As the minor league regular season ends this week, the Rockies have three teams poised for postseason play. The headliners are the Low-A Asheville Tourists, who have blitzed their way to a 88-49 record this year, and the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, who won the first half division crown on the backs of strong pitching from Jon Gray (PuRP 1), Eddie Butler (PuRP 3), Tyler Anderson (PuRP 11), and Daniel Winkler (PuRP 13).
Finally, the Short Season A Tri-City Dust Devils sit a game out of first in their division despite a .500 record in the season's second half with two games to play. Both are must-win contests if Colorado is to get three postseason teams. The rookie level Grand Junction Rockies had a chance to be postseason contenders, but they've lost seven of their last eight games -- all to their main contender for the postseason -- and appear to be off the chase.
The Sky Sox may have set an attendance record this year, but they will need to win both of their final two games to avoid a 90 loss season (out of 144). The offense did their level best in this game, pounding out 14 hits, including homers by the eight and nine slots in the lineup - Tim Wheeler (9) and Evan Frey (1) respectively. Angelys Nina led the team with three hits, while Kyle Parker (PuRP 9), Ben Paulsen, and Jason Pridie each added two apiece for the Sky Sox. Also of note was the fact that catcher Dustin Garneau had a successful steal of home in the game.
Unfortunately, the pitching was not up to snuff for the Sky Sox in this game, as they allowed their opponents to get 17 hits and five homers. Brian Burres ceded three runs on five hits and four walks in his four frames, while Mike McClendon gave up six runs on nine hits and two walks in 3 1/3 IP. Finally, Chris Martin (PuRP 28) allowed three hits and the game-winning run in his 1 1/3 innings.
AA: Springfield 5, Tulsa 2 (Game 1)
The Drillers were poised for victory in this one, having received five innings of two hit, one run work from starter Ryan Arrowood. Unfortunately, 40 man roster member Kraig Sitton allowed four runs to cross the plate in the top of the seventh to give Tulsa the loss. Delta Cleary Jr. had three hits for Tulsa, while Taylor Featherston (PuRP 26), Ryan Casteel (PuRP 15), and Arrowood the pitcher each had multi-hit games.
Tulsa 1, Springfield 0 (Game 2)
The Drillers scored the game's only run in the fifth inning on a double from Will Swanner and a RBI single by Cristhian Adames (PuRP 13). Shane Broyles was superb in a spot start, going four innings and allowing no runs on two hits while striking out four. Josh Mueller got the win with two innings of scoreless relief and Cole White got his 16th save of the season. Tyler Massey was the only player to muster a multi-hit game for Tulsa.
Modesto's nightmarish season is mercifully coming to a close soon. With the loss, the Nuts dropped to 42-96 on the year. In this one, the Nuts took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning, only to see the lead evaporate when Rayan Gonzalez allowed two runs on three hits for his sixth blown save. Dean Espy, nominally a third baseman for Modesto, pitched two innings of relief when the game went into extra innings and allowed the go-ahead homer in the 11th to take the loss.
Tyler Gagnon took a hard luck no decision after an excellent six inning start in which he allowed one run on five hits while striking out five. The Nuts had eight hits in the game, led by two from Juan Ciriaco.
Antonio Senzatela (PuRP 19) continued his excellent season in the SAL by pitching seven innings of one run ball, allowing six hits and striking out four en route to his 15th win on the year. The 19 year-old lefty is 15-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 144 2/3 innings for Asheville this year. As for the game itself, the Tourists scored all five of their runs in the fourth inning on the strength of two-run homers by Ashley Graeter (9) and PuRP 22 Wilfredo Rodriguez (3).
Tri-City kept their playoff aspirations alive with an easy win yesterday. Graham Wiest, William Waltrip, Dylan Stamey, and Carlos Yan combined to allow one run on six hits while striking out 14 batters. Meanwhile, the offense came alive with ten hits - six for extra bases. Robbie Perkins had three hits - two doubles and a triple - to lead Tri-City, while reigning NCAA batting champion Drew Weeks added two doubles and third baseman Shane Hoelscher also had two hits and knocked in three runs. The 22 year-old Hoelscher, Colorado's 17th round pick this year, has a .324/.423/.457 line in a very tough hitting environment in the Northwest League.
The GJ Rockies lost their fifth straight and now must win out to have a chance at a playoff spot despite having the second best full season mark in the Pioneer League at 40-31. Randy Reyes hit two homers (8 & 9) among his three hits and knocked in four to lead the GJ Rockies. Yonathan Daza was the only other GJ player with multiple hits in the game. Javier Palacios had a tough time on the mound, getting pounded for 12 hits and eight runs in his four innings of work.
AAA: Jair Jurrjens
AA: Jayson Aquino (PuRP 21)
High A: Ben Alsup
Low A: Konner Wade
Short Season A: Ryan Castellani (PuRP 25)