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Top 12 Games of 2012 (No. 9)

TOP 12 GAMES OF 2012
Throughout the fall, we’ll take a look at the top 12 games of 2012. Today, we look at Game No. 9 on our list.

No. 9
April 22:  Express 10, at New Orleans 0
Neil Ramirez, Aaron Heilman and Mark Hamburger combined on a three-hit shutout at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La. It proved to be the most productive start of the season for Ramirez during his time with the Express. Meanwhile, Round Rock batters pounded out 12 hits, including four home runs, pulling away with a six-run ninth inning.

Ramirez struck out six, scattered three hits and walked one over six innings. Heilman then took the baton and struck out two over a pair of perfect innings. Hamburger retired the side in order in the ninth with one strikeout.

Matt Kata led off the second with a double and later scored on a Luis Martinez groundout. Then, the home runs. Joey Butler, who played collegiately at the University of New Orleans, clubbed a two-run homer in the fourth, and Yangervis Solarte added a solo shot in the sixth.

Round Rock sent 11 men to the plate in the six-run ninth. Solarte led off with a double, and Martinez followed with a two-run homer. After walks from Julio Borbon and Luis Hernandez, Mike Bianucci drilled a three-run homer that was his fifth in 18 games at the Triple-A level. Back-to-back doubles from Kata and Butler capped the scoring.

Solarte finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a walk, while Bianucci, Kata, Butler and Martinez all enjoyed two-hit games.

The win began a 16-game stretch during which the Express were 11-5 – the season’s best stretch until the torrid stretch over final five weeks.

No. 10:  at Omaha 9, Express 8 (16 innings; April 10)
No. 11:  Express 6, at Oklahoma City 3 (Sept. 1)
No. 12:  Express 14, at Reno 1 (Aug. 15)

News and Notes (Sept. 7)

Several 2012 Round Rock Express members still are in action this season. The current Texas Rangers roster features eight 2012 Express members:  pitchers Michael Kirkman, Roy Oswalt, Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers and Yoshinori Tateyama, catcher Luis Martinez, infielder Brandon Snyder and outfielder Leonys Martin. Additionally, the Rangers roster includes outfielder Craig Gentry, who was an Express member last season. Other current Rangers who rehabbed with the Express this season are pitchers Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara and infielder Mitch Moreland.

Meanwhile, Double-A Frisco is alive and well in the Texas League playoffs (more on that below). Former Express members Val Majewski, Tommy Mendonca, Guilder Rodriguez and Justin Grimm have seen action through the RoughRiders’ first two games of the playoff games. Right-hander Neil Ramirez also is on Frisco’s active roster.


Rangers Double-A affiliate Frisco is one win away from reaching the Texas League Championship Series. The RoughRiders lead their division series against Houston Astros affiliate Corpus Christi 2-0, winning both home games in dramatic fashion.

Wednesday, the RoughRiders got a one-out RBI double from Chris McGuiness that scored Leury Garcia with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as Frisco edged Corpus Christi 6-5. The RoughRiders got hits from all nine starters, including former Express members Tommy Mendonca (1-for-4, run), Val Majewski (2-for-3, RBI, run, walk) and Guilder Rodriguez (1-for-3, RBI, walk). One of Majewski’s hits was a second-inning leadoff homer that tied the game 2-2. The RoughRiders plated three runs in the third to take a 5-2 lead before the Hooks posted solo spots in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to tie the game.

Frisco got another walk-off win Thursday night as Garcia blasted a two-out solo homer in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 victory. Rodriguez walked to open the ninth and moved to second on an Engel Beltre sacrifice bunt. Rodriguez then was caught trying to steal third with Garcia at the plate. Garcia, however, had the last laugh as he deposited a Ryan Rodebaugh 2-1 offering over the fence down the right-field line. Mendonca (1-for-2) and Rodriguez (0-for-2) both walked twice; Majewski scored the game-tying run as a pinch-runner in a two-run eighth. Justin Grimm worked two scoreless innings in relief for the RoughRiders, scattering a pair of hits with two strikeouts and no walks. Corpus Christi designated hitter Drew Locke, who played for the Express in 2010, was 0-for-4.

