After his promotion to Double-A Midland on Aug. 14, Sheldon Neuse was still in search of his first Texas League homer when the postseason began. The 14th-ranked A's prospect found what he was looking for at the right time.
Neuse cracked a three-run shot as the RockHounds beat Tulsa, 6-3, on Saturday at ONEOK Field, forcing a decisive Game 5 in the Texas League Championship Series. He also walked twice and has reached base 11 times in the Finals, going 8-for-14 (.571) with a homer, triple, double and five RBIs.
Video: Neuse blasts three-run dinger for Midland
"He's been a huge presence for us and tonight that presence was felt in a really big spot," Midland manager Fran Riordan said. "He seems to have a knack for getting big hits and his approach is really clean. He's doing everything that you can ask a young kid to do, especially in a championship series."
The 22-year-old landed with the A's in the July 16 trade that sent veteran relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Nationals and went batted .373 (25-for-67) with four doubles and six RBIs over the final 18 regular-season games with Midland.
Neuse's homer capped a four-run fifth and gave the RockHounds a 5-1 lead. No. 17 prospect Max Schrock got the inning started with a one-out infield single, Jermaine Curtis singled him to second and Viosergy Rosa followed with a base hit for his league-leading 15th postseason RBI.
Gameday box score
Tulsa starter Yadier Alvarez, the Dodgers' No. 7 prospect, was pulled in favor of Tim Shibuya following Rosa's single but was on the hook for the two runners to score after Neuse caught an 0-1 pitch from Shibuya and roped it over the left field fence.
"If he'd have asked me when I would have liked him to hit his first home run in Double-A, it would have been when he hit it tonight," Riordan said.
Alvarez ended up allowing four runs -- three earned -- on five hits and three walks with one strikeout in 4 1/3 innings.
Ninth-ranked A's prospect Grant Holmes was scheduled to start Game 2 but was given extra rest and made his second postseason start on Saturday. He limited the Drillers to one run over the first six innings, but Riordan said he noticed a drastic change in the right-hander's approach after he struck out Garrett Kennedy to leave the bases loaded in the second.
"He pitched with a little bit more aggression and a little bit more tenacity afterwards," the skipper said. "You could see it in his presence and you can see it in his stuff and you can see it in his velocity."
The right-hander was lifted after allowing an RBI single to Dodgers No. 17 prospect DJ Peters. No. 7 prospect Keibert Ruiz followed with a run-scoring forceout as Holmes was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
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Both Peters and Ruiz were making their Double-A debuts. Blake Gailen singled twice for Tulsa, improving his playoff batting average to .419.
The winner-take-all fifth game is Sunday at 7:05 p.m. ET in Tulsa. The Drillers are seeking their first championship since 1998, while Midland is trying to become the first team to win four consecutive titles since Fort Worth reeled off six in a row from 1920-25.