SP Yerry Rodriguez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 29 P / 23 S, 4.27 ERA RP Spencer Howard: 0.2 IP, 1 H (1 HR), 4 R, 3 BB, 2 SO, 4.73 ERA RP Kyle Cody: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 3.66 ERA 2B Nick Tanielu: 1-3, .236/.322/.379
Unfortunately, I missed Round Rock’s final game, although I apparently didn’t miss much. I was here instead:
Have some business in San Diego, so I decided to catch a game. Petco is gorgeous. Joey Gallo says hi.
As for Round Rock, Nick Tanielu’s single was the only hit, squashed between an error and two walks that would plate Round Rock’s lone run in the 3rd. After that, the last 20 Express hitters were retired in order, although only three were on strikeouts. Sugar Land’s relievers threw only 69 pitches in six perfect innings.
Spencer Howard missed on ten of 12 non-fastballs and allowed a grand slam. Howard still has an option in 2023. We’ll have to see whether Texas wants to bother. The same applies to Yerry Rodriguez, who had two very good middle months bookended by struggles with control and hard contact.
Kyle Cody completed his season with a solid if unspectacular .274/.333/.356 opposing line and 26% strikeout rate in AAA. He can become a free agent, although I imagine Texas would like to keep him around.
AA: Frisco 7, at Wichita (MIN) 5 (10) Frisco: 10 hits, 3 walks, 16 strikeouts Opponent: 9 hits, 10 walks, 12 strikeouts Frisco wins Texas League Championship series 2-0
SP Jack Leiter: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 1 SO, 48 P / 21 S RP Tristan Polley: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO RP Owen White: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO RP Grant Wolfram: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO SS Jonathan Ornelas: 3-5 CF Evan Carter: 3-5 3B Thomas Saggese: 1-4 LF Kellen Strahm: 1-4, 2B 1B Frainyer Chavez: 1-1
Frisco won its first Texas League championship since 2004, sweeping best-of-three series from the San Antonio Missions and Wichita Wind Surge.
The Riders fell behind 2-0 in the 1st, and the scoring seemed destined to end there. Wichita starter Brent Headrick was masterful despite lesser velocity than I’d seen in mid-September footage. In seven innings, he allowed three singles, walked none, and fanned 11 of 22 batters.
In the 8th, facing Cody Laweryson and his usually very effective upstairs 89 MPH fastball, Luisangel Acuna drew a walk, after which Kellen Strahm drilled a heater inches beyond the reach of CF DaShawn Keirsey’s glove and off the wall for an RBI double. Strahm advanced to third on the throw home and scored to tie the contest on a Trevor Hauver sac fly.
Wichita immediately retook the lead in the bottom half of the 8th. Ricky Vanasco had worked a scoreless if nervy 7th but was removed for Grant Wolfram after a single and walk to open the 8th. 3B Thomas Saggese’s throw of a Keirsey bunt eluded replacement 1B Frainyer Chavez and caromed off Keirsey’s leg, allowing a run to score from second. After another sac bunt, Austin Martin walked to load the bases with one out. Wolfram recovered from a 3-1 count to fan Edouard Julien on a corner-catching slider. Then, Anthony Prato stunningly tried to catch the battery off guard with a steal of home but was tagged out. (He was definitely tagged. Not so sure about the “out” part.)
Down again in the 9th, Jonathan Ornelas singled and advanced to third on a wild pitch and grounder. With two out and two strikes, Saggese rapped a game-tying single. Wolfram would walk a batter in the bottom of the 9th, as would mid-inning replacement Joe Corbett, but both runners were stranded.
On came closer Nick Starr. Keirsey immediately homered to halve the lead, and Julien singled with two out to bring the tying run to the plate, but Starr induced a harmless fly to left for the final out.
Outside of Headrick, Frisco scored 30 runs in 28 playoff innings. The Riders batted .294/.412/.456 in the postseason. 20-year-olds Carter and Saggese were remarkable. Promoted to an AA team fighting for a playoff spot with a week left in the season, Carter batted .351/.479/.514 in a ten-game stretch including the playoffs. He drew ten walks in 48 trips to the plate. Saggese batted .361/.425/.667 in nine games. Strahm led the regulars with a .462/.611/.846 line in the playoffs. Aaron Zavala and Scott Kapers homered twice.
