While I was on vacation, Double-A NW Arkansas reached the Texas League Championship Series for the second straight season, by beating Springfield three games to one. That pushed the Naturals for a revenge series against Midland, who swept them last season in the TLCS.
In the North Division Series, the Naturals scored 31 runs with ten home runs. Heading into the TLCS, the starting nine for the Naturals were all hitting over .350 except for Alfredo Escalera (.190) and Cam Gallagher (.250). Leadoff hitter Corey Toups was leading the way with four home runs, while hitting .467. Third baseman Mauricio Ramos was hitting .524.
Starter Josh Staumont, who pitched the second half title clincher on the last day of the season, was impressive in the Division Series clincher on Saturday. He struck out 11 over six innings. That game went ten innings, with the Naturals walking off on Gallagher’s suicide squeeze.
Closer Mark Peterson earned the win in relief of the clincher and picked up a save in Game 1 (4IP, 3H, BB, 4K).
Staumont is slated to start Game 3 in Midland, which will be on Thursday (both teams agreed to void the travel day due to incoming bad weather, though it is a ten hour bus trip). He will need his third straight BIG start with the Naturals down 0-2 once again to Midland.
Midland took Game 1 of the TLCS in Springdale, 5-4.
Yender Caramo made his first postseason start, but allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks over five innings (one run scored after he was pulled in the sixth). Reliever Evan Beal continued his hot postseason by throwing two more perfect innings with two strikeouts. Beal also stranded a base runner in the seventh.
Samir Duenez hit his third home run of the postseason, as he collected two of the Naturals eight hits.
The RockHounds took Game 2 tonight, 6-4.
It was a rough start for Eric Skoglund, who allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk over 4.1 innings. Skoglund threw 87 pitches (53 for strikes). He did leave with two on base and Reid Redman allowed both to score in the fifth. Redman followed that up by allowing two runs of his own in the sixth.
Miguel Almonte turned in an impressive relief outing by striking out four of the six batters he faced over two perfect innings.
The Naturals strung together four singles in their three-run 6th inning with just one out, but a pitching change brought a run-scoring fielding error and two ground outs to end the threat. Before that inning, the Naturals had just four hits (two from Ryan O’Hearn).
Things got interesting in the top of the ninth with Peterson on the mound. The bases were loaded with one out (a single, an error, and a walk), but Peterson struck out the final two batters of the inning.
The Naturals could not string together a rally in the bottom of the ninth in their final home game of the 2016 season with less than 2,000 in attendance, as they went down in order on three strikeouts.
Gallagher was replaced in the sixth on defense by Allan de San Miguel, who was back with the Naturals for the postseason after spending the final weekend of the regular season with Triple-A Omaha. Gallagher took a foul ball off his bare hand in the 2nd inning. Hopefully Gallagher is okay for the rest of the series, or maybe Zane Evans will be back.