The Single-A Fort Wayne TinCaps were eliminated from playoffs in the MidWest League last night. But tonight our Padres' Double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions, will begin their Championship Series in the Texas League. After taking the fifth and final game in a best-of five series, the Missions are now playing for the Championship title against Angels affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. Here's a recap of the first five games to prime you for tonight's TLCS opener.
Texas League South Division Series - Game 1
The Missions threatened early in the 1st inning with a leadoff triple from Rico Noel, but they were unable to get the run home. That would come back to haunt them later.
After Noel's leadoff triple, it was a pitcher's duel between San Antonio's Matt Wisler and Corpus Christi's Mike Foltynewicz, who threw shutouts through the first five innings. But the Missions got another scoring opportunity in the 6th and this time they seized it. Noel led off the inning again and was hit by a pitch. During the next at-bat, Foltynewicz botched a pickoff attempt, throwing the ball past his first baseman and allowing Noel to advance to second. Cory Spangenberg then executed a successful sac bunt to get Noel over to third. With two outs, Tommy Medica (Texas League Player of the Week at the time) hit an RBI single to drive home the first run of the game for either team.
The Corpus Christi Hooks got on the board in the 7th. Wisler issued a one-out walk (his third of the night), after which he exited the game. That baserunner would cost Wisler, who had given up only two hits in 6 1/3 innings of work on the night, as reliever Ryan Kelly would later give up a two-out RBI single to tie the game on a run credited to his starter.
The tie continued into extra innings. In the 11th inning, the Missions once again squandered a great scoring opportunity. Adam Buschini and Medica led off with back-to-back singles. A sac bunt by Jake Blackwood moved them both over and then an intentional walk to Yeison Asencio loaded the bases with one out. But none of those runs came home as Lee Orr proceeded to strike out, followed by an inning-ending forceout by Austin Hedges.
The Hooks led off the bottom of the inning with a single off Missions reliever James Needy, who was making his 2013 debut with the club. Needy walked the next batter and then a sac bunt moved both runners up a base. Finally, a sac fly brought the runner home from 3rd and ended the game.
Texas League South Division Series - Game 2
Eddie Bonine took the hill in the second of the best-of-five series. The first three innings went scoreless for both teams, then the Missions got to Hooks starter Nick Tropeano in the 4th. Spangenberg walked to lead off the inning. He scored from first base in the next at-bat on Buschini's double to left. Later, Asencio knocked a two-out double to right to make it a 2-0 lead for San Antonio.
Bonine one-hit the Hooks through the first five innings, but found himself in a bit of trouble in the 6th. Corpus Christi led off the inning with a single and a walk. The next batter hit one to left center that looked like it was going to drop Buschini made a fantastic sliding catch and then proceeded to throw out the runner at second base for the double play. Bonine issued another walk, but then struck out the next batter to end the inning.
The 7th inning saw Bonine get into a little more trouble. Once again the first two Hooks batters reached base, both on singles. The next two batters were retired via popout (on a sac bunt attempt) and flyout. Corpus Christi looked like it was going to score as their next hitter lined a long single to center that appeared deep enough to score the runner from second, but a terrific throw to home from center fielder Noel got the runner out at the plate to end the threat and the inning. Bonine ended his night with five hits allowed and three walks in seven shutout innings.
The Missions didn't score again after bringing home those two runs in the 4th, but they didn't need to. Tim Sexton and Jeremy McBryde combined for three strikeouts while pitching a scoreless inning each to secure the win for San Antonio and even up the series.
Texas League South Division Series - Game 3
Donn Roach was the starter for San Antonio in game 3. He got some early run support from his offense as three runs came home in the 1st. Off Hooks starter Luis Cruz, Noel led off with a single, followed by a double to Spangenberg to put two runners in scoring position. Later, Cruz intentionally walked Medica to load the bases and get to Blackwood. That proved to be a mistake, however, as Blackwood proceeded to clear the bases with a line drive over the head of Hooks center fielder Drew Muren.
Corpus Christi got two of those runs back in the 3rd. Roach loaded the bases with no outs, then the Hooks brought their first run home on a bases-loaded GIDP. That was followed with an RBI single to cut the Missions' lead to just one run.
Roach didn't give up any more runs and came out of the game after recording two outs in the 7th. He gave up a total of six hits while issuing just one walk and striking out four through 6 2/3 innings of work. The Missions increased their lead to two runs in bottom of the 7th. Noel hit a two-out RBI single off Hooks reliever Alex Sogard to make it a 4-2 game.
In the next inning, however, Corpus Christi made it a brand new ballgame. Missions reliever Leonel Campos gave up an RBI sac fly and the Hooks moved within one run. Two batters later, a single by the Hooks' designated hitter tied it up at 4. But the Missions got both of those runs back in their half of the inning. It began with single by Spangenberg and a double by Buschini to lead off the inning and put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Medica's sac fly brought the first run home and prompted Corpus Christi to turn to their bullpen. But Blackwood hit another sac fly, giving the Missions a 6-4 lead.
It looked like the game was in the bag as San Antonio turned to their closer McBryde. Unfortunately he wasn't his usual reliable self and allowed the Hooks to tie the game again on a pair of RBI singles. With the Missions going down in order in the bottom of the 9th, the game would go into extras for the second time in the series.