I owe the bullpen a beer. It allowed 30 baserunners in 20.2 playoff innings, but only seven would score. Tristan Polley stranded three runners in the 2nd to keep the game in reach. Owen White steamrolled the Wind Surge for two innings, striking out six in a row.
Unfortunately, Jack Leiter was poor again, allowing two 1st-inning runs and walking the bases loaded in the 2nd. In his last three starts he walked 16 of 53 batters (30%).
SP Cole Winn: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 7 SO, 91 P / 54 S, 6.51 ERA RP Nick Snyder: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 4.97 ERA RP Daniel Robert: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 6.28 ERA RP Chase Lee: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 5.46 ERA CF Elier Hernandez: 3-4, 2 2B, BB, .299/.357/.525 3B Ezequiel Duran: 2-5, .291/.325/.546
Round Rock again pounded Sugar Land’s bullpen late.
Cole Winn had a typical night. I’ve talked the situation to death, no need to say more. Hopefully, the upcoming break is to his benefit and he returns ready to deal.
The Express announced that Winn has the most strikeouts in Round Rock’s AAA history, including seven years affiliated with the Astros. Not that I track things of that nature well, but I never would have guessed. The Rangers have four 100-strikeout pitchers in ten seasons with the Express, all from 2022:
Cole Winn, 123 in ’22 Jason Hirsh, 118 in ’06 Tyson Miller, 114 in ’22 Andy Van Hekken, 114 in ’10 Kolby Allard, 113 in ’22 Bud Norris, 112 in ’09 J.C. Gutierrez, 108 in ’07 Josh Muecke, 107 in ’08 AJ Alexy, 100 in ’22 Chad Reineke, 100 in ’08
Innings needed for 114 strikeouts: Andy Van Hekken 177, Tyson Miller 89.
SP Kolby Allard: 5 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 4 BB, 8 SO, 97 P / 55 S, 4.65 ERA RP Ryder Ryan: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SO, 3.66 ERA RP Lucas Jacobsen: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1.80 ERA CF JP Martinez: 2-4, 2B, .203/.325/.413 SS Ryan Dorow: 2-3, BB, .238/.322/.355
Hitless through six, Round Rock plated five on six hits and a walk in the 7th.
Kolby Allard reached five innings in all but one of his last eight starts, but he allowed 14 homers and a .563 slugging percentage in that span. Even for the PCL, that’s inflated. Allard, AJ Alexy, Yerry Rodriguez, and Nick Snyder are the 40-man pitchers woth some history in the organization who are finishing up their season’s in AAA. Tyson Miller and recent waiver claim Drew Strotman are also on the 40, along with rehabbing Spencer Howard.
A battle of semifinal Game 1 starters tonight. Jack Leiter has a chance to pitch his team to a league title last won when he was four, his father was finishing his seventh and final year as a Met, and I was a month from getting married. Hard-throwing Brent Headrick will try to push the series to Wednesday for Wichita.
Tonight and tomorrow are advertised as free games on MiLB.tv, so you can watch if you like. 7pm CDT.
SP Zak Kent: 4 IP, 4 H (1 HR), 4 R, 5 BB, 3 SO, 85 P / 46 S, 1.67 ERA RP Fernery Ozuna: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 7.36 ERA RP Kyle Cody: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 4.08 ERA LF Ezequiel Duran: 2-5, HR (9), 2 SB (7), .287/.322/.551 SS Davis Wendzel: 1-1, 3 BB, .212/.293/.407
Zak Kent suffered his first poor AAA start, struggling to deal his fastballs for strikes. The strike rate on sliders was below average as well, but he drew a healthy number of swinging strikes with it and surrendered no hits.
As an unfriendly reminder of the grueling pre-2020 schedule, Round Rock has to return from the Seattle area to play at home tonight. The Express host Sugar Land for the next three nights to close the season. El Paso clinched the division on Saturday.
