The Midland RockHounds completed their sweep of the Texas League Championship series on Friday by defeating the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals) by the score of 7-0 in Game 3 of the best-of-5. Midland, the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A's, put up a pair of extended rallies on offense and received a 3-hit shutout from pitcher Parker Frazier.
The RockHounds are now Texas League champions for the second straight year. The last team to repeat as the league champion was the 2002-03 San Antonio Missions, then a Mariners affiliate. This is Midland's fourth championship in 17 years as an A's affiliate, all coming in the last 11 seasons (there are 8 total teams in the league).
Here's a closer look at the series.
Midland RockHounds vs. Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals)
League: Double-A Texas League
Game 1: RockHounds 5, Naturals 2 (at Midland)
Hounds lead series 1-0
Game 2: RockHounds 8, Naturals 6 (at Midland)
Hounds lead series 2-0
Game 3: RockHounds 7, Naturals 0 (at NW Arkansas)
Hounds win series 3-0
If there was any lingering doubt that the RockHounds were the best team in the Texas League, you can forget about that now. The Hounds absolutely dominated this game, and this series, and this postseason.
Game 2 Recap
Game 2 Recap
In the last game recap, and really throughout the postseason, I was critical of 26-year-old right-hander Parker Frazier. During the regular season he made 11 starts for Midland, and in six of those he came out with great results despite mostly wretched peripheral stats. There were four more decent outings, and only one blowup, but the theme of walking as many as he struck out remained. Overall, his 3.22 ERA looked good, but every other stat screamed danger. He got blown up in his Divisional series start, and I didn't have a lot of confidence in him this time around.
Welp. Not only did Frazier throw a gem, he also most definitely didn't luck into it. He fanned nine batters (previous season-high: 5), he only walked two, and he never allowed two baserunners in the same inning, all in 102 pitches. Only two runners reached second base, none reached third, and thanks to a pair of double plays he only faced three batters over the minimum. He basically Verlander'd the Naturals in an elimination game. Well played, Frazier.
Meanwhile, the Hounds lineup took care of business one last time with a pair of big innings. Anthony Aliotti (HBP) and Renato Nunez (single), two of the three hitters who have been carrying the lineup (the third is Jaycob Brugman), reached base once again to lead off the 4th. Ryon Healy and Matt Olson followed with back-to-back doubles, and Josh Whitaker singled to polish off the rally to make it 4-0. (Video is Healy's double.)
Whitaker chipped in again in the 6th, with a one-out homer. It was Whitaker's first game back after injuring his hand in Game 3 of the Divisional series, and the 26-year-old picked up right where he'd left off. After posting double-digit homers in each of the last five seasons, with a career .472 slugging percentage (.195 Iso), Whitaker went yard in each of the first two games of the Divisional series. All told, he homered in three of the four postseason games he played.
After Whitaker's homer, four straight RockHounds reached base -- with two on, Brugman singled to load them up and Colin Walsh walked to force one in. A ground ball by Aliotti was enough to plate another. That made the score 7-0, and that turned out to be all she wrote. Game, series, title, RockHounds.
Here's Whitaker catching the final out.
Series recap: Hounds breeze to second straight league title
To briefly recap the series in one sentence: Brugman, Aliotti and Nunez were the stars of the lineup, along with Manaea and Frazier on the pitching side. There's just not much else to say. This was complete domination, through-and-through, from start to finish. Below are the stats of some key prospects, though not necessarily the actual top performers in the series; not included in the list are Aliotti (6-for-12, 2 2B) and Whitaker (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI).
Nunez: 5-for-13, HR, BB, 4 RBI, 5 Ks
Brugman: 4-for-12, 2 HR, 2B, 2 BB, 3 RBI, 3 Ks
R Healy: 4-for-13, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 Ks
Olson: 2-for-12, 2 2B, BB, RBI, 5 Ks
Walsh: 1-for-11, 3 BB, RBI, 4 Ks
Manaea: 8 ip, 2 runs (unearned), 7 Ks, 2 BB, 7 hits
McCurry: 2 ip, 2 runs (1 earned), 2 Ks, BB, HBP, 2 hits (2 games)
T Healy: Struck out both batters he faced
The RockHounds won the league title last year (starring Matt Chapman!), and they also won as an A's affiliate in 2005 (starring Andre Ethier!) and 2009 (starring Chris Carter!).
Great job Hounds!