Midland Notebook: Second Best

The Midland Rockhounds have been playing well the past two weeks, but they haven't been able to drag themselves out of second-place in the South Division. They have another two weeks to overtake Frisco and secure a post-season berth. Edward Issacs updates us on the Oakland A's Double-A squad.

Team Overview

The Midland Rockhounds finished the last two weeks of May with a 6-5 record and began the first four games in June with a 2-2 record. The team has remained stuck in second place behind the Frisco RoughRiders in the Texas League South Division for much of the season. This 15 game stretch started with a four-game split against the Corpus Christi Hooks at home, which was followed by a six-game road trip where the Rockhounds took two of three from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and won one out of three in Tulsa.

The ‘Hounds closed out May with a three-game sweep of the Naturals in Citibank Ballpark. The home-stand ended on a sour note, however, after Tulsa came to town last Saturday and won the first two games of a three-game set. At the end of Wednesday's clash with Corpus Christi, Midland was 31-26 and in second place in the South division, 3.0 games back of Frisco (34-23). The team has been very good at home (19-9), tied for the best record in the Texas League, but has not had the same success on the road (12-17).

After going 13-11 in April, the Rockhounds put together a similar record in May (15-13). The team's ERA dropped from 4.18 to 4.10 between the two months; however, their batting average dropped from .261 to .252. For the year, Midland is hitting .255 with a .352 collective on-base percentage, ranked first in the league. The ‘Hounds have also scored more runs than any other team in the Texas League: 297 (an average of 5.2 per game). The team is tied for fifth in the division with 45 home runs on the season. Defensively, Midland has committed 54 errors in 57 games, which is not a good mark.

The team ERA is 4.18 through 495.2 innings pitched. Rockhounds pitchers have allowed 266 runs (230 earned), the fourth-highest in the league. Midland has recorded the second-most strikeouts with 443 and the fourth-most walks (190).

After a day-off on Tuesday, the Rockhounds began an eight-game road trip Wednesday night with a 6-3 win against the Hooks. The team has three more games versus Corpus Christi before traveling to Frisco for a four-game set.

Comings and Goings

Pitchers Trey Barham and Sean Doolittle were called up to Triple-A Sacramento. Barham had a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched with Midland. He allowed only one earned run and struck out 10. Doolittle had a 0.82 ERA in 11.0 innings with 19 strikeouts.

Reliever Jose Guzman was brought up from the Stockton Ports on May 21, while third baseman Luke Hughes was demoted from the River Cats last Saturday. He was batting .226 with Sacramento in 21 games (.323 slugging percentage).

Infielder Tyler Ladendorf and first baseman/outfielder Shane Peterson were both placed on the 7-Day disabled list last Thursday. Ladendorf suffered a heel injury and Peterson hurt his ankle. On the upside, pitcher James Simmons was activated from the 7-Day disabled list last Thursday.

Who's Hot

First baseman Anthony Aliotti and outfielder Jeremy Barfield continue to lead the team in batting average and slugging percentage. Aliotti is hitting .322 (first on the team and in the Texas League) in 44 games with an 870 OPS (.450 slugging). He has reached base at a .420 mark. In his last 10 games, Aliotti is batting .290 with nine hits and 10 walks. Barfield has a .302 average through 50 games and is first on the ‘Hounds with a .466 slugging percentage. He is tied for first on the team with 33 RBI and 57 hits. He has the second-most home runs (6) and doubles (13).

Ladendorf and Peterson were both on hot stretches before they suffered injuries that landed them on the 7-Day disabled list. Ladendorf was smashing the ball with an impressive .385 average in his last 10 games. He drove in eight runs and recorded 15 hits during that span. Peterson was also faring well in his last 10 games. He had a .310 average and whacked a hit in all but one of those 10 games. The Long Beach St. attendee was not swinging at bad pitches as he drew 12 base-on-balls.

Outfielder Michael Choice has finally hit his stride at the plate. He has a .324 average in his last 37 plate appearances including 12 hits. The Fort Worth native had a breakout game on May 30 against Northwest Arkansas when he recorded four hits in five at-bats and scored three runs. Choice is tied for second on the Rockhounds in hits (57).

Starting pitcher Murphy Smith has been almost spot on in his last 10 starts. He is 4-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 55.1 innings pitched. In his last start against the Naturals, Smith threw 5.0 innings, allowed one earned run and fanned four. The Clifton Park, NY native is second on the team in strikeouts (42) and has the second-best ERA among starters (2.88).

Relievers Simmons, Jonathan Ortiz and Arnold Leon have all been reliable out of the bullpen. Simmons, in his last 10 appearances, is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA. He has allowed four earned runs in 15.0 innings pitched while striking out 15. Ortiz and Leon have combined to allow eight earned runs in 32.1 innings this year. Leon has not given up a home run all season.

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