RockHounds Neal, Aim and Fire The Opening Salvo
Minor league baseball is a "numbers game," and the RockHounds benefitted from it Saturday.
Zach Neal opened the season with the 'Hounds, earning an April promotion to (Triple-A) Sacramento, but the RiverCats' rotation has been crowded (including the arrival of former RockHound Dan Straily from Oakland), and Zach is back with the RockHounds. In two starts since returning, the right-hander has pitched 13 innings, allowing two runs. Saturday, he tossed seven-and-two-thirds shutout innings in the biggest game of the year to date, a 6-1 win over the Frisco RoughRiders. Neal allowed six hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out a half dozen.
The RockHounds scored single runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, and added two (important) insurance runs in the ninth on Josh Whitaker's two-run double. Frisco broke the shutout with two out in the ninth and had two base runners aboard when the game ended.
While Frisco still controls its own fate, the RockHounds earned a win in the opener of a critical series (see below) and have drawn back to within three-and-a-half games of the first-place RoughRiders.
Billy Burns, Dusty Coleman, Max Muncy and Whitaker led a 13-hit RockHounds attack (see individual player notes, below), and the 'Hounds were aggressive on the base paths, stealing five bags (including a pair of double-steals).
Defensively, the club turned four double plays, with Coleman involved in all four. The first of the double plays ended a two-on, one-out Frisco threat in the second, with Dusty making a terrific stop up the middle, touching the bag, and Muncy scooping a one-hop throw to first to end the inning. Catcher Blake Forsythe threw out Ryan Rua (Coleman covering) on a pivotal "strike 'em out, throw 'em out" in the fifth.
WP: Zach Neal (2-0, 0.78)
LP: Edwar Cabrera (2-3, 3.26)
Kibbles & Bits
- Frisco's "magic number" remains at six … meaning any combination of RoughRider wins and/or RockHound losses totaling six wins the first half. With the clubs going head-to-head Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the series in the Metorplex could decide the first half pennant.
The 'Hounds and the RoughRiders meet Sunday afternoon at 2:05 … Monday evening at 7:05 and Tuesday morning, with the series finalé beginning at eleven o'clock. The RockHounds then play a four-game series at San Antonio to complete the eight-game road trip.
- Josh Whitaker (2-5, double, three RBI, stolen base) extended his hit streak to nine games. The 'Hounds outfielder is 15-37 (.405, HR, 10 RBI) in the nine-gamer and has hit in 12-of-his-last-13 (20-53, .377, HR, 13 RBI). Josh regained the Texas League RBI lead with his three-ribbie performance Saturday night. He ranks third in the TL in both the batting race (.320) and slugging (.528).
- Billy Burns (4-5, two runs, double, triple, stolen base) has, with Whitaker, been the club's hottest hitter over the last two weeks. In his last 14 games, Billy is hitting .385 (22-57) scoring 11 runs, with two RBI, six doubles, two triples and nine stolen bases (in 10 attempts).
- Max Muncy (3-5, run, double, RBI, stolen base) broke out of a 2-for-18 mini-slump. He ranks second in the TL in on-base percentage (.408) and is tied for ninth in the batting race (.297).
- Dusty Coleman was outstanding defensively and reached base in four-of-five plate appearances, drawing three walks in addition to a single and stealing two bases.
- Outfielder Kent Matthes has been designated for assignment by Oakland. He cannot play for the RockHounds for 72 hours (he could return Monday), and Oakland has 10 days to waive, trade, release or outright the former Rockies farm hand. Matthes was claimed by the A's off waivers from Colorado on March 20. He is hitting .229 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 22 games with the RockHounds.
vs. Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers' AA Affiliate)
Sunday, June 7 - 2:05 p.m. (Radio at 2:00 p.m.)
Security Bank Ballpark
RockHounds: Drew Granier (RH, 2-2, 3.29)
Frisco: Jerad Eickhoff (RH, 4-4, 4.41)