The best-of-five series now shifts to Corpus Christi’s Whataburger Field. Game three features former University of Missouri right-hander Nick Tepesch on the mound for the RoughRiders against Hooks right-hander Ross Seaton. Tepesch was 6-3 with a 4.28 ERA in 14 starts and two relief outings for Frisco during the regular season. He began the 2012 season with Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach, where he was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 12 starts. Seaton was 8-8 with a 4.07 ERA in 25 starts for the Hooks during the regular season.

Frisco has not announced starters for the final two games of the series should they be necessary. However, projections have Neil Ramirez going in game four and right-hander Cody Buckel in the series finale. Ramirez began the season with the Express and struggled through 15 starts (6-8, 7.66 ERA) after a promising Round Rock showing in 2011. He was reassigned to Frisco in late June and went 2-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance with the RoughRiders. Like Tepesch, Buckel started the season with Myrtle Beach; he was dominant with the Pelicans, going 5-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 91 strikeouts over 75.2 innings in 13 starts. Buckel was promoted to Frisco in mid-June and was 5-5 with a 3.78 ERA and 68 strikeouts over 69.0 innings in 10 starts and three relief outings with the RoughRiders.


Pitchers Mark Hamburger and John Gaub, both of whom were Express members in 2012, completed their seasons with other Triple-A squads.

Hamburger, who was Round Rock’s pitcher of the year in 2011, was acquired by the San Diego Padres upon his mid-June release from the Rangers. However, he was not with the Padres long, going 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA in one start and four relief outings with Triple-A Tucson. Hamburger was released in mid-July and nabbed by the Houston Astros, who assigned him to Triple-A Oklahoma City. There, Hamburger was 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA in 17 relief appearances. His lone victory was Aug. 19 at Round Rock when he worked one and one-thirds scoreless innings with one strikeout and one walk in the RedHawks’ 5-2 win.

If you blinked in late May and early June, you likely missed Gaub’s stint with the Express. The veteran lefty started the season with Triple-A Durham (Tampa Bay Rays) of the International League and was released May 20. The Rangers signed him three days later and assigned him to Round Rock, where did not record a decision or allow a run in five relief outings – the first four of which were on the road. Gaub threw 12 pitches in an Express uniform at The Dell Diamond, those coming in one perfect inning June 5 against Albuquerque. He was released shortly thereafter and acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals, who assigned him to Triple-A Memphis. Gaub spent the remainder of the season with the Redbirds, going 0-3 with one save and a 6.68 ERA in 33 relief appearances. He pitched in three games against the Express, including a scoreless inning July 13 at The Dell Diamond.


Several other former Express members currently are in the majors with organizations other than Texas. Here is a look at a couple; we’ll check in with others throughout the remainder of the season.

Luis Cruz (Express 2011) began the season with Triple-A Albuquerque (Los Angeles Dodgers) and hit .381 with eight homers, 46 RBI, 31 doubles and three triples in 74 games with the Isotopes. He was promoted to the Dodgers in early July and did not look back. His call-up was due to an injury to starting shortstop Gordon Dee. Cruz moved to third shortly after the Dodgers’ trade for Hanley Ramirez, who returned to shortstop after playing third with the Miami Marlins. (Remember all the ballyhoo surrounding his move to third when the Marlins acquired Jose Reyes in the off-season?) Cruz is hitting .306 with four homers, 30 RBI and 15 doubles in 54 games with the Dodgers. After leading Dodgers regulars with a .333 average in August, Cruz is off to an 8-for-20 start in five games this month (he had four hits Monday against San Diego). In fact, his August average tied for the National League’s seventh-best mark that month. Cruz has done most of his damage in key situations, hitting .352 with runners in scoring position.

