The minor league playoffs began on Wendesday, and you can check out our intro post for all the important info. The Double-A Midland RockHounds breezed to a 9-2 victory in their opener, as they begin their quest for a fourth straight league championship. Meanwhile, the High-A Stockton Ports fell short in their own opener, 4-3.
Here’s a look at each series.
Midland RockHounds vs. San Antonio Missions
League: Double-A Texas League
Best-of-5 Division Series
Hounds lead series 1-0
Game 1: Hounds 9, Missions 2 (box score)
Game 2: Thu. 9/7, 5:05 p.m., at San Antonio
Game 3: Fri. 9/8, 5:00 p.m., at Midland
Game 4: Sat. 9/9, 5:00 p.m., at Midland
Game 5: Sun. 9/10, 4:05 p.m., at San Antonio
The Hounds dominated on both sides of the ball. The hero of the day was Viosergy Rosa, who provided nearly all the offense — an impressive claim considering his team scored nine runs. Rosa hit a three-run homer in the 3rd, a two-run double in the 4th, and another three-run jack in the 6th, for a total of eight RBI.
For those who followed last year’s playoffs, you may remember Rosa as one of the heroes of Midland’s 2016 title run. In the pivotal Game 3 of their (then-tied) Division Series, he blasted a comeback walkoff homer that nearly qualified as the mythical “backyard grand slam” — the bases were loaded with two out and his team down by two, and his slam turned near-certain loss into victory at the last possible moment (and thus a series deficit into a series lead). Last year wasn’t his first ring, either, as he won in the Double-A Southern League in 2014 and picked up Finals MVP honors along the way.
So although the 27-year-old Rosa ranks as org filler in the bigger picture, he’s still a great presence to have supporting the higher-profile prospects. The same was true during the regular season, when he piled up 110 RBI in 135 games while sitting out only three contests all year amid an ever-changing roster. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate Viosergy Rosa and his quiet but impactful role in RockHounds history.
Viosergy Rosa, 1B: 3-for-5, 2 HR, double, 8 RBI
Sean Murphy, C: 3-for-5, HR, RBI
Max Schrock, 2B: 1-for-3, 2 BB, 2 runs
Mateo, Neuse, & Ramirez: 1-for-15, 7 Ks
While Rosa was busy carrying the lineup, the pitching staff was taking care of its own business. A.J. Puk showed why he’s one of the best young arms in the entire minor leagues, allowing only five batters to even make contact over four scoreless frames despite battling some wildness. The bullpen cruised from there, with long man Joel Seddon, righty Carlos Navas, and lefty Cody Stull combining for a completely adequate line of 5 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB.
A.J. Puk: 4 ip, 0 runs, 8 Ks, 4 BB, 2 hits, 74 pitches (47 strikes)
Game 2 tonight will feature James Naile on the mound for Midland. Naile helped the Hounds win last year’s ring, most notably by starting and winning the clinching game of the championship series. He missed some of 2017 to injury but was productive when healthy.
Extra note on Midland: OF B.J. Boyd is out of the picture for now, for personal reasons. No word on whether he might return during the playoffs.
Stockton Ports vs. Modesto Nuts
League: High-A California League
Best-of-5 Division Series
Ports trail series 0-1
Game 1: Nuts 4, Ports 3 (box score)
Game 2: Thu. 9/7, 7:05 p.m., at Modesto
Game 3: Fri. 9/8, 7:10 p.m., at Stockton
Game 4: Sat. 9/9, 7:10 p.m., at Stockton
Game 5: Sun. 9/10, 6:05 p.m., at Modesto
The Ports fought to the end in their playoff opener, but it wasn’t quite enough. They took a lead in the 5th inning when Sandber Pimentel knocked a two-run dinger, but it lasted just a few minutes before Modesto answered back in the bottom of the frame.
That was all Stockton could manage until the 9th, when they made it a true A’s game by providing a classic teAse. A fielding error and a passed ball gifted the Ports a runner on 2nd, and Mikey White managed to single him in to cut the deficit to one. But with White representing the potential tying run, Pimentel was unable to recreate his earlier heroics and grounded out to end the evening.
Sandber Pimentel, 1B: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI
Mikey White, IF: 2-for-4, RBI, run
Seth Brown, OF: 1-for-4, run
Note: That was all the hits and run production. Rest of the lineup went 0-fer, except for a pinch-walk by Chris Iriart.
On the pitching side, Logan Shore was sharp for four innings. I wouldn’t worry about the early hooks that he and Puk received in their games, as the practice isn’t unusual in the minor league playoffs. These are unplanned dates at the end of a long season, and teams are also considering pitchers’ long-term health and futures. Having said that, there’s also this report from Ports broadcaster Zack Bayrouty: “[Shore] covered home plate and made a tag out to end 4th inning. May have jammed his hand.”
The dagger in this game came in the 5th, when Angel Duno relieved Shore in hopes of a shutdown inning. However, he lasted only four batters: walk, single, strikeout, 3-run homer. Dun’oh! After that Kyle Friedrichs and John Gorman kept it close the rest of the way, but it was too little too late.
Logan Shore: 4 ip, 1 run, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 3 hits, 66 pitches (40 strikes)
Game 2 tonight will feature Brandon Bailey starting for Stockton. The right-hander (2016, 6th round) struck out 120 batters in 91 innings this year, between Single-A and High-A (11 K/9, 4 K/BB).