In what should be the first of many days of interesting baseball in the Texas League, dominant pitching was the story. By the winning teams, there were a combined 18 runs scored. By the losing teams, there were a combined 2 runs scored. Although skewed, it was that kind of a day for the losing teams in the Texas League.
Corpus Christi Hooks 9 – Northwest Arkansas Naturals 0
It may have been the league’s most lopsided victory of the night, but the 9-0 score doesn’t really do justice to a tightly contested game for the first five innings. The Corpus Christi Hooks took a 1-0 lead on a triple by T.J. Steele in the 2nd inning that turned into a run with an errant throw by shortstop Christian Colon on the play. The Hooks extended the lead to 2-0 in the 5th inning when Jonathan Villar hit a 2 out double to score Jose Martinez, who led off the inning with a walk, from first. Villar was thrown out trying to stretch to end the inning. But it was the 6th inning that blew the game wide open. It wasn’t until the seventh batter of the inning before Northwest Arkansas recorded the first out of the inning. Austin Wates led off the inning with a double and was followed by a Kody Hinze hit by pitch and a Jonathan Singleton walk. Brandon Barnes singled with the bases loaded to score Wates and Hinze. A pitching change later and T.J. Steele singled home Singleton. Jose Martinez walked, which set up a second bases loaded situation in the inning. After a Chris Wallace pop up, Jordan Kreke reached on an error, which scored Barnes from third. Jonathan Villar’s strikeout was followed by a triple by Austin Wates, who already doubled in the inning. The triple drove home the 5th, 6th, and 7th runs of the inning and gave the Hooks a commanding 9-0 lead, which was the final score. The Corpus Christi Hooks won their home opener for the fifth straight year.
Prospect Performances: Wil Myers (NW Arkansas) went 1 for 3 with a walk at the plate for the Naturals, who struggled to do much at the plate…Former 4th overall pick Christian Colon (NW Arkansas) went 0 for 5 at the plate with a strikeout and made 2 errors in the field. This is Colon’s second full season in the Texas League… Jonathan Villar (Corpus Christi) went 2 for 5 with a double, RBI, 2 SBs, and a strikeout. Villar is only 20 years old and spent over half of last season in Corpus Christi… Jonathan Singleton (Corpus Christi) went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run in his AA debut. Singleton came over from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Hunter Pence deal… Jarred Cosart (Corpus Christi) made the start for the Hooks. He lasted 4 1/3 innings, gave up four hits, zero runs, walked three, and struck out five. Cosart is expected to be one of the best starters in the Texas League this season.
Performance of the Game: The clear best performance of the game was that of Austin Wates for the Corpus Christi Hooks. In his Double-A debut, the 23 year old outfielder went 3 for 5, drove in 3 runs, and finished a homerun from the cycle. Last year Wates hit .300 with 38 extra base hits, stole 26 bases, and put up a .779 OPS for the Lancaster Jethawks.
Tulsa Drillers 7 – San Antonio Missions 2
The Tulsa Drillers spoiled the home opener of the defending Texas League Champion San Antonio Missions by putting up 4 runs in the first inning and another in the second inning. The Drillers offense knocked around Juan Oramas, who was one of the best surprises of the Texas League in 2011. Oramas, 21 years old, recorded just 2 outs before being taken out of his first start of 2012. Driller’s shortstop Josh Rutledge homered in his first AA at bat on the fourth pitch that he saw from Oramas. Michael Mitchell then hit a double and stole third with top prospect Nolan Arenado at the plate. Arenado singled home Mitchell to score the second run of the game. A wild pitch and walk to Paulsen put runners at 1st and 2nd and after two outs sandwiched a hit by pitch, Lars Davis was intentionally walked to bring up Edwar Cabrera, the pitcher, who helped himself by getting a single. Two runs scored on the single by Cabrera to make it 4-0 at the time. Three singles in a row in the second made it 5-0. San Antonio could muster just one hit, a solo homerun by Nathan Freiman in the 2nd inning, off of Edwar Cabrera through the first five innings. A Jedd Gyorko solo homerun in the 7th cut the lead to 5-2, but Tulsa added two more runs in the 8th inning with a couple singles, a pop up, a walk, and a double by Nolan Arenado, which scored two runs. The bullpen kept the Missions lineup from mounting any sort of a real come back as Tulsa took the first game of the series.