Records through August: OKC: 72-53 Round Rock: 68-57, -4 El Paso: 66-58, -5.5
Records in September: El Paso: 18-5 OKC: 9-13, -8.5 Round Rock: 9-13, -8.5
SP Mason Englert: 5.1 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 1 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 77 P / 49 S, 0.00 ERA RP Josh Smith: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0.00 ERA 3B Jonathan Ornelas: 4-5, SB CF Evan Carter: 0-1, 4 BB, SB 2B Justin Foscue: 2-5 LF Kellen Strahm: 2-5, 3B C Scott Kapers: 2-5, 2 HR
Providing anecdotal evidence against the cliche that good pitching beats good hitting, Frisco steamrolled a staff that permitted 20% fewer runs than the park-adjusted league average during the regular season. Frisco reached double-digit runs for the 26th time this season, while Wichita allowed ten or more for only the eleventh.
Jonathan Ornelas put the ball in play every time up, fouling off six two-strike pitches en route to four singles. Conversely, Evan Carter drew walks in his first four plate appearances. With them in from of him, Justin Foscue singled home three runs in the first two innings.
Scott Kapers hit a 5th-inning solo homer and a game-icing grand slam in the 6th. In the previews, I described catcher as an offensive weak spot but qualified with Kapers’ ability to get hold of a pitch. Lucky me. Kapers has a career line of .210/.329/.366, but that includes 11 homers in 57 games during 2022.
In his fourth AA start, Mason Englert was in command despite three walks and didn’t permit more than one runner in an inning until the 5th. Josh Smith replaced Englert with two one and one out in the 6th and induced a double-play grounder from Yunior Severino, who’d homered in the 4th.
Wichita’s Kody Funderburk (a Dallas Baptist alum) was drafted in 2018 and has 47 professional starts and 29 relief appearances, including postseason. Yesterday’s start of 1.1 innings was the shortest of his career and second-shortest outing of any type. He also allowed his most walks (4) since mid-June 2021. The bullpen was of no help, allowing another six runs and 13 runners across 6.2 innings. A far cry from their two-game demolition of Tulsa in the semifinals.
Wichita will employ Brent Headrick next and Daniel Gossett in Game 3 if needed. They were the starters in the semifinals. Frisco has yet to announce tomorrow’s starter.
Frisco RoughRiders (74-63) vs. Minnesota-affiliated Wichita Wind Surge (78-59) Season Run Differential: Frisco +80, Wichita +102 Last 20 Games + Playoffs: Frisco 13-9, Wichita 14-8 Season Series: Tied 6-6
How They Got Here Frisco won the second-half title with a late run after fading in the first half. In the opening playoff series against San Antonio, Frisco swept the San Antonio Mission by scores of 7-3 and 5-2.
Wichita’s first-half fate was similar. The Surge were 32-21 and led the northern division by 2.5 games on June 10 but lost 12 of 15 to close the half. Mired at 5-7 to start the second half and 40-40 overall, Wichita closed on a 38-19 tear to grab the second-half title with ease and the league’s best record. Wichita also swept its division foe Tulsa by scores of 11-1 and 17-1.
History Frisco’s first postseason trip since 2014 now includes the first title series since 2012. That group included OFs Engel Beltre, Jared Hoying, and Ryan Strausborger, plus IF Leury Garcia. Series starters were Wilfredo Boscan, Cody Buckel, Barrett Loux, and Nick Tepesch. They fell to Springfield 3-1. The Riders won their only title in 2004.
Wichita’s history is short but interesting. The team moved from New Orleans in 2020 into a new stadium as the AAA affiliate of the Marlins. Covid forced the cancellation of the 2020 season and claimed the life of team owner Lou Schwechheimer. MLB dropped Wichita to AA during the next winter’s minor league reorganization. Now with the Twins, Wichita reached the 2021 championship series with the league’s best record (69-51) but fell to NW Arkansas in five games.
The two teams didn’t meet in 2021 and split twelve games this season.
