The regular season ended on Labor Day for most minor league teams, but not for the Oakland Athletics’ Double-A squad. The Midland Rockhounds made the playoffs, after posting a 48-22 record in the second half.
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On Saturday night, the ‘Hounds headed into play up 2-1 in their series against the Corpus Christi Hooks, who belong to the Houston Astros’ farm system. A 4-1 win sent Midland on to the Texas League Championship series, where they will take on the Royals’ Southern Arkansas Naturals beginning on Tuesday.
Midland’s postseason, however, has been a costly one for the A’s strongest minor league team. Outfielder Josh Whitaker broke his finger in the fourth inning of Friday’s game, and seventh-ranked prospect Chad Pinder strained his hamstring in the eighth inning of the same game. Both players will be sorely missed during the remainder of the series, and while the injuries should both be short-term issues, it’s never a good thing when prospects are hurt.
On Saturday, starter Jake Sanchez picked up the victory. Sanchez spent some time in Nashville this season, making two starts for the Triple-A team, but he was 10-8 with a 4.50 ERA for Midland, where he made 25 starts this season.
Sanchez pitched extremely well, holding the Hooks to just one run over seven innings. The offense also came through, as Top-30 prospects Ryon Healy, Matt Olson and Jaycob Brugman each hit a home run during the night. Olson, who is the A’s second-overall prospect, plated two runs with his blast, and the ‘Hounds were able to close out the series without playing a potential fifth game.
One especially notable moment was reliever Brendan McCurry‘s appearance in the eight inning. McCurry, the A’s 30th-ranked prospect, came in to pitch with the bases loaded and just one out – and promptly struck out the next two batters on six pitches.
The minor league playoffs might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a pretty good sign of what A’s fans can look forward to. For example, Sean Manaea, the A’s top prospect, started Thursday’s game and pitched seven innings of two-run ball, including eight strikeouts and just four base runners. Manaea is expect to start against his former team on Tuesday.
It’s fitting that that A’s and Royals’ Double-A clubs will square off for the title, given last year’s major league Wild Card game and this year’s tension with Kansas City. Hopefully, the RockHounds can get at least a small bit of revenge against the Naturals with a championship win.