Photo by Chris Lockard/OaklandClubhouse.com

Midland Notebook: RockHounds on a Roll

With the regular season in its final stages, the Midland RockHounds are playing their best baseball with an eye towards the post-season.

Overview

No team has been better in the Texas League during the second half of the season than the Midland RockHounds. At 32-15, the RockHounds are running away with the second-half division title. Through Thursday, the RockHounds were riding a five-game winning streak and were 22-10 against teams within the Texas League South. For the entire season, the ‘Hounds are 67-50 and have the second-best overall record in the league.

Midland, of course, is chasing its second-straight Texas League title after winning it all last season. The playoffs aren’t the only thing the RockHounds will be chasing during the final few weeks of the season. Several Midland players are in position to lead the league in a variety of statistical categories.

Going into Friday night’s games, Chad Pinder led all Texas League batters with a .319 average. Colin Walsh was first in the league in OBP (.433) and second in the league in OPS (915), while Matt Olson (89) ranked first and Walsh (88) ranked second in the league in walks. Pinder is second in the league in SLG (.493) and Olson ranks third in the league in doubles (29). Walsh is chasing the league-lead for runs scored (75, two behind the leader) and he and Pinder are currently tied for the league lead in hits (130).

On the mound, Midland starter Jake Sanchez currently is the only Texas League pitcher with 10 wins. Fellow RockHounds’ starter Chris Jensen leads the league in innings pitched (139.1), while Sanchez is second (131.1). Sanchez is fourth in the league in strike-outs (95), as well.

Midland takes on the Tulsa Drillers on Friday night for the start of a three-game series. They then head to Springfield for a three-game set on Tuesday.

Comings and Goings

There hasn’t been too much roster movement thus far in August for the RockHounds. RHP Kris Hall made spot start for the Nashville Sounds on Thursday and returned to Midland on Friday. The RockHounds lost OF Chad Oberacker to the disabled list on August 6 and added C Beau Taylor from High-A Stockton on that same day.

The RockHounds sent corner infielder Rangel Ravelo up to Triple-A on August 5 and received 1B/OF Anthony Aliotti from Nashville in return. LHP Jeff Urlaub joined the Midland bullpen on Wednesday. Urlaub had been pitching for High-A Stockton after completing a rehab for an elbow injury.

Although he is still on the active roster, corner infielder Renato Nunez hasn’t played since August 6th thanks to hamstring soreness. IF Wade Kirkland has received the bulk of the playing time in Nunez’s absence.

Who’s Hot

Chad Pinder’s year-long assault on Texas League pitching has continued into August. He is batting .358 for the month and is carrying a 16-game hitting streak into Friday’s game. Pinder homered four times over a three-game span from August 4-6. He has already established career-highs for homeruns, RBI, games played, hits and walks.

Pinder and teammate Colin Walsh are leading candidates for the Texas League MVP award. Walsh is batting .326 with a .446 OBP in August. He has also established a career-high for hits and has a new career-best for doubles. His 88 walks are also the most he has had in any one season.

As good as Pinder and Walsh have been, there has been no one hotter of late than infielder Ryon Healy. Healy hit .368/.384/.544 in July and has been equally hot in August (.365/.400/.558). The Oregon alum has struck-out just 12 times in 30 games since the All-Star break and he has a 941 OPS during that stretch. Healy had a 12-game hitting streak come to an end on Thursday.

Matt Olson has followed a solid July with a good start to his August. Olson is batting .318 with a .436 OBP for the month and he has already reached double-digits for walks with more than half of the month to go. Since the All-Star break, Olson has an 873 OPS.

An increase in playing time has led to a hot streak for infielder Wade Kirkland. He is batting .357 over his last 10 games and he hit a two-out, two-strike walk-off homer on Wednesday in the bottom of the 14th inning. Kirkland has a six-game hitting streak going into Friday’s game. Catcher Bruce Maxwell also has a six-game hitting streak going into Friday. He is batting .350 over his last 10 games and .275 since the All-Star break.

Since joining the RockHounds, Anthony Aliotti has delivered a spark. He has nine hits and two walks in 27 at-bats, including four doubles and a homerun.

Starter Jake Sanchez is putting together a solid run to finish out the season. Over his last four starts, Sanchez has pitched 25 innings and has allowed just five earned runs. He has 21 strike-outs over that stretch and has earned wins in each of his last three starts.

Right-hander Parker Frazier has been outstanding since joining Midland in early July. In seven starts, Frazier has a 1.64 ERA. His K:BB is just 21:22, but he has a 2.09 GO/AO and has held opposing batters to a .236 average. In 44 innings, Frazier has allowed just two homeruns.

RHP Tucker Healy proved that he is human when he allowed three runs on August 5th. It was the first time he had allowed a run since May 25th. Healy has followed that outing with two scoreless appearances. His ERA is 1.97 for the year and he has a 1.01 WHIP.

With Ryan Dull moving up to Nashville at the tail-end of July, Andres Avila has taken on a bigger role in the late innings for Midland. Over his last seven innings, Avila has allowed just one run while striking out five. Since the All-Star break, he has a 3.24 ERA.

Sean Manaea and Brendan McCurry have provided boosts since joining the team in late July. Manaea, acquired from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist trade, has three starts under his belt for Midland. In those three outings, he has a 2.89 ERA and 22 strike-outs in 18.2 innings. McCurry joined Midland from High-A Stockton in late July and he has picked up right where he left off with the Ports. In nine innings for Midland, McCurry has allowed just one run on six hits. He has yet to walk a batter and he has struck-out 13.


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