Prospect Performances: Nolan Arenado (Tulsa Drillers) is the Colorado Rockies’ top prospect and on Thursday night he hit like he belonged in the major leagues. Arenado went 4 for 5 with a double, 2 runs, and 3 RBI at the plate. He did make an error in the field, which is where he still is working to improve. Still, the AA debut for Arenado was nothing short of stellar. Starting pitcher Edwar Cabrera (Tulsa Drillers) led the minor leagues with 217 strikeouts in 2011 and his first start in AA was a very solid one. Cabrera gave up just three hits, one run, struck out six, and did not issue a walk over six commanding innings against a talented lineup. I saw him as a sleeper coming into the season and he will be one to keep an eye on… While Arenado did damage at third base for the Drillers, Jedd Gyorko (San Antonio Missions) was doing damage of his own. Gyorko went 2 for 4 with a solo homerun in the losing cause. Gyorko is part of what should be a very good prospect infield and offense in general… Jaff Decker (San Antonio Missions) batted leadoff for the Missions and went 1 for 3 with a walk. Decker started off last season really strong (.316 AVG with 17 extra base hits and 27 RBI in ApriL), but tailed off as the year went along. He could benefit from the extra time in AA as he tries to find more consistency
Performance of the Game: Already mentioned in the prospect performances, Nolan Arenado was outstanding in his Double-A debut on Thursday night. Arenado started off the game 3 for his first 3 and finished 4 for 5 with a double, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. The third baseman is universally considered one of the top third base prospects in baseball.
Frisco RoughRiders 1 – Springfield Cardinals 0
The story of this game was pitching, and it was really only about one pitcher. The Frisco RoughRider’s starter Justin Grimm took the ball in the bottom of the first and nearly six innings later he was finished with about as dominant of a Double-A debut as you can have. If you wanted to make a joke with his name, you could, but it’s too easy after a start like this. Grimm earned a rare four strikeout inning in the second inning after Adam Melker reached base on a passed ball by Frisco catcher Jose Felix. Grimm struck out one in the first, four in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth, one in the fifth, and one in the sixth for ten strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched. The ten strikeouts was the most by a Frisco RoughRiders pitcher in an opening game of the season. There was little offense to be had on either side as the two teams combined for 25 strikeouts. The game winning run was scored by Val Majewski, who led off the third with a single. Majewski stole second base with Ryan Strausborger at the plate, who then reached base on an infield single that moved Majewski to third base. Jose Felix’s sacrifice fly scored Majewski from third base and gave Frisco a 1-0 lead. Pitchers Carlos Pimentel, Joe Ortiz, and Johan Yan worked the final 3 2/3 innings to preserve the win.
Prospect Performances: Jurickson Profar (Frisco) headlines a pretty stout group in this game, but most of the top prospects didn’t perform well on Thursday. Profar went 0 for 3 with a walk at the plate. He saw 16 pitches, 9 of which were balls… Mike Olt (Frisco) played third base on Thursday and finished the game 1 for 3 with a walk and 2 strikeouts… Kolten Wong (Springfield) started at second base for Springfield and also went 1 for 3 with a walk. Wong struck out once as well, as every hitter in Springfield’s starting lineup struck out at least once… Oscar Taveras (Springfield) is one of two 19 year old players in this series as both him and Profar are making the jump from single-A to Double-A. Taveras went 0 for 4 with 1 strikeout in his debut.
Performance of the Game: Justin Grimm is an obvious winner for this as the right hander was about as dominant as you can be. Grimm needed only 74 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and he allowed just three base runners. Grimm pitched well in Myrtle Beach last season and is off to a fast start in 2012.
Arkansas Travelers 1 – Midland Rockhounds 0
Like the Frisco/Springfield game, this game was really about one player. Unlike the Frisco/Springfield game, the player wasn’t on the winning team. Midland’s starter A.J. Griffin dominated for most of the early part of the game as he finished with 5 shutout innings. Griffin allowed two hits, one walk, and struck out eight batters. His counterpart, A.J. Schugel, wasn’t that far off though. Schugel gave up just two hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 5 shutout innings as well. A Michael Spina error on a pickoff play, however, led to what would eventually become the game winning run. Rian Kiniry led off the 6th inning with a single to centerfield. After a pop up, Kiniry moved up to third base on an attempted pickoff error. With two outs, Jean Segura singled home Kiniry to give the Travelers a 1-0 lead. Andrew Taylor held onto the lead in relief and Kevin Johnson earned the save.
Prospect Performances: Michael Choice (Midland) has big power and very good patience. His patience was on display on Thursday as the University of Texas-Arlington product went 0 for 2 with 2 walks and a strikeout at the plate in the losing effort… Jean Segura (Arkansas) spent most of 2011 on the DL, but had a nice Double-A debut in 2012 as the shortstop went 1 for 3 with the game winning RBI.
Performance of the Game: He didn’t get a decision and ended up on the losing team, but A.J. Griffin had the standout performance of the game. The big righty allowed just three baserunners over five scoreless innings and struck out eight batters. He made 71 pitches and 49 of those went for strikes. Griffin, who spent 2011 between four different levels, is off to a great start in 2012.