The North Division, including the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, has been tough on the RockHounds in 2017. The Naturals did it again on Tuesday night, defeating the 'Hounds, 11-5, in the opener of a three-game series at Arvest Ballpark. The good news is that the rest of the North was equally tough on the clubs from the South, sweeping all four games on the Texas League schedule. Bottom line: no ground was gained or lost across the board, as only the winning percentages changed .
Alfredo Escalera's three-run home run in the seventh broke a 5-5 tie and the Naturals added three more runs in the eighth for an 11-5 win. Escalera led a 13-hit Northwest Arkansas attack and finished the game 3-for-4 with four RBI.
The 'Hounds took a 3-0 lead against starter Josh Staumont. The Kansas City Royals' top prospect has struggled with walks in 2017 and the RockHounds took advantage, taking a 3-0 lead on just one hit - Jorge Mateo's leadoff single in the first - and five walks in the first two innings.
The Naturals responded with a three-run second inning, highlighted by Humberto Arteaga's two-run double against RockHounds starter Dustin Hurlbutt. The Naturals then took the lead on Escalera's first RBI - a sacrifice fly in the fourth - and built the advantage to 5-3 against reliever James Naile in the fifth.
The RockHounds rallied back to tie in the sixth. Tyler Ramirez doubled to open the inning and scored on a terrific at bat from Jordan Tarsovich. After falling behind, 0-2, Tarsovich singled up the middle on the ninth pitch of the at bat and later scored on an infield single from B.J. Boyd, tying the game at 5-5. A strike 'em out/throw 'em out double play though then took the 'Hounds out of the inning.
With the bases empty and two out in the seventh, Paulo Orlando singled to center and Samir Duenez drew a walk. Escalera then took Naile's next pitch out over the left field wall with what would be the game-winning swing.
Video: NW Arkansas' Escalera belts three-run homer
The RockHounds are:
55-60 overall … 20-25 in the second half ... have won 12 of their last 18 games
2-5 in the season series against Northwest Arkansas ... 0-4 at Arvest Ballpark and 2-1 at Security Bank Ballpark
third in the Texas League South in the second half ... 6.5 games behind the San Antonio Missions and a 0.5 games behind Corpus Christi
0.5 games up on Corpus Christi in the (increasingly probable) South Division wild card race
32-25 at home … 23-35 on the road
13-24 versus the North Division and 42-36 versus the South
Jermaine Curtis (1-for-4, walk) extended his on-base streak to 39 games. The streak is the longest in the Texas League in 2017 by eight games.
After going 3-for-30 with six RBI in his previous eight games, Viosergy Rosa is 8-for-13 (run, triple, two walks, RBI) in his last three.
Jorge Mateo's stolen base in the first inning was his third with the RockHounds and his 42nd of the season (also including Class A-Advanced and Double-A on the Yankees farm prior to coming to Oakland in the Sonny Gray trade). The 42 steals rank second in all of Minor League Baseball, trailing only Colorado farmhand Wes Rogers of the Class-A Advanced Lancaster JetHawks who has 60.
Max Schrock (1-for-4) has hits in 17 of 19 games (26-for-70, .371) and has reached base in 27 of 29 games (39-for-110, .355).
A 25-man Roster … What a Concept … Welcome Back, Guys!!
The RockHounds welcomed back two very familiar faces on Tuesday with the returns of both outfielder Tyler Marincov and pitcher James Naile. Both are rejoining the club after lengthy stays on the disabled list and their additions bring the RockHounds' roster back to the active limit of 25, for the first time since June 21.
Marincov has been out since June 21 after suffering a broken bone in his left hand on a hit by pitch at Frisco. At the time of his injury, he was hitting .275 with nine home runs and was third in the Texas League with 49 RBI.
Naile last pitched for the RockHounds on May 14 and had gotten off to an outstanding start (1-1, 3.22 ERA in 9 G / 6 GS) before being sidelined by an abdominal strain. He returned to the mound on July 20 and has made two appearances each with the Arizona (Rookie League) A's and (Class-A Advanced) Stockton.
