News and Notes (Sept. 11)
FRISCO VIES FOR TEXAS LEAGUE CROWN
Texas Rangers Double-A affiliate Frisco begins play in the 2012 Texas League Championship Series tonight. It will be a rematch – of sorts – of the 2011 World Series as the RoughRiders face St. Louis Cardinals affiliate Springfield Cardinals. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. CDT at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.
It is a best-of-five series with Game 2 scheduled for 7:08 p.m. Wednesday at Springfield. The series then shifts to Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark for Friday’s 7 p.m. Game 3 and continues Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (7 p.m.) if necessary. The Texas League Championship Series can be heard online at www.ridersbaseball.com.
Frisco got a boost to its roster this morning as it was announced that catcher Mike Napoli will join the RoughRiders on a rehab assignment. He is expected to be with the RoughRiders for at least the series’ first two games.
RoughRiders catchers – Jose Felix and Zach Zaneski – combined to go 2-for-10 (both singles) in Frisco’s three-game sweep of Houston Astros affiliate Corpus Christi in the division series. First baseman Chris McGuiness led the RoughRiders’ offensive attack, going 6-for-12 with two doubles and four RBI. Val Majewski (3-for-6, home run, three runs), Tommy Mendonca (3-for-10, run) and Guilder Rodriguez (3-for-9, two RBI) – each of whom played for the Express this season – also were strong contributors.
However, Frisco dominated Corpus Christi on the mound, outscoring the Hooks 14-7. RoughRiders hurlers posted a 2.33 ERA with 21 strikeouts against eight walks and held Corpus Christi to a .206 average. Game 3 starter Nick Tepesch was most dominant, yielding only three walks and one hit over seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Wilmer Font and 2012 Express member Ross Wolf finished Frisco’s 5-0 win.
Leury Garcia and McGuiness had consecutive RBI singles in the sixth inning, and the Riders added three insurance runs in the top of the ninth on a Rodriguez RBI single and Engel Beltre’s two-run double.
Highly touted right-hander Cody Buckel starts tonight’s championship series opener for the RoughRiders. The 20-year-old and 2010 second-round draft selection was 10-8 in the regular season, splitting the year between Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach (5-3) and Frisco (5-5); he posted a sub-3.00 ERA for the season with 159 strikeouts in 144.2 innings. Buckel did not pitch in the division series. He was considered the Rangers’ sixth-best prospect entering the season by Baseball America and has risen quickly through the system, going 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA for Class-A Hickory last season in his first full professional season (he pitched four games for the AZL Rangers in 2010).
Buckel faced Springfield once this season – a June 29 loss at Hammons Field when he allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks over 6.1 innings. It was not smooth transition to Double-A for Buckel, who was 1-5 with a 4.45 ERA (16 ER/32.1 IP) in his first six games with Frisco (he worked six shutout innings July 4 at Arkansas in the lone victory). However, Buckel was 4-0 with a 3.19 ERA (13 ER/36.2 IP) in his final seven outings. Runs allowed in his final four starts: one, one, none, none (21.2 IP).
Tepesch is scheduled to start Game 2, followed by right-handers Barret Loux and Wilfredo Boscan. Frisco has not announced a potential Game 5 starter, meaning 2011 and 2012 Express member Neil Ramirez is at least a possibility.
Frisco won seven of 12 meetings with Springfield in the regular season, going 2-4 at Hammons Field.
PCL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
The Pacific Coast League Championship Series opens tonight as the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) host the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals). Omaha (83-61) won the American Northern Division by 16 games, while Reno (81-63) won the Pacific Northern Division by six games. Sacramento (86-58) had the PCL’s best record for the second straight season, but failed to return to the PCL Championship Series for a second straight season.
Omaha, however, is back to defend its 2011 league crown. Only one franchise has won back-to-back PCL titles since 1998 – Sacramento accomplished the feat twice (2003-2004, 2007-2008). The only other franchise to win consecutive PCL crowns since Albuquerque’s three-year run 1980-1982 was Edmonton (1996-1997); seven years later, the Edmonton franchise was purchased by Ryan Sanders Baseball and the Round Rock Express joined the PCL.
For the first time since 2005, both division championship series went five games. Omaha got three field goals a touchdown to edge Albuquerque 16-7 in Sunday night’s series finale at the ever-offensive Isotopes Park. (One night earlier, the Isotopes used four field goals to nab a 12-10 victory.) In all seriousness, the Storm Chasers scored at least once in eight of nine innings Sunday night (we’re still not sure what happened in the anomalous sixth inning).