Cody Ransom (Express 2006-2007) made it to the majors for the sixth consecutive season and the second straight with Arizona. This is his 10th big-league season with five organizations (Giants, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, Diamondbacks). Ransom started the 2012 campaign with the Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate Reno Aces, hitting .294 with two homers and nine RBI in 10 games before joining the Diamondbacks, for whom he played 17 games (.269, four homers, 12 RBI). He was claimed on waivers by Milwaukee in mid-May but struggled with the Brew Crew (.196, six homers, 26 RBI in 64 games). Arizona reclaimed Ransom off waivers last weekend, and he was 1-for-3 with two walks and a run scored in his first game back Monday night.

E-Train Thumped by RedHawks


19 August 2012  |  The Dell Diamond  |  Round Rock, Texas

Records:  Express (59-70), RedHawks (68-60)

– Oklahoma City leads series 2-0
– Oklahoma City leads season series 7-3
– Game 3 of series Monday at 7:05 p.m. CDT
– Monday’s scheduled starters:  RR – LHP Martin Perez (6-6, 4.66 ERA); OKC – LHP Brett Oberholtzer (5-5, 5.29 ERA)

ROUND ROCK lost three straight games for first time since July 19-21 … scored eight runs total in last three games after scoring nine-plus runs in franchise-record five straight games … held to five or fewer runs in six straight home games.

JUSTIN GRIMM fell to 0-2 at The Dell Diamond … dropped to 2-3 against Astros organization this season (1-0 vs. Houston, 0-1 vs. Oklahoma City, 1-2 vs. Corpus Christi) … allowed four-plus runs in third straight start … lowest walk total (one) since not walked a batter July 19 at Nashville.

JULIO BORBON (2-for-3, walk) six-game hitting streak (.500, 13-for-26) … fifth straight multiple-hit game … 14th multiple-hit outing in last 24 games … clubbed ninth home run, matching career minor-league total entering season (264 games) … first homer since July 29 at Memphis … first homer at The Dell Diamond since June 16 vs. Oklahoma City.

LUIS HERNANDEZ (1-for-5) pushed hitting streak to 15 games (.457, 32-for-70) … extended streak with ninth-inning, two-out double.

MATT KATA (0-for-4) dropped to 2-for-21 over last seven home games.

BRAD NELSON (2-for-5) hit safely in 17 of 20 home games since All-Star break (.400, 28-for-70).

JOEY BUTLER (1-for-3, walk) eight-game hitting streak (.333, 12-for-36) … hit safely in 14 of last 16 games (21-for-66) … snapped 12-game streak with at least one strikeout, eight-game streak with at least two strikeouts … first game without a strikeout since Aug. 5 vs. Las Vegas.

RYAN SPILBORGHS (2-for-4) hit safely in eight of last nine games … second multiple-hit effort in last 17 games.

YANGERVIS SOLARTE (0-for-4) hitless in consecutive games for first time since July 23-24.

BRANDON SNYDER (0-for-2, two walks) second hitless outing in last nine games.

KOYIE HILL (1-for-3) hit safely in three of four games with Express.

Express vs. Oklahoma City (Aug. 19)

Close, But No Cigar:  Round Rock loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth but couldn’t get a run across. Oklahoma City wins 5-2. The Express left the bases loaded in two of the last three innings.

Grimm Outcome:  Oklahoma City takes a 4-2 lead on Carlos Corporan’s seventh-inning, two-run single. Justin Grimm got ahead 0-2 and made a good pitch in on Corporan’s hands; but, Corporan fisted a lollipop liner over the infield for the go-ahead hit. Ben Snyder spelled Grimm and got the Express out of the inning without further damage. Grimm went six and one-third innings and allowed four runs – three earned – on seven hits, one walk and one hit batter with three strikeouts. All in all, he pitched better than his line would indicate.

Snyder Warning:  Ben Snyder beginning to loosen in the Express bullpen. His brother made the final out of the last inning, so it would be a while before a potential squaring off.

Hamburger, Hill:  Mark Hamburger got a fly ball to center, walked Yangervis Solarte and struck out Koyie Hill to get the RedHawks out of the sixth. The Express left the bases loaded as Hamburger stranded both runners inherited from starter Fernando Abad, who allowed two runs on six hits, a walk and one hit batter with three strikeouts over five and two-thirds innings. Still 2-2 going to the seventh.

