The minor league playoffs continued on Tuesday, with the Double-A Midland RockHounds opening their Championship Series. The Hounds are aiming for their fourth straight Texas League title, but they lost the first game of this year’s final series.
Here’s a closer look.
Midland RockHounds vs. Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers)
League: Double-A Texas League
Best-of-5 Championship Series
Hounds trail series 0-1
Game 1: Drillers 5, Hounds 3 (box score)
Game 2: Wed. 9/13, 4:30 p.m., at Midland
Game 3: Fri. 9/15, 5:05 p.m., at Tulsa
Game 4: Sat. 9/16, 5:05 p.m., at Tulsa
Game 5: Sun. 9/17, 4:05 p.m., at Tulsa
This game started with a bang, but the action slowed down over time. By the end of the 3rd inning Tulsa held a 4-3 lead, but Midland was unable to make anything meaningful happen after that point.
The Hounds lineup wasn’t shut down by any means, with eight hits, four walks, and a HBP. Jorge Mateo began the evening with some speedy small ball — walked, stole second, moved to third on a groundout, scored on a single (Jermaine Curtis RBI). A couple innings later J.P. Sportman added a two-run homer, and then that was it. Midland reached scoring position several more times throughout the contest but never broke through again.
Jorge Mateo, SS: 1-for-3, 2 BB, SB, run
J.P. Sportman, OF: 2-for-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI
Sheldon Neuse, 3B: 2-for-4, run
The other hits: 2 by Curtis, 1 by Max Schrock
On the pitching side, starter James Naile got beat up again but at least recovered to eat some innings this time. Tulsa tagged him for four runs in the 2nd, capping their rally with a pair of triples, and they manufactured one more in the 6th on the back of a ground-rule double. Naile gutted through six frames but didn’t go 1-2-3 in any of them.
Next up, relievers Sam Bragg and Nolan Blackwood combined for three scoreless innings while facing just one batter over the minimum. It was Blackwood’s Double-A debut, after being promoted to replace starter A.J. Puk on the playoff roster, and he retired the side in order (1 ip, 1 K).
James Naile, RHP: 6 ip, 5 runs, 5 Ks, 2 BB, 10 hits, 90 pitches (59 strikes)
You never want to get a short series off on the wrong foot, but I’m not too discouraged by this game. The lineup kept chugging, and even though they didn’t push across many runs on Tuesday we’ve seen what they can do when they string together these hits for even one inning. I’m a big Naile fan but he’s at best the third starter in this rotation, so it’s not like Midland just lost with its best shot on the mound. Go back and get ‘em in Game 2.
Roster notes: As mentioned, A.J. Puk is out for this series, reports Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse. The lefty “tweaked” his forearm in the Division Series and is being shut down as a precaution after already putting in a long, full season. It’s a big blow to the title run, but there’s no such thing as a dealbreaker in short-series baseball so let’s keep the faith. Long-term, the A’s claim this is a minor issue so let’s not freak out just yet. Sidearm reliever Nolan Blackwood takes his spot on the playoff roster, while swingman Joel Seddon presumably stays in the rotation after a successful spot start in the Division Series.
Meanwhile, outfielder B.J. Boyd is still inactive for personal/family reasons and will miss this series. Skye Bolt is up in his place, and he made his debut Tuesday as a pinch-runner.
Low-A NY-Penn League Championship Series
The Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters also began their Championship Series on Wednesday in the NY-Penn League. Their opponent is the Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays). We’ll take a closer look at this series in our next post, along with the Game 1 recap.
Game 1: Wed. 9/13, already in action, at Hudson Valley
Game 2: Thu. 9/14, 4:05 p.m., at Vermont
Game 3: Fri. 9/15, 4:05 p.m., at Vermont