Meanwhile, Mike Jacobs’ three-run homer sparked a four-run seventh inning as Reno defeated Sacramento 7-4 in Sunday’s series decider at Aces Ballpark. The homer, which snapped a 3-3 tie, was off Merkin Valdez – a member of Round Rock’s 2011 division-title squad. That was not the only Express tie in the game; Reno’s starter was none other than Brett Tomko, who was 9-6 with the E-Train last season. Furthermore, Aces shortstop Wladimir Sutil played for Round Rock in 2010 while both were members of the Astros organization.
Omaha right-hander Jake Odorizzi (11-3, 2.93 ERA) faces Reno right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-1, 2.85 ERA) in tonight’s championship series lid-lifter.
Reno wielded the league’s most potent lineup this season, including PCL Player and Rookie of the Year Adam Eaton. In fact, the Aces posted three of the league’s four best individual batting averages in Eaton (first, .381), Ryan Wheeler (second, .351) and Jake Elmore (fourth, .344). However, that trio combined to go hitless in the division championship series. Eaton was busy hitting safely in each of his first five major league games with the Diamondbacks (four multiple-hit outings). Wheeler was promoted to Arizona in mid-July, and Elmore has been with the Diamondbacks since early August.
On the other hand, Omaha was fifth in team average (.290) and third in staff ERA (4.24). The Storm Chasers have the bulk of both their lineup and rotation intact for the postseason. Omaha hit .323 with nine homers and 8.8 runs per game against Albuquerque. Former Express member Jason Bourgeois was 7-for-24 with two triples, a homer and five runs scored in the division series; he was one of six Chasers with at least six hits in the five-game series.
Given Omaha’s rotation of Ryan Verdugo (12-4, 3.75 ERA), Nate Adcock (8-6, 5.53 ERA) and Doug Davis (9-4, 4.66 ERA) behind Odorizzi and a deep bullpen, we like the Storm Chasers in four games. The series begins with a 9:05 p.m. CDT first pitch tonight at Aces Ballpark.
FORMER EXPRESS MEMBERS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES
Several former Express members currently are in the majors with organizations other than Texas. Here is a look at a few; we’ll check in with others throughout the remainder of the season.
If at some point this season you’ve caught a Baltimore Orioles game and thought, “Hmmm. This team looks familiar,” you were onto something. Eight 2012 Orioles played for the Express in 2011: catcher Taylor Teagarden, infielders Chris Davis and Omar Quintanilla, outfielder Endy Chavez, and pitchers Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day, Zach Phillips and Pedro Strop.
Teagarden (.119, two homers, five RBI) spent the season’s first three months on the disabled list but returned to the O’s in mid-July. Quintanilla (.240, three homers, 12 RBI) began the season in the Mets organization; he spent the first two months with Triple-A Buffalo before a 29-game stint in New York. The Orioles nabbed Quintanilla in mid-July. Chavez (.190, two homers, eight RBI) has been on the disabled list since early August.
Davis (.256, 24 homers, 67 RBI) has split time between first base and the outfield, playing in 118 of Baltimore’s 140 games. How good was he with Round Rock last season? Well, Davis had the same number of homers and one fewer RBI in 48 games. Then again, Davis does have a 1-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in one relief outing with the Orioles this year.
Hunter (4-8, 5.85 ERA) has started 20 games for the Orioles abut worked in relief in each of his last two outings. He has surrendered 32 homers, tied for third in the American League. O’Day (7-1, 2.22 ERA) has been one of the league’s best bullpen arms; he’s allowed one run since July 19 – a stretch of 19.1 innings over 21 outings (0.47 ERA). Phillips (0-0, 11.57 ERA) spent nearly the entire season with Triple-A Norfolk (2-2, 3.17 ERA, seven saves), rejoining the Orioles last week; he’s pitched only three games with Baltimore. Strop (5-2, 2.26 ERA, three saves) has struggled of late, allowing eight runs over 12.2 innings in 16 games since Aug. 1 (5.68 ERA).
Baltimore arguably is baseball’s biggest surprise this season. The Orioles are one game behind the Yankees in the American League East standings entering tonight’s game against Tampa Bay (one game back of Baltimore). Furthermore, the O’s currently are in the lead for the American League’s second wild card spot.
A lot has changed in Charm City over the past 24 months. The Orioles went 66-96 and finished 30 games back in last place in 2010. Last year, former Rangers manager Buck Showalter took over the helm. After a 69-93 record in 2011, Showalter has the Orioles in legitimate postseason contention with what would be at least a 20-game turnaround even if the Birds go 11-11 the rest of the regular season.
All this begs the question: When will the Orioles fire Showalter?
Confused? Check in next time for the explanation.