Hey! I Know That Guy!  Former Express pitcher Mark Hamburger is now on the mound for Oklahoma City. Hamburger, who was designated for assignment when Roy Oswalt was added to the Rangers 40-man roster in June, spent five weeks with Tucson (San Diego Padres) before being released and signing with the Astros in mid-June. He is 0-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 appearances with the RedHawks. Hamburger is on the Astros 40-man roster.

Tonight’s Attendance:  Much like what Godzilla did when he wanted a hot dog and a Slurpee, he… 8711.

Fourth-Degree Burns:  Brad Snyder’s RBI double and a two-out throwing error allowed the RedHawks to tie the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth.

Did You Know?  Thanks to his first-inning single, Brad Nelson has hit safely in 17 of 20 home games since the All-Star break. He is 27-for-67 (.403) at The Dell Diamond in that time.

King of the Hill:  Koyie Hill laced a two-out RBI single to left-center, giving the Express a 2-0 lead after two innings. Credit the run to Ryan Spilborghs running on a full-count pitch to Brandon Snyder with one out. Snyder grounded out to short on a ball that likely would have been an inning-ending double play without Spilborghs in motion. Hill, who joined the Express last week, has hit safely in three of his first four games with the E-Train.

Snyder, Snyder… Snyder:  Two Snyders are in tonight’s game… at least for now – Express third baseman Brandon Snyder and Oklahoma City right fielder Brad Snyder. While those two Snyders are not related, Brad Snyder is the brother of Express reliever Ben Snyder. The brothers faced each other three times this season; Brad is 1-for-3 with a strikeout.

Boom Boom Borbon:  Julio Borbon homered on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning – a towering shot down the right-field line that landed just shy of the pool. It was Borbon’s ninth homer of the season. He had nine homers in 264 career minor league games entering this season. Borbon had 16 homers in 479 career professional games prior to 2012. It was Borbon’s first homer since July 29 at Memphis and first at The Dell Diamond since June 16 against Oklahoma City. Express lead 1-0 after the first inning.

First Pitch:  Underway at 6:09 p.m.

E-Train First Half Recap

OF Julio Borbon

By Will Weinstock

The 2012 Express season has been known for its inconsistencies. At the halfway point in June, the team was 32-40 and was 10.5 games back in the American Southern Division. Coming into the season expectations were tempered because much of the key contributors from the 2011 division champion team were gone. No longer could the Express count on timely hitting from Chad Tracy, Chris Davis, and Esteban German. But poor hitting has not plagued the Express this season.

At times, the E-Train’s inconsistencies have come from its inability to get consistent quality starts from the starting rotation. Coming into the year most thought that the rotation would hold down the fort till an overhauled lineup felt comfortable. But it has been the other way around. A projected rotation with top prospects Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez, Zach Jackson (who had a team-high 13 wins in 2011) and 2011 Express Pitcher of the Year Mark Hamburger looked formidable.

Things have not gone according to plan as the team is in the bottom third of the PCL in the ERA, 4.92. Even more telling, they are dead last in the league with only 485 strikeouts despite being in the top third with 700.1 innings pitched. Conversely, in the first 80 games, the Express have scored five or more runs 44 times.

There is hope that the pitching will improve. Left-hander Chad Bell had an impressive Triple-A debut on June 26, and when everyone is healthy in Arlington, the Express can expect reinforcements coming down from the big leagues in the second half.

Coming into the year the outfield was expected to be the strongest spot of the squad and they haven’t disappointed. The lone PCL All-Star selection, Joey Butler, has been the most consistent and has improved significantly from last year. In 2011, Butler became a fan favorite in Round Rock after hitting .322 with 12 HR and playing stellar defense. But there were still areas of his game he could improve. One was his lack of discipline at the plate as he led the team with 138 strikeouts in 113 games. The changes Butler has made have been noticeable. He leads the PCL in walks and already has more than he had last year, all while improving on his home run numbers (11 first-half home runs). Center fielder Leonys Martin has only played 31 games in Round Rock because of a thumb injury and a recent call-up to Arlington, but he has been productive in his short time here. Martin hit .344 with 22 RBI and 19 runs scored, and could be back in Round Rock before the season is over.