Top 30 Prospects on Active Roster per MLB.com / Baseball America Frisco: 2 / 4. RHP Jack Leiter 3 / 1. OF Evan Carter 4 / 5. RHP Owen White 5 / 9. IF Justin Foscue 7 / 6. IF Luisangel Acuna 11 / 12. OF Aaron Zavala 14 / 14. LHP Antoine Kelly 17 / nr. RHP Ricky Vanasco 20 / nr. IF Thomas Saggese 22 / nr. IF Jonathan Ornelas 24 / nr. LHP Avery Weems 30 / nr. RHP Mason Englert
Wichita: 1 / 1. SS Brooks Lee 12 / 11. OF Austin Martin 14 / 10. IF Edouard Julien 25 / 20. RHP Blayne Enlow 27 / nr. RHP Casey Legumina 28 / 30. RHP Steven Cruz
Frisco’s ranked prospect list was already the most impressive I’d ever seen, and that was before Owen White was activated.
The big name for Wichita is SS Brooks Lee, picked eight overall in this year’s draft and promoted to AA after the high-A season ended. Lee batted .289/.395/.454 at high-A Cedar Rapids. Martin was selected fifth overall the year before, then traded from the Jays with others for Jose Berrios. An older teammate of Leiter and Rocker in college and extraordinary contact hitter, Martin was a consensus top-100 prospect the last two springs but has fallen in the rankings thanks to a second straight ordinary and worrying performance.
Frisco: C Scott Kapers / David Garcia 1B Trevor Hauver / Frainyer Chavez 2B Luisangel Acuna 3B Thomas Saggese SS Jonathan Ornelas LF Kellen Strahm CF Evan Carter RF Aaron Zavala DH Justin Foscue Also OF Josh Stowers
Frisco’s offense is uncommonly stacked despite losing several key performers to promotion or injury. The Riders averaged 8.6 runs per game in September and batted .292/.425/.477 in the San Antonio series.
The positional choices against San Antonio held some intrigue. Justin Foscue DH’ed both games in favor of Luisangel Acuna at second and Thomas Saggese at third. Trevor Hauver did start at first as I expected, but only once, while Frainyer Chavez drew the other start. Scott Kapers and David Garcia split duties.
Wichita: C Jair Camargo 1B Alex Isola 2B Edouard Julien 3B Yunior Severino SS Aaron Martin LF Anthony Prato CF DaShawn Keirsey RF Leobaldo Cabrera DH Brooks Lee Also C Kyle Schmidt, IF Seth Gray, IF Will Holland
Wichita trotted out the same lineup in both nights of its semifinal series. The Surge scored 28 runs, hit eight homers, and slugged .743 against Tulsa. Scary. But also atypical.
Wichita was seventh of ten teams in runs scored but worst after adjusting for its mildly hitter-friendly park. The underlying stats aren’t nearly as bad, however, at or very near the league averages. Wichita’s OPS was 24 points above the league median with nobody on but 28 points below with runners in scoring position. (The Riders and Surge had nearly same number of walks and singles in RISP situations, but Frisco had an additional 32 extra base hits. That’s a lot!) I’d chalk that to variance rather than skill or, God forbid, mental fortitude.
2B Edouard Julien is the best combination of OBP and power. Julien batted .300/.441/.490 with a 20% BB/HBP rate and 39 extra-base hits. 1B Alex Isola (.286/.377/.471, 10 HR in 58 games) is the other all-around type. Catcher Jair Camargo (.239/.306/.472) has the best homer rate with 12 in 46 games, and Yair Severino (.273/.338/.497) isn’t far behind, but both are more strikeout-prone and less inclined to walk.
DaShawn Keirsey is the prominent base thief (42 in 121 games), followed by Austin Martin (34 in 90 games), and then Julien and Anthony Prado to lesser extents. Frisco won’t have to deal with Wichita’s best hitter, Matt Wallner, who jumped to AAA St. Paul ten days ago. The 2019 39th-overall pick batted .299/.436/.597 with 21 homers in 78 games.
