Instant Analysis: Oklahoma/Round Rock (7/21)

Oklahoma was stymied on Saturday night thanks to an outstanding pitching performance by Round Rock's young lefty Troy Patton, and the Express came out on top, 9-3. Lone Star Dugout's John Vittas has some observations of that evening's I-35 affair.

It was a head-to-head battle of young pitching prospects in Round Rock on Saturday as Eric Hurley of Oklahoma took on Round Rock's Troy Patton.

The young lefty Patton was absolutely brilliant for Round Rock, allowing two hits and fanning six over his seven innings of work en route to his second victory since joining the Triple-A ball club of the Houston Astros. Of his 83 pitches delivered on the night, 61 of them were strikes.

• Patton's one walk of the game came around to score in the form of a steal of home by the Pacific Coast League's leader in thievery, Freddy Guzman. Oklahoma's speedy leadoff man had a considerable jump on Patton, and was already over halfway to home plate before the left-hander could take notice.

"I looked at the pitcher and saw how slow his motion to the plate was. After that, I knew I could do it," Guzman later recalled. The run scoring swipe was his 35th of the season.

• As for Eric Hurley, he sailed through his first five innings of work, striking out five and allowing only two base runners via singles. His pace was a brisk one, something Hurley admits has benefits in other areas as well.

"I'm throwing strikes, and as long as I can go out there and work quickly, I'm also benefiting our defense," he noted. "It's good for them if you go out there and don't give them a whole lot of time to sit back."

Throughout the night, Hurley demonstrated his ability to hold himself at a higher level than that of a twenty-one year old prospect in his third year of professional ball. His tenacity was tested almost right away, when he fell behind Round Rock second baseman Brooks Conrad 3-0 in the bottom half of the first. After the game, Hurley discussed the at-bat.

"It was early in the game and I knew I had gone to 3-0," said Hurley, "so I just went out there and tried to challenge him with fastballs. Then it went to 3-2, and I threw a fastball in on him and got him to pop up to third base. You don't want to issue any freebies in the first inning, you're wanting to make the other guy hit the ball. Fortunately, I made a few quality pitches and managed to get the guy out."

Much of the accolades for Hurley's growth as a pitcher should be given to his pitching coach, Andy Hawkins. The man credited with discovering a release point issue in the Kameron Loe's delivery has also won over youngsters coming up through the minor league system.

"He's unbelievable," Hurley said of the 10-year major league veteran. "Some of the things I've learned from him are somewhat advanced, like pitch sequences and stuff along that line. But every pitching coach in this organization I've had so far has been pretty good and it definitely gets a little more involved up here. Hawk's helped me out a bunch."

• Right-hander Wes Littleton did not fare well in his inning of relief for Oklahoma. After coming on to take over for Hurley in the seventh, the sidewinder was torched for six runs on five hits. As a result, Littleton saw his earned run average with the Redhawks blossom to near 6.00.

A.J. Murray relieved Littleton and closed out the pitching line for the Redhawks with a pristine 8th inning of work, striking out one batter. With another likely call-up to the majors waiting around the corner, what was the southpaw's first go-round in the show like?

"It was only two days, and although I wish I would have gotten longer it was fun and I'm glad I got the chance," he replied. "It was weird being with the team in a minor league complex, but it was a great opportunity for me and I'm hoping to get back there."

Murray had joined the Rangers in May while the club was playing a three game series against the Devil Rays in Orlando. While he only has an inning and a third of major league experience to go on, there is one thing he can think of that needs a little tweaking for next time.

"Up there I was overthrowing a lot I guess because I was antsy and had the adrenaline going. I just have to stay within myself and throw strikes."

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