Last year’s team scored runs through its big power bats in the middle of the lineup. The 2012 squad has been productive offensively but in a much different way. In a span of two months, three Express hitters went on red-hot hitting streaks. Infielder Yangervis Solarte and outfielders Julio Borbon and Ryan Spilborghs each spent weeks hitting the ball all over the field. In fact, Solarte’s 22-game streak from April 19 to May 11 is now the franchise record. Borbon came one hit away from tying Solarte with a 21-game hitting streak from May 12 to June 12, a span which saw his batting average rise from .238 to .316.  Spilborghs had a 16-game hitting streak that began from his first game with the Express, May 5 to May 22.

After only making a few transactions in the first two months, injuries in both Round Rock and Arlington have a created a lot of roster turnover in June.  After only 16 roster moves through May, the number is now close to 50 at the end of June.

“It can get pretty crazy with guys going up and guys going down and half the time you don’t even know who’s on your team,” Express manager Bobby Jones said. “That is the fun part of it. You got to put bodies in and make things fit.”

The 2011 Express played some of its best baseball after the PCL All-Star break when they went 35-19 down the stretch. If some of talent from Frisco makes its way to Round Rock and the recently promoted players return, a run at a division title is not out of the realm of possibility.

“[Our team] will be better than the first half,” Butler said. “I think we are starting to come together and make strides.”

As the summer starts to heat up don’t overlook the E-Train.

Padres Claim Hamburger Off Waivers

Photo Credit: Scott Lucas

By Wade Hilligoss

Round Rock, Texas – Right-hander Mark Hamburger has been claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres, the team announced today.

Hamburger, 25, has made 21 appearances (three starts) for Round Rock this season, going 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA (33 ER/45.1 IP). Over parts of six minor league seasons in the Minnesota Twins (2007-08) and Rangers (2008-2012) organizations, he has gone 17-20 with 44 saves and a 3.86 ERA (135 ER/315.0 IP) in 193 games (seven starts).

Hamburger saw his only Major League action last year, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA (4 ER/8.0 IP) in five relief appearances for the Rangers.

The 25-year-old was designated for assignment by the Texas Friday when a 40-man roster spot was needed for RHP Roy Oswalt to make his Rangers debut.

Hamburger began last season with Double-A Frisco before an early season promotion to Round Rock. He made his Major League debut Aug. 31, 2011.

Hamburger Designated for Assignment

From the Rangers and Express today:
ARLINGTON, Texas – Round Rock Express right-handed pitcher Mark Hamburger was designated for assignment, the Texas Rangers announced Friday afternoon. The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release or outright Hamburger to the minor leagues. The move corresponded with the Rangers purchase of Roy Oswalt’s contract; he replaces Hamburger on the 40-man roster and will start for the Rangers tonight against Colorado.
Hamburger was 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA (33 ER/45.1 IP) in three starts and 18 relief appearances for the Express this season. He was Round Rock’s opening-day starter but struggled to a 14.81 ERA (17 ER/11.1 IP) in his first three starts. Hamburger moved to the bullpen April 19 and posted a 1.74 ERA (2 ER/10.1 IP) in his last five relief appearances, holding the opponent scoreless in four of the five outings.
Signed by the Minnesota Twins at an open tryout in 2007, Hamburger was named Round Rock Express Pitcher of the Year in 2011 when he was 7-4 with a 3.88 ERA (27 ER/62.2 IP) in 27 relief outings and four starts. He moved to the rotation in the season’s final month and was 2-0 with a 1.10 ERA (2 ER/16.1 IP). Hamburger made his major league debut Aug. 31, 2011.
The Rangers also transferred right-handed pitcher Neil Ramirez and Ross Wolf to Double-A Frisco from Round Rock. Meanwhile, left-handers Chad Bell and Joe Ortiz were transferred from Frisco to the Express; both are active for Friday night’s game as Round Rock concludes an eight-game home stand with a 7:05 p.m. CDT first pitch against the Iowa Cubs at The Dell Diamond.