On the whole, I’d say Wichita’s offense isn’t good but closer to average than its worst-in-league run production would suggest.
Pitching / Possible Rotation Frisco: 8% better than avg. in runs allowed, .247/.337/.400 oppo line, 92 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 24% SO) Wichita : 20% above avg. in runs allowed, .247/.334/.384 oppo line, 82 OPS+, 12% BB/HBP, 25% SO)
Like Wichita, Frisco hasn’t announced starters past Game 1. I’ve listed the two semifinal starters, both of whom could appear on normal rest because of all the off-days. Seth Nordlin is another solid choice, but like the semifinals, the team may be better served with him available to pitch twice in relief. Other options are Antoine Kelly (very walk-prone, moved to relief late in season), Avery Weems (talented but highly erratic), and Ricky Vanasco (new to AA like Englert and less steady). I’m assuming Owen White will be limited to relief.
The bullpen that I politely maligned in the semifinal preview saved Game 1, holding San Antonio scoreless for five innings as the offense mounted a comeback. Nick Starr will handle closing duties without worry, and Nordlin is reliable. Having White back helps, even if he’s limited to one or two one-inning bursts.
I’m guessing after Game 1. Laweryson was part of the September rotation and threw three relief innings in the semifinals. Headrick started the first game in the semis. If I’m wrong about someone, the likely substitute is semifinal Game 1 starter Daniel Gossett (2.24 ERA), who had 115 MLB innings with the Athletics in 2017-2018. Despite the lack of ranked prospects, the group is strong. Headrick is the hardest thrower (mid-90s) and is better than his line, which is permanently scarred by a seven-run, five-homer outing to begin his term in AA. He and Laweryson are fly-prone, while Funderburk and Gossett deliver more grounders. Laweryson is easily the most entertaining, fearlessly pounding the upper half of the zone with a spasmodically delivered 89-91 fastball and mixing in an upper-70s slider and change with plenty of unpredictable movement.
Casey Legumina abruptly shifted from starter to 9th-inning man a month ago. In his current role, he’s saved three games and posted a 2.55 ERA with an opposing line of .229/.290/.357 and a 34% strikeout rate. Alex Phillips is another successful late-inning reliever, while Blayne Enlow has struggled with a 6.06 ERA and plenty of hits since switching to relief. The middle portion of the pen is walk-prone but passable in other respects.
Like most teams, Wichita has lost several strong contributors along the way, but the remaining staff is still quite good, and vastly better than San Antonio’s collection.
Defense Even accounting for the pitching staff’s fly tendencies, Wichita is poor at turning double plays compared to the Riders. Wild pitches and passed balls are also a problem for the Surge. In other respects, Frisco rates nearly equal or better.
A tough call, as always compounded by the random nature of the best-of-three and my asymmetric knowledge of the two teams. One pitcher having an exceptionally good or bad day can determine the champion. If Leiter starts Tuesday, he’ll be on the mound with either Frisco or Wichita facing elimination.
Wichita is certainly better than San Antonio, especially its arms, and is 41-19 in the last 60 games. The Surge also have home field advantage, although that doesn’t include starting the series at home. These are the league’s two best teams, and either is a worthy champion.
This is genuinely a coin flip to me, so I’ll put my imaginary $100 on the Riders and hope for the best.
Most Recent Texas-Affiliated Championship Teams AAA: 1996 Oklahoma City 89ers AA: 2004 Frisco RoughRiders Hi-A: 2017 Down East Wood Ducks (co-champion) Lo-A: 2015 Hickory Crawdads Short-A: 2008 Spokane Indians Rookie: 2019 Rangers DSL: 2014 Rangers
SP Kohei Arihara: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SO, 37 P / 23 S, 4.86 ERA RP Chase Lee: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 5.64 ERA 1B Blaine Crim: 2-5, .317/.341/.341 3B Davis Wendzel: 3-4, HR (17), BB, .209/.285/.405
Kohei Arihara made what could be his final appearance in the organization. Since he stayed only two innings, I suppose he’s available for Tuesday or Wednesday. Blaine Crim is making contact but still seeking his first AAA extra-base hit. Davis Wendzel is hitting .228/.289/.489 in 38 games off the IL. Much more power, not much improvement in reaching base.
