Neal Continues Dominant Form

Hounds 1st Half Playoff Hopes Hanging By A Thread

By Bob Hards / Midland RockHounds | June 13, 2014 8:58 AM ET

The RockHounds and San Antonio had two things in common Thursday night - - - excellent pitching and "expensive" defense. The clubs combined for as many errors (five) as runs (five), with three of the runs directly attributable to the miscues. 

Zach Neal was, again, outstanding. The RockHounds right-hander went eight innings, allowing two runs … both unearned … on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Neal improved to 3-0 with a 0.58 ERA in five starts (the first two in April) for the RockHounds. Tucker Healy escaped a jam in the ninth, allowing a leadoff walk and a one-out single before getting the final two outs. Healy earned his second save at the Double-A level (he has not allowed a run in six-of-seven appearances with the 'Hounds), lowering his ERA to 0.69.

Both of San Antonio's runs came after Casey McElroy reached on leadoff errors (in the fourth and sixth innings). With the game tied at 2-2, Adam Buschini singled to lead off the seventh. Third baseman Max Muncy made a terrific play, catching Bridger Hunt's awkward sacrifice bunt attempt. Hunt had leaned away from a pitch, effectively (and unintentionally) blocking catcher Beau Taylor's view of the ball. Muncy, playing in for the bunt attempt, charged all the way to home plate to catch the pop up. Neal then helped his own cause, handling Reymond Fuentes' sharp come-backer and turning it into a 1-6-3 double play with Dusty Coleman making an outstanding turn at second.

The RockHounds scored twice in the fifth with Taylor and Coleman leading off with back-to-back doubles. With two out and Coleman at third, Billy Burns beat out a chopper to short (Billy and Delino DeShields, Jr. are, quite probably, the only two players in the league who could have reached on the play), with the RBI infield single giving the 'Hounds their first lead at 2-1.

In the eighth, Anthony Aliotti and Taylor walked with one out and Coleman followed with a flair single to center. Chad Oberacker sent a sinking liner to center, with Fuentes making a diving catch. Aliotti, perhaps thinking the ball would drop, was off the bag at third, unable to score on a would-be sacrifice fly. Fuentes, apparently attempted to pick off either Coleman or Taylor, missed everything with an offline throw, allowing Aliotti to score what would be the game-winner on the throwing error. 


WP: Zach Neal (3-0, 0.58)

LP: Adys Portillo (0-2, 2.20)

SV:  Tucker Healy (2, 0.69)   

Kibbles & Bits  

-   Frisco's "magic number" is one … a RoughRider win and/or a RockHound loss in the last four games of the half wins the pennant for Frisco.

-    Beau Taylor (1-3, double, run, walk) extended his hit streak to six games. He is 8-20 (.400) in the six-gamer and is hitting .306 in his last 11. 

-   After being struck in the batting helmet by a pitch Wednesday night, Josh Whitaker was not in the lineup. After being hit by a pitch in the second inning Wednesday, he was taken via ambulance to the Baptist Medical Center (in downtown San Antonio), where RockHounds Athletic Trainer Justin Whitehouse (who accompanied Josh to the hospital), indicated that Whitaker "… was evaluated for concussion (symptoms). He was treated for a face laceration and released into the cared of team personnel. His playing status is day-to-day."

   Wednesday night also saw a remarkable gesture by San Antonio pitcher Leonel Campos, whose pitch hit Whitaker. Campos, on a tight pitch limit and obviously shaken by the incident, was taken out of the game three batters after the hit batsman. He left the stadium and went directly to the Baptist Medical Center to personally visit Josh. 

   Because the HBP was his only plate appearance Wednesday, Whitaker's 12- game hit streak (19-47, .404, HR, 11 RBI) remains intact. Josh ranks third in the Texas League in batting average (.324) … and second in both RBI (42) and slugging percentage (.537).   

-    It's easily overlooked with Frisco closing in on the first half title, but the RockHounds are 4-2 with two games remaining on their (eight-game) road trip. The 'Hounds play at San Antonio meet Friday and Saturday (7:05 p.m.), then return home for a four-game versus Frisco.  


Next Game

vs. San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres' AA Affiliate) 

Friday, June 13 - 7:05 p.m. (Radio at 7:00 p.m.)  

Nelson Wolff Stadium - San Antonio, TX        


Probable Starters

RockHounds: Drew Granier (RH, 3-2, 3.50)

San Antonio: Juan Oramas (LH, 1-0, 0.00)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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