Midland Notebook: Highs And Lows

The month of May has been filled with peaks and valleys for the Midland Rockhounds thus far. Edward Isaacs details what has gone on with the Oakland A's Double-A squad over the past two weeks.

Team Overview

May has shown how good the Midland Rockhounds can be when they are hot and what can happen when they struggle. The team began the second month of the 2012 season with a six-game winning streak. A high-octane offense helped contribute to the ‘Hounds success. The team averaged better than seven runs per game during its streak, which included taking three out of four from the San Antonio Missions and a four-game sweep of the Corpus Christi Hooks. Following a win against Corpus Christi on May 4, Midland skidded through an eight-game road trip where they lost three out of four to the RoughRiders then were swept by the Missions in four games.

The Rockhounds returned to Citibank Ballpark on Monday and returned the favor to Frisco by winning three out of four. After Thursday's game, the team was 21-19 and in second place in the Texas League South Division behind the RoughRiders (24-16).

The ‘Hounds have raised their team batting average from .247 to .261 since the month began which is third-highest in the Texas League. Their collective on-base percentage has risen to a season-high .356, ranked first in the division. Midland has scored more runs than any other team in the league: 208 (an average of five per game). The team is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to home runs. Only Corpus Christi and the Arkansas Travelers have fewer bombs than the Rockhounds (31). The defense has slowly improved over the course of the month. Midland finally reached the point where the number of games played (40) exceeds total team errors (35).

The pitching staff is still struggling to be consistent on a daily basis. The team ERA before Friday was 4.18 through 342.2 innings pitched. Rockhounds pitchers have allowed 180 runs (159 earned), the fourth-highest in the Texas League. However, the team does have the third-most strikeouts in the division with 305.

The Rockhounds began their last series of an eight-game homestand Friday night with a 6-5 win against the Hooks. The team faces Corpus Christi three more times before hitting the road again to play a three-game series with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Comings and Goings

It was a question of when not if starter A.J. Griffin was to be promoted. His call-up came last Friday when he was moved to Triple-A Sacramento.

Catcher Juan Nunez and pitcher Arnold Leon were called up from the Stockton Ports this month.

Catcher Ryan Lipkin spent a week on the disabled list but is now back on the active roster. Pitcher Trey Barham was activated from the disabled list last Friday. Pitcher James Simmons was placed on the 7-Day disabled list on Friday, retroactive to May 15.

Who's Hot

Anthony Aliotti and Jeremy Barfield have both continued their hot stretches from last month. They are batting above .300 and are at the top of the team in slugging percentage. Aliotti is hitting .340 in 29 games with an 847 OPS. He has reached base at a .407 clip. Barfield has a .328 average through 35 games and is second on the Rockhounds with an 880 OPS. He leads the team in RBI (26), runs (28), hits (43) and doubles (12) and is tied for second in home runs with four.

Conner Crumbliss is hovering around the .300 mark in batting average (.296). He has crossed home plate 27 times and recorded 40 hits in 35 games. Crumbliss has knocked in 18 runs and is the team-leader in stolen bases with 10. Josh Horton has provided much of the power for Midland. He has five bombs and a .279 average (.451 slugging). The University of North Carolina graduate has 41 hits in 38 games.

Starting pitchers Murphy Smith and Gary Daley, Jr. are a combined 8-2 in each of their first eight starts. Smith is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA. He has 31 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched. In his last start against Frisco, Smith threw 7.1 innings and allowed one earned run on five hits. Daley leads the staff in wins with five. The Cal Poly grad has limited opponents to only three home runs in 40.1 innings. Starter Dan Straily leads the Texas League in strike-outs with 69 in only 52.1 innings. He struck-out 15 in the Midland win on Friday night.

Reliever Paul Smyth has been very efficient in his last six appearances. In 7.1 innings, he has allowed two earned runs and fanned eight batters. Smyth tossed 2.0 innings of hitless baseball on Thursday versus the RoughRiders.

Relievers Jonathan Ortiz and Sean Doolittle have each given up only one earned run all season out of the bullpen. In his last five appearances, Ortiz has allowed no earned runs and opposing teams are hitting .130 against him. Doolittle has allowed one hit all season in 8.0 innings and six appearances.

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