SP Lucas Jacobsen: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 20 P / 13 S, 2.25 ERA RP Spencer Howard: 5 IP, 4 H (2 HR), 3 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, 4.17 ERA RP Drew Strotman: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 9.00 ERA LF Ezequiel Duran: 1-4, 2B, .283/.316/.543
Round Rock has lost eight of ten on the road trip. Opener Lucas Jacobsen struck out the side around an error and walk. The Rainers swung at nine pitches and came up empty on five. Spencer Howard pitched well more often than not, but the “not” included two homers.
Waiver-claimed Drew Strotman made his first appearance. 92-95 FB, 85-90 cutter/slider, low-80s curve.
Seattle OF prospect Cade Marlowe, signed out of Division II West Gerogia for the princely sum of $5,000, has three homers in three nights. Marlowe homered twice against Frisco while in AA Arkansas.
AA: off The Texas League championship series begins Sunday in Frisco. Elsewhere Texas’s low-A and high-A leagues were won by Tampa Bay affiliates (Bowling Green, Charleston) for the second straight year. Charleston defeated Down East in five games last year. The Rays are quite the organization.
SP Cole Winn: 5 IP, 6 H (2 HR), 7 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 90 P / 59 S, 6.42 ERA RP Ryder Ryan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 3.72 ERA RP Kyle Cody: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO, 4.32 ERA RF Elier Hernandez: 3-4, .299/.356/.528
With the caveat that I haven’t see a second of last night’s outing, Cole Winn appears to have been very much on his game for five innings, after which the troubles returned. Winn cleared five on 64 pitches, walked none, and faced only two over the minimum.
Unfortunately, his 6th proceeded double, single, single, homer, walk, walk. Still, that’s probably his lengthiest dominant stretch of the season.
SP Cody Bradford: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 SO, 97 P / 73 S, 0.00 ERA RP Owen White: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA RP Nick Starr: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0.00 ERA RF Aaron Zavala: 2-3, HR, 2 BB 3B Thomas Saggese: 2-3, 2 BB LF Kellen Strahm: 1-2, 2 BB, SB 1B Trevor Hauver: 1-2, 2 BB C David Garcia: 1-3, HR, BB
I’m always circumspect about predicting playoff victors because the minor leagues are chaos and I’ve seen the better team fall frequently, so in this case it was nice to see the better team quickly take care of business.
Cody Bradford saved one of his best starts of the year for a critical moment. In 2022, Bradford has three starts of 6-7 innings with zero runs and zero walks. All came against the San Antonio Missions.
Owen White! He’s back. Out for two months with an “forearm fatigue,” as foreboding a pair of words as you’re likely to see, White needed only seven pitches to complete the 7th. Avery Weems (1.1 IP, 2 R) ran into some 9th-inning trouble, but Nick Starr finished the game successfully just like Tuesday.
Aaron Zavala homered again, this time in the 1st with one on to build an early lead that would never be threatened. Catcher David Garcia homered in the 3rd. Trevor Hauver drew a bases-loaded walk in the 4th and singled in Kellen Strahm in the 8th to complete the scoring.
The Wichita Wind Surge (MIN) swept the Tulsa Drillers (LAD) by scored of 17-11 and 11-1. Hopefully the Surge are done with that nonsense. Wichita had the league’s best second-half record (43-26) and overall record (78-59).
Frisco is off until Sunday. The Riders will host one and only one game of the best-of-three championship. Tickets are five bucks. You should go.
SP Kolby Allard: 6.2 IP, 5 H (2 HR), 2 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 102 P / 63 S, 4.82 ERA LF Ezequiel Duran: 5-5, 2B, 2 HR, (8), .285/.318/.545
Tacoma scored five in the 9th. Up 6-2, Jake Latz allowed a solo homer, two singles and a walk. Nick Snyder replaced Latz, and his third pitch, an 82 MPH curve that clipped the bottom of the zone, was hit into Puget Sound.