The tie held until the bottom of the 12th inning when the Missions got some help from the Hooks defense. DH Rocky Gale led off the inning with a double and was replaced with a pinch runner, Everett Williams. With one out, Noel was intentionally walked. Spangenberg then hit a ball to center, where it was caught by Muren. The center fielder then attempted to double off Noel at first base, which turned out to be a costly mistake for Corpus Christi. Muren's throw went over the head of first baseman Erik Castro and into the dugout, allowing Williams to run home from second base and giving the Missions their second win of the series.
Texas League South Division Series - Game 4
Saturday night's game was a real pitcher's duel. San Antionio sent southpaw Juan Oramas to the mound to face Corpus Christi's right-handed Ruben Alaniz. Oramas tossed six innings of shutout ball against the Hooks, allowing just three hits and issuing two walks while striking out five batters. Alaniz threw seven scoreless frames and gave up three hits and a walk while collecting six strikeouts.
Sexton was the first pitcher out of the bullpen for San Antonio. He allowed runners to reach second and third in the 7th, but escaped the frame unscathed by inducing a groundout to end the inning and eliminate the thread. He then proceeded to pitch a 1-2-3 8th inning.
The Missions also went down in order in the 8th as Hooks reliever (and Texans pitcher on a rehab stint), Edgar Gonzalez, struck out the side. In the top of the 9th, Corpus Christi finally broke the scoreless tie. McBryde issued a leadoff walk and then on the next at-bat botched a throw to Medica at first base, allowing the batter to reach on a bunt single and the runner to advance to third base. The Hooks brought in a pinch-hitter at that point, and he hit a single right up the middle to drive in the run.
Buschini led off the bottom of the 9th with a single to right center, and later advanced third on a couple of groundouts. Asencio represented the last chance for the Missions as he stepped to the plate with a runner on third and two outs. But he wasn't able to bring home the run, striking out to end the threat and force a win-or-go-home fifth game in the best-of-three South Division Series.
Texas League South Division Series - Game 5
The winner of Sunday's game would be crowned the South Division Champion and move on to the Texas League Championship Series. The Missions, who were in a scoring drought after the previous night's shutout, led off the game with a couple of singles from Noel and Spangenberg off Hooks starter David Rollins. With runners at the corners and no outs, Buschini hit an RBI single to give San Antonio the early 1-0 lead. With two outs later in the inning, Rollins fielded a ball hit off the mound by Asencio, but his throw would sail past his first baseman Castro and allow both runners to come home, bringing the Missions' lead to 3-0. They would add another run in the 2nd inning on a two-out RBI double from Spangeberg.
The Hooks got on the board in the 5th off Missions starter Josh Geer. After leading off the inning with back-to-back singles and a sac bunt to move the runners to second and third, a two-RBI single cut their deficit in half. Those would end up being Geer's only runs allowed. He ended his night after six solid innings, having allowed seven hits and issuing only one walk while collecting seven strikeouts to match his season high.
Matt Branham came out of the 'pen and retired the Hooks in order in the 7th. In the next inning, the Missions scored an insurance run on a two-out RBI single from Hedges. Branham walked a batter with one out in the bottom of the 8th, and then gave up a double to put two runners in scoring position for the Hooks. San Antonio turned to a new reliever, southpaw Jeff Ibarra, to try to get out of the jam, but he gave up an RBI groundout to Castro to cut the Missions' lead back to two runs. They went to the bullpen once more in the inning and Campos was able to strike out Corpus Christi's pinch-hitter to end the inning with San Antonio on top 5-3.
In the bottom of the 9th, the Hooks threatened to walk off on the Missions. With one out, the tying runs on base, and the winning run at the plate, Campos was able to induce a flyout and a foulout to end the threat, the game, and the series. The Missions had earned the title of South Division Champions and a spot in the TLCS.
Texas League Championship Series Begins Tonight
After having an off day yesterday, the Missions will take the field against the Arkansas Travelers tonight in the first game of the TLCS. San Antonio will host the first two games of the series at Wolff Stadium and the rest of the series will take place in Little Rock.
Matt Wisler will get the ball for the Missions and try to follow his stellar performance in the opener of the TLDS with another great outing tonight. Brandon Hynick makes the start for the Travs, who swept their division series in three games to make it to the Finals.
The Missions dominated the Travs during the regular season, winning 9 of 11 matchups between the two and outscoring them 43-30. Missions pitchers kept Travelers hitters to a .218/.270/.309 line during the season. One of those pitchers was Wisler, who went 3-1 against them, collecting nine strikeouts and issuing just four walks in 22 total innings. San Antonio won all six games against Arkansas at Wolff Stadium and they'll look to keep that record untarnished in these first two games of the series.
But Arkansas been playing some hot baseball lately. They went 36-26 after the All-Star Break and won 10 of their last 11 games in the regular season. They then swept Tulsa, outscoring them 17-6, in the Semifinals to claim the Texas League North Division crown.
This series will be a rematch of the 2011 TLCS between the Missions and the Travelers. San Antonio swept Arkansas to earn the 2011 Texas League Championship title. That series included a 20-inning Game 2 which remains to this day the longest game in Texas League postseason history.