Both struggled in their returns to the RockHounds on Tuesday. Marincov went 0-for-3 (walk, three strikeouts and an error in right field) and Naile took the loss, allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits. "Getting back to speed" isn't an overnight endeavor, obviously, but the addition of both players figures to benefit the 'Hounds greatly.
Texas League Pitcher of the Week
Casey Meisner made two starts over the week of July-31-August 6, going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, pitching 13 scoreless innings. He went six innings in a 10-1 win at Frisco on August 1 (6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 3 K) and tossed seven shutout innings against San Antonio on Sunday, August 6 in a 6-0 win over the division-leading San Antonio Missions at Security Bank Ballpark (7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 6 K). For the week, the 6-foot-7 right-hander went 13 shutout innings, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out nine (a 0.54 WHIP and .136 opponent average). Here is the breakdown of Meisner's eight starts with the RockHounds:
Totals: 4-3, 4.46 ERA, 8 G/8 GS, 40 IP, 37 H, 17 BB, 28 K, 1.34 WHIP, .247 average against, 1.65 K/BB ratio
First three starts: 0-3, 8.78 ERA, 3 G/3 GS, 13.1 IP, 15 H, 10 BB, 13 K, 1.88 WHIP, .283 average against, 1.30 K/BB ratio
Last five starts: 4-0, 2.33, 5 G/5 GS, 27.0 IP, 22 H, 7 BB, 15 K, 1.07 WHIP, .226 average against, 2.14 K/BB ratio
The RockHounds and Northwest Arkansas Naturals continue their three-game series on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:05 p.m. both nights. The road trip then continues with a three-game weekend series (Friday-Sunday) with the Arkansas Travelers at North Little Rock.
Wednesday's game will be aired on KFZX ("Classic Rock 102"), 102.1-FM. It's not only "crunch time" in the Texas League, but also the opening of football season, so the 'Hounds will move to Classic Rock 102 on four occasions over the remainder of the regular season: Wednesday, August 9, Saturday, August 19, Saturday, August 26 and Thursday, August 31.
Wednesday's probable starters:
Naturals - LHP Jake Kalish (0-7, 3.41 ERA)
RockHounds - LHP A.J. Puk (1-3, 5.66 ERA)
Kalish makes his 17th appearance (ninth start) for the Naturals and his third appearance (first start) versus the RockHounds. He made two relief appearances when the clubs last met (May 26-June 4), going 0-0 with a 7.71 ERA (2.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R / 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K). The 26-year-old New Jersey native was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft out of George Mason University. The third-year pro is in his second full season and opened 2017 with the Wilmington Blue Rocks before being promoted to Northwest Arkansas in mid-May.
NW Arkansas (16 G/8 GS): 0-7, 3.41 ERA, 63.1 IP, 67 H, 16 BB, 43 K, 1.31 WHIP, .273 average against, 2.93 K/BB ratio
Wilmington (10 G/0 GS): 1-1, 1.93 ERA, 18.2 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 23 K, 1.02 WHIP, .191 average against, 3.83 K/BB ratio
Puk makes his ninth start and his first against Northwest Arkansas. In his last start, the lefty struck out a career-high 13 batters in a no decision versus San Antonio on August 3 at Security Bank Ballpark. In his previous two starts against the Missions (both at Nelson Wolff Stadium), Puk had allowed nine runs in 1.1 innings (60.75 ERA). In his seven starts away from "The Wolff," he is 1-1 with a 3.47 ERA. He opened the season with Class-A Advanced Stockton and also pitched in the All-Star Futures Game at Miami on July 23. Puk was elected by the A's with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of the University of Florida. He is rated Oakland's #2 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com.
Midland (8 G/8 GS): 1-3, 5.66 ERA, 35.0 IP, 30 H, 19 BB, 46 K, 1.40 WHIP, .229 average against, 2.42 K/BB ratio
Stockton (14 G/11 GS): 4-5, 3.69 ERA, 61 IP, 44 H, 23 BB, 98 K, 1.10 WHIP, .196 average against, 4.26 K/BB ratio
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.