The Triple-A Nashville Sounds and the Double-A Midland RockHounds each won the first games of their respective Divisional Round playoff series on Wednesday, but both followed up with losses on Thursday to even their best-of-5 series at one apiece. Fortunately, the Oakland A’s affiliates now get to return to their home parks for the rest of their series, hopefully giving them an advantage the rest of the way.
Here’s a closer look at each series.
Nashville Sounds vs. Oklahoma City Dodgers
League: Triple-A Pacific Coast League
Best-of-5 Divisional Series
The Sounds got crappy starting pitching for the second straight game, but this time the lineup couldn’t bail them out. After Jesse Hahn laid a stinker in Game 1, lefty Dillon Overton followed suit by allowing five runs through five innings, including a pair of homers. The bullpen held it down from there, but the damage was already done and the Nashville hitters had no response. It was as simple as that.
Only two Sounds hitters had even decent days: Matt Olson notched a pair of hits, and Franklin Barreto added a double and a walk. The two of them accounted for most of the scoring, too. Olson drove in Barreto in the 1st inning, and then scored the team’s other run in the 9th on a BJ Boyd single. Otherwise they didn’t really come close to doing any more damage. At least Jaycob Brugman made this solid catch in CF to help keep things as close as they were:
Sometimes you lose a bad one in the playoffs, and that happened on Thursday. Shake it off, come back the next day, and try again. The Sounds get to host the rest of the series in Nashville, so it’s now a best-of-3 with home-field advantage the whole way. The performances of some top prospects on Thursday:
Matt Olson, 1B: 2-for-4, RBI, run
Franklin Barreto, SS: 1-for-3, BB, run
BJ Boyd, OF: 1-for-4, RBI
Jaycob Brugman, OF: 1-for-5
Renato Nunez, DH: 0-for-4
Matt Chapman, 3B: 0-for-4
Dillon Overton, LHP: 5 ip, 5 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 2 HR
Carlos Navas, RHP: 1 ip, 2 Ks
Game 3 features a pitching matchup of hot upcoming A’s prospect Daniel Gossett against OKC righty Chase De Jong.
Midland RockHounds vs. Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros)
League: Double-A Texas League
Best-of-5 Divisional Series
The RockHounds lost by a similar score as the Sounds, but in an entirely different fashion. The game was scoreless until the 7th, when Midland broke through for the first run. They added three more in the 8th and looked ready to cruise to a victory and a dominant series lead, but then the bullpen began auditioning for roles on the 2015 A’s -- four runs in the 8th, and then the walk-off tally in the 9th, and suddenly the series was tied and very much alive.
For the second straight game, infielder Max Schrock was in the middle of the action for the Hounds. With Midland clinging to its 1-0 lead in the 8th, Schrock came up with two outs and the bases loaded, and he cleared them with a double to give his team what looked like a comfortable advantage. Everyone in the lineup reached base at least once on Thursday, and CF Brett Vertigan and catcher Beau Taylor each reached three times, but most of the runners were squandered.
That inefficiency went both ways, though. Like Joel Seddon in Game 1, Midland starter Corey Walter was shaky but wound up gutting through five scoreless frames. Only one of his innings went 1-2-3 but he got out of all his jams, including once in which Vertigan nabbed a runner at the plate on a potential sac fly. The problem came when Walter left the game, because asking your pen for four innings every day is a recipe for trouble.
I’m going to delve into a questionable hot take here. I didn’t see this game with my own eyes so I can’t be too sure, but I think manager Ryan Christenson made a mistake by sticking with reliever Lou Trivino in the 8th. Trivino was a starter as recently as last year so he can go more than one inning, but only twice in 2016 did he exceed two frames and he never completed three in one game. He had already tossed two solid innings in this one but came out for more, and to face the heart of the order no less.
I can’t fathom why Trivino was allowed to keep pitching. He’d put in what appeared to be his upper limit of work and he clearly wasn’t going to finish the rest of the game on his own (i.e., more arms were going to be needed either way, so why not let the next guy start his own inning?). And in a twist that surely surprised no one, he let the first two batters reach base (walk, double) before being pulled.
Having unnecessarily (and predictably) gift-wrapped a rally for the opponent, the Hounds turned to Kyle Finnegan. The righty was unable to stop the Hooks’ charge, and after three more hits and another walk the save was blown and the score was tied. Lefty Cody Stull, who had a great year in High-A but has struggled so far in his initial voyage to the high minors, retired only one of his five hitters before allowing the winning run to cross the plate.
Would the Hounds have held on if they’d just gone to Finnegan to start the 8th? We’ll never know, and frankly I can’t fully criticize without knowing more about why Christenson made his decision. And I still like Christenson, who has done nothing but win the last couple years. So just like with the Sounds, we put this one behind us and move on to Game 3 in Midland, staring at a best-of-3 with home-field advantage for the duration. The top prospects:
Max Schrock, 2B: 2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI
Richie Martin, SS: 1-for-4, RBI
Yairo Munoz, 3B: 1-for-4, 2B, run
Tyler Marincov, OF: 0-for-3, 2 BB, run
J.P. Sportman, OF: 1-for-5, 2B
Corey Walter, RHP: 5 ip, 0 runs, 2 Ks, 4 BB, 3 hits
Kyle Finnegan, RHP: 1 ip, 2 runs, 1 K, 1 BB, 3 hits
Cody Stull, LHP: ⅓ ip, 1 run, 1 BB, 3 hits
Game 3 features a pitching matchup of Midland righty Ben Bracewell against Hooks righty Rogelio Armenteros.