The three-time defending champion Midland RockHounds forced a fourth game of the title series by shutting out the Tulsa Drillers, 2-0 on Friday night at ONEOK Field. Heath Fillmyer , Sam Bragg , Tyler Sturdevant and Kyle Finnegan combined on a five-hitter, blanking a Drillers team that had averaged nearly seven runs per game in their first seven postseason contests.
The 'Hounds, too, had only five hits, but converted a pair of leadoff extra-base hits into the game's only two runs. They scored both times against Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Brandon McCarthy , who was making a rehabilitation start with the Drillers.
Max Schrock led off the fourth with a double, moved to third on Jermaine Curtis ' ground ball to the right side and scored on Viosergy Rosa 's 14th RBI of the playoffs, a ground out into shallow right field against the shift.
Jorge Mateo drilled McCarthy's 0-1 pitch to deep center for a leadoff triple in the sixth and scored moments later on Schrock's chopper to short. Schrock score the first 'Hounds run and drove in the other.
Fillmyer, while allowing only three hits over five innings, walked four batters and hit one. He twice found himself in a bases-loaded, one out jams, but pitched out of both. In the second, he struck out power hitter Peter O'Brien and Garrett Kennedy to end the threat and got the same two hitters on a pop out to shortstop and a fly ball to right, respectively, to escape the fourth.
The RockHounds threatened in the top of the second with back-to-back one-out singles from Sheldon Neuse and J.P. Sportman before McCarthy induced a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play off the bat of Tyler Ramirez to end the inning.
From the fifth inning on, Fillmyer, Bragg, Sturdevant and Finnegan allowed only two base runners. Blake Gailen dropped down a perfect bunt to the left side against the shift against Bragg in the sixth and Matt Beaty reached on a close call on a grounder to second base in the eighth against Sturdevant. Finnegan slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth, striking O'Brien out to end the game.
After going 4-for-20 in the division series against San Antonio, Sheldon Neuse (2-for-3, walk) is now 7-for-11 (two runs, double, triple, two RBI) in the championship series.
Max Schrock is 10-for-30 (.333) in the postseason and 5-for-13 in the championship series (with two runs and an RBI after contributing to both runs in Friday's win).
Including two playoff starts, Heath Fillmyer finished 1-0 with a 2.31 earned run average. Combined with his outstanding regular season (the right-hander finished fifth in the Texas League with a 3.49 ERA), Fillmyer went 12-5 with a 3.40 ERA.
The RockHounds' Game 4 starter is Grant Holmes and that, in itself, is a great sidebar story. The right-hander, had he not been acquired by Oakland in last year's Josh Reddick trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers (Tulsa's Major League affiliate), would be pitching for the Drillers!
Tulsa's starter in Game 3 was Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who was with the Drillers on a rehab assignment. He has been on the Dodgers' DL since July 24 with an injury to the middle finger on his pitching hand. McCarthy is a 12-year big league veteran and has pitched for the White Sox, Rangers, A's, Diamondbacks and Yankees (in addition to the Dodgers).
When manager Ryan Garko abruptly left the Dodgers organization (and stepped down as Tulsa's manager) to accept the head coaching position at the University of the Pacific, the Drillers were 50-50 for the season. Scott Hennessey, who had been added to the field staff as a fourth coach in June, took over the club and the result was remarkable. Tulsa went 27-13 the rest of the regular season, catching and passing Springfield for the second half North Division title before defeating the Northwest Arkansas Naturals to advance to the league championship series.
2017 Texas League Championship Series
The 'Hounds and Tulsa are meeting for the championship for the second time and the second time in four seasons. The RockHounds defeated the Drillers, 3-2 in 2014 for the first of the current run of three consecutive titles for the 'Hounds.
The RockHounds are bidding for a fourth consecutive Texas League championship, unprecedented in the modern era, while Tulsa looks to snap the longest current drought in the league, having last won the title in 1998.
The RockHounds are in the championship series for the sixth time in nine seasons and the seventh time since 2005.
This is the third time the franchises have played for the Texas League championship. The Lafayette Drillers and the Midland Cubs shared the 1975 title when the fifth and deciding game could not be played due to rain. The Lafayette franchise moved to Tulsa in 1977.
Game 4 Starters
Drillers RHP Yadier Alvarez (2-2, 3.55 in regular season / 0-0, 9.82 in playoffs)
RockHounds RHP Grant Holmes (11-12, 4.49 in regular season / 0-1, 6.23 in playoffs)
Alvarez is rated the Los Angeles Dodgers' #2 prospect by Baseball America and #3 by MLB.com. He was signed by the Dodgers as an international free agent for $16 million in July 2015 and made his debut on the Dodgers' farm in 2016, pitching at the Rookie and Single-A levels. He opened this season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the Class-A Advanced California League before being promoted to Tulsa on July 23. He started Game 4 of the North Division Series, a no-decision in a 16-8 win (3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R / 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K). The 21-year-old native defected to the United States from his home in Matanzas, Cuba.
Holmes opened the season with ERA's of 6.27 in April and 5.52 in May, finishing the first half 5-6 with a 5.45 ERA. Of his last 17 games (16 starts), four were clearly not good, one was somewhere "in the middle" and the other 12 could be considered anywhere from "quality" to "outstanding." His final regular season standing among Texas League pitchers mirrors the last 17 games. While he shared the league lead in with 12 losses and 61 walks, his 150 K's won him the Texas League strikeout title and he leads all Texas League starters with a 9.02 K/9 IP K / 9 IP. Acquired by the A's from the Los Angeles 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. He was originally selected by the Dodgers in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2014 draft out of Conway High School. In three appearances versus Tulsa, much of what he allowed came in the July 8 start at ONEOK Field in Tulsa: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 8 R / 8 ER. In his other two starts against the Drillers, Holmes posted a 2.53 ERA.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.