the Drillers won this division in the first half. But I don’t know if they have enough offense or enough in the bullpen.
HIGH POINT (May 9): It is tough to find a high point when a team hasn’t won more than two games in a row during a month. On this day, the Drillers clinched a two-out-of-three series take at Northwest Arkansas with a 6-4 win. The Drillers’ record at that point was 18-11.
LOW POINT (June 6): Jose Ruiz’s three-run homer in the ninth was the exclamation point on Frisco’s 9-4, sweep-clinching win over Tulsa.
KEY STAT (6-11): The Drillers’ record in the last 17 games. That’s why the North is so close.

6. Arkansas (25-26; April Ranking: 7): No disrespect to the Travelers, who enter play today just one game back of first place in the North. The Travs have been hanging around, and they have the pitching to compete down the stretch. Arkansas leads the Texas League with a 3.80 team earned run average. The offense just isn’t that strong.
HIGH POINT (May 28): A 5-4, ten-inning win against Corpus Christi pushed the Travelers back above .500 for the first time since April 27. It also capped off a 7-2 run over nine games.
LOW POINT (June 3): The Travelers outplayed the Missions through eight innings in all three games in San Antonio. However, the Missions walked off with three wins to earn the sweep. June 3 was the finale, a 6-5 San Antonio win.
KEY STAT (10): Ten games over the next eight days beginning tomorrow for the Travs, all at home. Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas will play two doubleheaders–Wednesday and Friday. These games will go a long way to deciding who wins the first half.

7. Midland (23-33; April Ranking: 3): The RockHounds fell further than anyone in the Texas League, and it is understandable why. Since our last rankings in early May, the club is 9-19. Midland has been eliminated in the first half chase, and they are nine games back of the ‘Riders for second.
HIGH POINT (May 8): On that day, the ‘Hounds defeated Frisco 2-1 to improve to 15-15. Midland hasn’t sniffed .500 since.
LOW POINT (May 22): The RockHounds lost their eighth straight game 3-2 at Corpus Christi. Since then, the team has not recovered.
KEY STAT (11-23): The RockHounds’ record since May 1, which is tied for the worst mark in the Texas League.

8. Corpus Christi (20-36; April Ranking: 8): No change for a Hooks team that, like Midland, is 11-23 since the start of May. During the month, the Hooks had to cope with the absence of stud outfielder J.D. Martinez for a significant time period.
HIGH POINT (May 22): The Hooks took their first three games against Midland, capped by a 3-2 win on that day. That matched a season-high in consecutive wins this year.
LOW POINT (May 14): An 11-2 loss at Frisco sent the Hooks to a Texas League-high ninth straight loss.
KEY STAT (3): The Hooks had three losing streaks in the month of May: a nine-game streak May 5-14, a three-game skid May 17-19 and a five-game streak May 23-28.

Agree? Disagree? Share your rankings!

Feeling of Freedom

The month of June is upon us, believe it or not. Back in the day, June meant freedom to me because summer vacation was here. Because of that, June was, by far, my favorite month.

On the baseball calendar, June is quite the opposite. June is the month where the beginning of the season is too far in the past to remember, and the end of the season is too far away to imagine. This is the time of the season where baseball’s season turns into a grind.

Throw in the warmer temperatures and the fact that the season’s first half ends in less than four weeks, and you’ve got an interesting month of baseball.

Let’s set the table for June 2011 in today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • There are 20 games left in the first half of the season, and the RoughRiders trail San Antonio by seven games for the top spot in the Texas League South. Unfortunately, the schedule makers did not give the ‘Riders any breaks for a possible June surge. Frisco will play 14 of those final 20 games away from home, while the Missions get 14 of 20 at home during that stretch. San Antonio has the best record in the league at home this season (18-4).
  • Four of Frisco’s six home games do come against San Antonio, though. The four-game series begins next Wednesday. It is pretty safe to say that if the ‘Riders want to have a fighting chance in the race down the stretch, they need at least three of those four games.
  • This year, it pays to be in the North. If the RoughRiders were in that division, they would be a half-game back of first. Springfield, the last place team in the North, is only three games back of the top spot, and the Cardinals would be nine and a half games away from San Antonio if they were in the South.
  • Still, as we have talked about on the broadcasts some, the RoughRiders are in a pretty good position with regards to the playoffs. San Antonio is playing the part of juggernaut thus far this year, and if the Missions win both halves, then the team in the division with the second best record throughout the season would get the other spot. Frisco is five games better than Midland and eight up on Corpus Christi.
  • Last season, Northwest Arkansas cruised to a pair of division titles, but Springfield pushed the Naturals to the limit in a first round series. The Cardinals took a 2-1 series lead before Northwest rallied to take the series 3-2.
  • By the way, do not be fooled by the Texas League All-Star Break. The first half of the season comes to an end after play on June 21st, which is the 70th game of the season. All eight teams are scheduled to be six games into the second half when the All-Star festivities take place.
  • Martin Perez returns to the mound tonight for the opener of this three-game series at Northwest Arkansas. Perez rolled the Naturals lineup Thursday morning, going seven scoreless innings and striking out five.
  • Perez leads the Texas League in earned run average (2.01), and he is near the top of many other categories. He is second in stirkeouts per nine innings (8.9), second in opponents batting average (.222), third in strikeouts (53), and eighth in WHIP (1.25).
  • The Rangers’ number one prospect will face off against a below average offense. The Naturals come in hitting .258 as a team, which is seventh in the league. The Naturals are averaging 4.8 runs per game, good for sixth in the league.
  • After a rough day with the ‘Riders Monday in his rehab debut, Julio Borbon played well in defeat with Triple-A Round Rock. Borbon went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and steals in the Express’ 7-5 loss at Oklahoma City. Borbon is expected back in the Express’ lineup tonight.

The ‘Riders make their first appearance at Arvest Ballpark tonight for a 7:00 showdown with Northwest Arkansas. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30. Enjoy!

- Brian

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