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TOP 12 GAMES OF 2012
Throughout the fall, we’ll take a look at the top 12 games of 2012. Before we get to that list, here is a brief look at nine games that were considered but didn’t make the list.
April 15 vs. Iowa: Round Rock edged Iowa 11-10 in 13 innings – the longest home game this season and tied for the third-longest Triple-A game in The Dell Diamond’s history. Matt Kata’s sacrifice fly was the game-winner.
May 8 at Salt Lake: Five homers gave the Express an 11-9 victory. Dusty Brown, Joey Butler, Mike Bianucci, Yangervis Solarte and Brad Nelson provided the homers, and Round Rock scored in seven different innings at hitter-friendly Spring Mobile Park.
June 1 at Memphis: Despite getting out-hit 9-3, the Express blanked Memphis 3-0. Greg Reynolds scattered six singles and four walks with four strikeouts over seven innings. Elio Sarmiento and Dusty Brown had consecutive RBI singles in the second, and Joey Butler tacked on a ninth-inning solo homer.
June 17 vs. Oklahoma City: What a pitching matchup – Oswalt vs. Clemens. OK, the Clemens was Paul Clemens. Roy Oswalt allowed two runs on six hits and a walk over six innings with five strikeouts in his final game before joining the Rangers; it was his lone win with the Express. Greg Miclat homered in the second, and his two-run double in the sixth erased a broke a 2-2 ties as the Express won 4-2.
July 17 at Nashville: Round Rock scored two runs in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, and Luis Hernandez delivered a two-out RBI single in the 11th for a 5-4 Express win. Round Rock’s bullpen (Joe Ortiz, Aaron Heilman and Neil Cotts) tossed five shutout innings.
Aug. 3 vs. Tucson: After squandering a 6-0 lead over the final three innings, the Express plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth for an 8-7 victory. Julio Borbon’s two-run single was the game-winner.
Aug. 21 vs. Oklahoma City: In his final win of the season, Zach Jackson limited the RedHawks to one run on seven hits and no walks over seven innings with seven strikeouts for a 4-1 Express victory. It was Jackson’s 20th win with the Express – a franchise record. Joey Butler’s sixth-inning solo homer snapped a 1-1 tie, and Leonys Martin added a two-run shot in the seventh.
Aug. 22 vs. Nashville: One night later, the Express overcame a 6-3 deficit entering the bottom of the eighth and eventually won 7-6 in 11 innings. This was the closest of the honorable mention games to make the top 12. Ryan Spilborghs clubbed a two-run homer in the eighth to pull the Express within a run. Matt Kata tied the game in the ninth with an RBI fielder’s choice. Manager Bobby Jones was ejected after a peculiar call on a double-play ball later in the ninth, a play in which Kata collided with Nashville second baseman Adrian Williams. Spilborghs came through in the 11th with a two-out RBI single.
And now on with the Top 12 list, starting today with No. 12:
Aug. 15: Express 14, at Reno 1
Scoring 14 runs on 19 hits in the 4,400-foot elevation of Reno was no big surprise. However, the ability of Martin Perez to hold the eventual PCL-champion Aces to one run on six hits and five walks over eight innings was quite impressive. The lone run came on Konrad Schmidt’s eighth-inning, two-out solo homer, ending Perez’s bid for his first career complete-game shutout.
All nine Express starters hit safely as the Express won their fifth straight game – the season’s longest streak at that date (they won a sixth straight the following night). Brad Snyder’s two-run double keyed a four-run second inning, and Round Rock never looked back, adding three in the third and two in the fourth. Brad Nelson’s two-run homer pushed the Express lead to 11-0 in the seventh, and Koyie Hill tacked on an RBI single later in the inning. Hill capped the scoring with a two-run homer in the ninth.
Perez posted his first road win with the Express since April 27 at Oklahoma City. It was the deepest into a game he carried a shutout in what was his 28th career Triple-A start. Perez escaped trouble in the fourth, inducing an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
It was Round Rock’s fifth straight game with at least 10 hits as the Express won for the 15th time in 21 games. Eight of nine batters had multiple-hit efforts; ironically, the lone exception was Luis Hernandez, who snapped a streak of nine consecutive multiple-hit outings. Leonys Martin ended a streak of four consecutive games with a homer but enjoyed a 4-for-6 effort nonetheless.
WHY FIRE SHOWALTER?
A couple weeks ago, we talked about the Baltimore Orioles’ success this year and how several members of the 2011 Express squad have played a part. We also asked when the Orioles will fire manager Buck Showalter. Here is the reason for the question:
Showalter managed three teams previously – the Yankees (1992-1995), Diamondbacks (1998-2000) and Rangers (2003-2006). In each case, his tenure ended with a firing. And, in each case, the succeeding manager led the team to a world series.
In 1994, Showalter guided the Yankees to a 70-43 record and was named American League Manager of the Year. New York owned baseball’s second-best record behind only Montreal (74-40). But the season was cut short due to the strike.
The following season, the Showalter-led Yankees were 79-65 and claimed the American League wild card – New York’s first playoff appearance since 1981. However, the Yankees lost to the Mariners 3-2 in the division series. Game 5 was one of the best playoff games in the wild-card era as Seattle edged New York 5-4. Randy Velarde’s one-out RBI single snapped a 4-4 tie in the top of the 11th, but Edgar Martinez won the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the inning that scored Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr. Coming off the bench for the Mariners in that game was rookie Alex Rodriguez; he replaced Tino Martinez, who would join the Yankees the following season.
Showalter was shown the door following the loss. Joe Torre took over, and the Yankees won four of the next five World Series.
A year later, Showalter was named inaugural manager of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks – two years prior to the club’s first season. The D-backs were 65-97 in the first season (1998) but thundered to 100 wins and a division crown the following season thanks to off-season acquisitions of Randy Johnson, Armando Reynoso, Todd Stottlemyer and Steve Finley. Arizona lost to the New York Mets in the division series, and Showalter was fired after a lack-luster 85-77, third-place finish in 2000.
His replacement, Bob Brenly, followed Torre’s suit and guided the Diamondbacks to a World Series title in 2001, defeating none other than the Yankees in one of the best Game 7s in World Series history.
Showalter was unable to lead the Rangers to a playoff appearance in his four seasons at Arlington. However, he was named American League Manager in the Year in 2004, skippering the Rangers to an 89-73 record in his second season after a 71-91 mark in 2003. Texas finished third in the division, three games back of Anaheim and two games behind Oakland. It was the Rangers’ lone winning season with Showalter at the helm. He was fired following an 80-82 mark in 2006.
Showing Showalter the door in Arlington was then-29-year-old general manager John Daniels, who then hired Ron Washington. Four years later, the Rangers reached the World Series for the first time ever and returned the following season. Washington currently has Texas atop the division in pursuit of the Rangers first division three-peat.
So, surely the Orioles will fire Showalter after the Birds dip to a sub-.500 record next season. We’ll prognosticate former or soon-to-be-former players as potential replacements: Chipper Jones (retires after this season), Scott Rolen (has played for heralded managers Tony La Russa, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona and Larry Bowa), Derek Lee (clubhouse guy has played for Jack McKeon, Lou Pinella, Bobby Cox and Showalter) or Todd Helton (quietly one of this generation’s best hitters). However, the best bet among former players surely is Hall of Famer and former Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. – assuming he wants the job… and (of course) assuming it all comes to this.