RockHounds breeze to Opening Day win
The Midland RockHounds used pitching and timely hitting in a 4-1 win over the Tulsa Drillers on Opening Night. Midland, which is looking to four-peat as Texas League champions, received strong pitching performances from four pitchers to earn the win.
The A's are using tandem starting rotations from Double-A on down this season, meaning that each game will have two scheduled pitchers. On Opening Day, the nod went to the tandem of Corey Walter and Brandon Mann. Walter worked the first three innings and Mann threw the next four before the bullpen took over.
Walter had a 2.15 ERA in 100.1 innings for MIdland last season, but the A's weren't able to squeeze him into the Triple-A starting rotation, at least to start the year. He got off to a rough start in his return to the RockHounds, uncharacteristically walking a batter in the first inning and allowing three hits. He also worked in a double-play groundball in the inning but was touched for a run. Walter would finish strong, allowing just one more hit over his next two innings and striking out two while recording five groundball outs.
When Mann took over in the fourth inning, he was staked to a 3-1 lead. The RockHounds answered Tulsa's first-inning run with a two-spot of their own. Midland loaded the bases with no-outs and tied the game on a Tyler Marincov sacrifice fly. Viosergy Rosa then singled home another run to give the RockHounds a lead they would never relinquish. In the second inning, Richie Martin singled to open the frame and he would eventually score on a wild pitch with two-outs. Midland would score one more run in the fifth inning on a Rosa sacrifice fly. They managed just seven hits and three walks but bunched them together for four runs.
Mann made sure the RockHounds didn't need any additional scoring. He breezed through four innings, allowing just one hit and walking none. The left-handed veteran struck-out two and threw 28 strikes out of 44 pitches. He would earn the win.
Sam Bragg -- part of the spectacular 2016 Midland bullpen that has mostly returned for 2017 -- worked a scoreless eighth inning. He allowed a hit but struck-out two. Jake Sanchez then made quick work of the Drillers in the ninth, throwing a one-two-three frame with a strike-out to earn his first save of the season.
Rosa led the way offensively with two RBI and a 2-for-3 game. Martin reached twice with a hit and a walk, as did J.P. Sportman, Jordan Tarsovich and Marincov. Sportman scored twice. The RockHounds were active on the bases under new manager Fran Riodran. Sportman, Tarsovich and Martin all stole bases, while Joe Bennie and Martin also recorded caught stealings.
Sounds drop pitcher's duel in extras
The Nashville Sounds and Round Rock Express both have several high-profile position player prospects on their rosters, but it was the pitching that took center stage on Opening Day. Round Rock outlasted Nashville in 11 innings, winning, 2-1, on a walk-off single with two-outs in the frame.
Daniel Gossett got the Opening Day start for Nashville and he had a solid outing. He allowed a run in the second inning but kept the Express off the board in his four other frames. In five innings, he scattered three hits and struck-out three. Gossett did walk five -- one intentional -- but he recorded six outs on the ground, including a double-play to end the fifth with the bases loaded.
The Nashville bullpen was strong in relief of Gossett. Josh Smith and Simon Castro each threw two scoreless innings. Smith struck-out four and allowed just one hit, while Castro struck-out three and allowed a hit. Bobby Wahl pitched around a hit and a walk in the 10th to work a scoreless frame.
The game was knotted at 1-1 in the 11th thanks to a Nashville rally in the 8th that tied the game. Bruce Maxwell doubled to lead-off the inning and he came around to score two batters later when Franklin Barreto tripled. The Sounds were unable to take the lead, however, as Renato Nunez and Kenny Wilson each struck-out to end the inning. In the 9th, the Sounds had two-on and two-out, but Andrew Lambo struck-out to end the inning. After former A's reliever R.J. Alvarez struck-out the side against Nashville in the 10th, the Sounds had a chance to break the tie in the top of the 11th. Wilson doubled to lead-off the inning, but Chad Pinder struck-out trying to advance Wilson to third on a bunt. Matt Olson walked, but Matt Chapman and Maxwell flew out to end the threat.
Tucker Healy took over in the bottom of the 11th and he immediately ran into trouble when Cesar Puello doubled to lead-off the inning. After Healy walked Ronald Guzman, he caught a break when Luis Marte bunted into a force out at third. Healy then struck-out A.J. Jimenez, but Preston Beck singled, sending the Express home winners.
Maxwell and Barreto led the team offensively, with Maxwell reaching three times on two hits and a walk and Barreto collecting two hits and the Sounds' only RBI. Olson also reached twice with a single and a walk.
Ports, Snappers rained out
Opening Day was delayed a night for the Stockton Ports and the Beloit Snappers. Rain storms in Wisconsin and Northern California cancelled both games. Weather-permitting, both teams will play double-headers on Friday to open the season. Brett Graves will start Game One for Stockton and Brendan Butler will start Game One for Beloit.