Ezequiel Duran hit homers of 400 and 420 feet.
The Express themselves say they’re eliminated from the title race. They’re five back of El Paso with seven to play, but they’re also four back of OKC. Since those two teams are playing each other this week, Round Rock can only gain ground on one team on a given night, so the math just doesn’t work. The Express have secured a winning record.
Frisco and San Antonio resume the best-of-three tonight at the Wolff. Frisco has the best man for the job on the mound in the form of Cody Bradford. San Antonio is hoping Nolan Watson (5.84 ERA with peripherals to match) can force a third game.
SP Zak Kent: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 91 P / 56 S, 0.39 ERA RP Lucas Jacobsen: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 3.00 ERA RP Chase Lee: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO, 5.90 ERA LF Elier Hernandez: 2-4, 2 2B, .291/.351/.517 CF JP Martinez: 1-4, HR (6), .205/.340/.426
For a fourth straight start, Zak Kent calmly dispatched of his opponents. Yet again, he didn’t overpower anyone, but hitters sure aren’t having much luck on contact. Kent’s fastball topped at 93.1, a little lower than usual.
Unfortunately for the Express, El Paso and OKC are meeting this week. Both are ahead of Round Rock (and tied as well), so the Express can’t gain ground on both teams the same day.
Tieran Alexander of Prospects Live has a deep dive into Cole Winn’s troublesome 2022. Worth yur times if you’re into a serious breakdown of his pitches, what’s working, and what isn’t. The short version, which jibes with my assessment: The stuff is still fine, the control and command are sorely lacking.
Ex-Ranger Ronny Henriquez made his MLB debut on the 19th, allowing three runs in four innings. Texas had traded him and IKF to the Twins for Mitch Garver. Per Statcast, Henriquez threw sliders for more than half his pitches. In AAA, Henriquez has a 5.66 ERA with (per usual) good control, plenty of strikeouts, and a lot of homers.
SP Jack Leiter: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 6 BB, 4 SO, 79 P / 43 S RP Seth Nordlin: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO RP Josh Smith: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO RP Nick Starr: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO RF Aaron Zavala: 1-4, HR 2B Luisangel Acuna: 2-4, 2B, SB LF Kellen Strahm: 2-2, 2 2B, 2 BB 1B Frainyer Chavez: 2-4
Frisco won last night’s playoff opener with typically superior hitting and a surprising 5.2 innings of scoreless relief. The bullpen wasn’t totally blameless, as Seth Nordlin could only strand one of three runners bequeathed by Jack Leiter with one out in the 4th. In his defense, that’s a bear of a situation with an expectation of about 1.6 runs. In any case, he kept the game from getting out of hand, and aided by a clean inning from rehabbing Joe Barlow, the relievers blanked the Missions as Frisco mounted its comeback.
The Riders didn’t mount much of an attack against soft-tossing Thomas Eshelman in the early innings but eliminated a 3-0 deficit in the 5th on doubles by Luisangel Acuna and Kellen Strahm plus singles from Scott Kapers and Evan Carter. Unwilling to settle for a single crooked inning, Frisco plated four in the 8th. Aaron Zavala began by blasting a pitch from Fred Schlichtholz, one of San Antonio’s best relievers. Hits from Thomas Saggese, Strahm, and Jonathan Ornelas provided ample insurance.
Frisco won in front of a surprisingly large and engaged crowd. I mean no offense to the good folks up there, just that playoff ball is often a miss with fans. I’ve attended some AA and AAA playoff games in which the number of actual bodies in attendance was in the low hundreds. The games aren’t scheduled far in advance, school is back, until recently the season ended on Labor Day. Last night was great to see.
As for Leiter, well, he was bad. He walked the leadoff hitter on five pitches, another on four, and then surrendered a two-out RBI single in a 26-pitch 1st. His last three batters consumed 19 pitches. All walked. The strike zone was on the tight side, but Leiter just didn’t have any control. He’s walked 12 of 42 batters (29%) in his last two starts. I expect he’ll pitch again if Frisco reaches the finals.