Northwest Arkansas erased a 4-3 deficit with a three-run rally, one in which the Naturals had just one hit, to defeat the RockHounds, 6-4 at Arvest Ballpark on Wednesday night. Two hit batsmen, a wild pitch and a subsequent intentional walk - after the wild pitch pushed runners to second and third - set the table with the tying run scoring on a fielder's choice. Nick Dini 's third hit of the game, a two-run double into the right field corner, then brought home the winning runs.
Video: NW Arkansas' Dini rips clutch double
The RockHounds led 4-0, through the top of the fifth. Viosergy Rosa drove in three runs, the first on a first-inning fielder's choice and two more on a fifth-inning double (bringing his total to a Texas league-leading 94, 16 of them against Northwest Arkansas). The club's second run came on a "hustle double" to left from J.P. Sportman in the second inning and Tyler Ramirez 's line drive RBI single to left.
The two runs in the fifth were set up by a gorgeous sequence of "small ball." Jorge Mateo reached on a chopper to shortstop and stole second (his 43rd steal overall this season and his fourth in eight games with the RockHounds). With Mateo running, B.J. Boyd dropped down his second perfect drag bunt single of the game, putting runners at the corners (both would score on Rosa's double to left-center).
A.J. Puk tossed four scoreless innings before Dini led off the fifth with a single and Cody Jones doubled down the left field line. On the next pitch, Jack Lopez sent a three-run home run to left, continuing his remarkable mastery of the RockHounds in 2017.
Joel Seddon went two scoreless innings in relief of Puk and Brandon Mann opened the eighth with a three-pitch strikeout of Samir Duenez . Mann, however, then hit back-to-back batters and Tyler Sturdevant threw a wild pitch with Humberto Arteaga at the plate. The 'Hounds intentionally walked Arteaga to load the bases but Anderson Miller 's fielder's choice tied the score and Dini followed with the game-winner.
Jones, the Naturals' center fielder, made two brilliant plays, robbing Mateo of extra bases and two RBI in the second and making a full-tilt running catch, going airborne into the wall, in left-center in the fourth on a drive off Sportman's bat.
The win was Northwest Arkansas' fifth straight at home against the RockHounds in 2017.
The RockHounds are:
55-61 overall … 20-26 in the second half ... have dropped five of their last six games
2-6 in the season series against Northwest Arkansas ... 0-5 at Arvest Ballpark and 2-1 at Security Bank Ballpark
third in the Texas League South ... 6.5 games behind the San Antonio Missions and 1.5 games behind Corpus Christi
0.5 games behind Corpus Christi in the (increasingly probable) South Division wild card race (the Hooks won Tuesday night, 10-7, over Tulsa on Jason Martin 's walk-off grand slam in the ninth)
32-25 at home … 23-36 on the road
13-25 versus the North Division and 42-36 versus the South
Jermaine Curtis (1-for-4) extended his on-base streak to 40 games. The streak is the longest in the Texas League in 2017 by nine games. The 40-game stretch is also the fourth-longest in Minor League Baseball in 2017. Jose Siri of the Dayton Dragons in the Class-A Midwest League has the longest at 47 games and it is active.
Through Wednesday night's game, Jack Lopez has played in 80 games overall for Northwest Arkansas with eight of them against the 'Hounds. He is hitting .444 (14-for-36) in the season series and all three of his home runs and half of his 22 RBI have come in those eight games.
After going 3-for-30 with six RBI in his previous eight games, Viosergy Rosa is 9-for-17 (run, triple, two walks, four RBI) in his last four games. Rosa has been a nemesis for the Naturals, hitting .367 (11-for-30) with two home runs and 16 RBI in the eight games between the clubs in 2017.
Jorge Mateo (2-for-5, SB, R) has hit in each of his eight games with the RockHounds and has a total of 43 stolen bases (4-for-4 with the 'Hounds and a combined 39 at Class A-Advanced and Double-A levels on the Yankees farm prior to coming to Oakland in the Sonny Gray trade). He entered Wednesday's game tied for second in all of Minor League Baseball, Colorado farmhand Wes Rogers of the Class-A Advanced Lancaster JetHawks leads Minor League Baseball with 60.
B.J. Boyd went 3-for-5 (with a pair of drag bunt singles) and has hits in five straight games (10-for-22, .455).
Max Schrock (2-for-4) has a five-game hitting streak (9-for-18, 500), has hit in 18 of his last 20 games (28-for-74, .378) and has reached base in 28 of his last 30 games (41-for-114, .360).
Boyd and Schrock are now tied for third in the Texas league batting race, both at .320.
The RockHounds and Northwest Arkansas Naturals conclude their three-game series at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday evening at 7:05 p.m.
The road trip then continues with a three-game weekend series (Friday-Sunday) with the Arkansas Travelers at North Little Rock.
The 'Hounds are back home next Tuesday-Sunday (August 15-20) to host the Naturals and Travelers at Security Bank Ballpark.
Thursday's probable starters:
Naturals - RHP Corey Ray (6-9, 5.11 ERA)
RockHounds - RHP Grant Holmes (8-11, 4.90 ERA)
Ray makes his 24th start for the Naturals and his third against the RockHounds. In his previous two starts against the 'Hounds (both in the first half), he went 0-0 with a 7.36 ERA (11 IP, 15 H, 9 R / 9 ER, 3 BB, 8 K). The fourth-year pro is in his third full season, is a native of Spring, Texas and was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Texas A&M. His finest outing of 2017 was complete game shutout (5-0) of the Springfield Cardinals on June 8 at Arvest Ballpark (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K). Ray went 5-4 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 first half starts and is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA in nine second half starts.
Holmes opened the season with ERA's of 6.27 in April and 5.52 in May. After lowering that number to 3.60 in June, he has finished July at 3.16. His last 12 games have been a fascinating statistical study and are indicative of a "work in progress with a tremendous upside (at age 21)." In his last dozen appearances (one in relief, due to weather concerns, but a game in which he went six innings), Holmes has had nine outstanding outings and three "other" appearances in which he combined to surrender 25 runs (23 earned) in 11.2 IP.
He leads the league with 11 losses and is third with 42 walks, but is also second in with 115 strikeouts and is second among Texas League starters, averaging 8.63 K / 9 IP. One of the right-hander's best starts of the first half came against Northwest Arkansas in an 8-2 home win on June 4: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R / 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K (the nine strikeouts matched a career high and set a personal high at the Double-A level).
Acquired by the A's from the LA Dodgers in last year's Josh Reddick trade, the Conway, South Carolina, native is rated Oakland's # 6 prospect by Baseball America and # 3 by MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.