Houston Astros Minor League Recap (9/4): The Playoffs Version

Ryan Dunsmore

Greeneville faces elimination once again in the Appy League playoffs. Meanwhile, Tri-City's regular season comes to a close, Quad Cities and Corpus Christi win playoff games, and Oklahoma City struggles against a 35-year-old replacement for a 22-year-old phenom.

It's that time of year, boys and girls! Playoff time around minor league baseball. Can you feel it?

No, Jim Mora is not from the BCS. And yes, Jim Mora. We do want to talk about playoffs. In fact, it's the only thing we want to talk about with six Astros affiliates reaching the postseason.

In a half dozen sleepy towns from Lancaster, California, to Troy, New York, the Astros Farm is stirring; preparing to rise up and take the major leagues by storm.

But First...

Okay, yes, we've got playoff fever. But let's not let that consume us before we recognize Yonathan Mejia, who was named a Gulf Coast League All-Star after leading the league in hits (72), doubles (19), and total bases (97). The third season in the GCL was the charm this year for the twenty-year-old Dominican, who put together a 131 wRC+ over 240 plate appearances. He also ranked in the top five in the league in extra base hits (3rd with 21), batting average (5th with .324), and RBI (5th with 32).

He was named the league's all-star at the DH position, despite playing 53 of his 59 games at first base. Since 2010, he's played every infield position, though he's been limited to the corner spots for the last two seasons. He was rewarded with a late promotion to Tri-City, where he had gotten off to a slow start, going hitless in his first two games. Yesterday, though, his bat began to heat up. More on that later. For now, congratulations, Yonathan!

What Happened Was...

Omaha Storm Chasers 3, Oklahoma City RedHawks 1

Omaha leads series 1-0

The Omaha Storm Chasers (KCR) weren't just the last team to qualify for the Pacific Coast League playoffs. They were also the only 2012 playoff team to repeat this season.

The RedHawks helped Omaha squeeze into the postseason by edging the Memphis Redbirds (STL) as Omaha took care of the Round Rock Express (TEX) - a former Astros affiliate - on the final day of the season. The Storm Chasers offense was led by another former Astro in that game: veteran first baseman Carlos Pena, who homered and drove in four runs to seal the playoff-clinching victory over Round Rock.

You'd think that the Storm Chasers, given how much they owed their postseason berth to the Astros organization, might have shown a little gratitude. Instead, they stifled the RedHawks offense, holding them to just five hits and a single run (unearned) in the 3-1 Game 1 victory.

For the Storm Chasers, Brian Sanches was the unexpected starter over Royals' #2 prospect Yordano Ventura, who was held out of the game for an unspecified violation of team rules. Sanches found out just thirty minutes before the game that he'd be getting the start, but it didn't seem to affect his game very much. Only four RedHawks players - George Springer, Brandon Laird, Jon Singleton, and Carlos Perez - were able to reach base more than once in the game. Springer, who lost out to Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts for the USA Today Minor Leaguer of the Year award, was the only one to do it with multiple hits.

For the RedHawks, Asher Wojciechowski was effective. After allowing a single to leadoff hitter Irving Falu, who would come around to score, he shut the Storm Chasers offense down. Not one Omaha batter reached base again until the sixth, which Gorkys Hernandez led off with a single, later scoring on a Christian Colon double.

Che-Hsuan Lin and Carlos Perez led off the bottom of the seventh inning with consecutive walks off of Maikel Cleto. But catcher Manny Pina threw a pickoff attempt away, allowing both runners to advance into scoring position with no outs. Michael Mariot, on in relief of Cleto, was able to end the rally and limit the damage, thanks to some over-aggressive baserunning by the RedHawks. After striking out Chris Epps - who learned at 5:00 this morning that he was being promoted from High-A Lancaster - Mariot induced a groundball from Jimmy Paredes. Third baseman Anthony Seratelli mishandled the ball, allowing Lin to score. The following batter, Jose Martinez, flew out to Paulo Orlando, who fired a laser to the plate to nab Perez, who had tagged up and was trying to score.

Wojciechowski allowed a home run to Colon to begin the ninth inning before being lifted in favor of lefty Pat Urckfitz. But the insurance run would prove unnecessary, as the RedHawks offense was unable to score the rest of the way.

The win gives Omaha a one-game lead in the best-of-five series. The two teams will meet up again today at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark at 7:05 PM, Central Time. The game will be available on MiLB.tv.

  • SS Jimmy Paredes - 1/5, RBI, K, CS
  • 2B Jose Martinez - 0/4, 2 K
  • CF George Springer - 2/3, BB
  • 3B Brandon Laird - 0/2, 2 BB
  • 1B Jon Singleton - 1/3, BB
  • DH Japhet Amador - 0/4, 2 K
  • RF Che-Hsuan Lin - 0/3, R, BB
  • C Carlos Perez - 1/3, BB
  • LF Chris Epps - 0/3, K, PO
  • PH Raoul Torrez - 0/0, BB
  • RHP Asher Wojciechowski - 8.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
  • LHP Pat Urckfitz - 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Jose Cisnero - 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Corpus Christi Hooks 2, San Antonio Mission 1 (11 inn.)

Corpus Christi leads series 1-0

Before being promoted in August, Matt Duffy had built a reputation in the California League for coming up with timely hits. Despite playing in just 100 games before moving to the Texas League, Duffy still finds himself in the top ten in the California League in RBI, with 84. So it should come as no surprise that when the Hooks needed a run against the San Antonio Missions (SDP), they knew exactly where to turn, not once, but twice.

Duffy's first RBI came with the Hooks down 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning. After a groundout by Preston Tucker, Domingo Santana drew a walk, advancing to second on an Erik Castro single. Jonathan Meyer struck out swinging, bringing Duffy to the plate. Two pitches later, Duffy lined a ball into center field to score Santana and tie the game.

It would stay tied until the bottom of the 11th inning.

Once again, it was Domingo Santana who reached, this time on a leadoff single to left field. Again, Castro advanced him, this time with a walk. Meyer laid down a sacrifice bunt to Missions pitcher James Needy, who threw to Cory Spangenburg to nab Meyer at first.

That's when the game fell upon Duffy's shoulders one final time. Up 2-1 in the count, Duffy hit Needy's 33rd pitch of the game to right fielder Yeison Asencio. Santana tagged up and ran home to score the game winner, walkoff style, in front of the home crowd of 7,138.

Santana didn't just score both of the Hooks' runs; he also made a thrilling defensive play to prevent any runs from scoring. After Rico Noel hit a triple to lead the game off for the Missions, starter Michael Foltynewicz struck out Cory Spangenburg on five pitches before allowing a shallow fly ball to right against Adam Buschini. Santana made the play and came out firing to catcher Luis Alvarez. Noel beat the throw, but overslid the plate. Alvarez waited for him, ball in hand, and made the tag as the speedy Noel came back to try and score.

Starter Michael Foltynewicz ended the game with six strikeouts, two walks, five hits, and a single run in seven innings of work. Behind him, Alex Sogard and Jonas Dufek combined for four innings of scoreless ball to keep the Hooks' chances alive.

The Hooks, winners of the Texas League South in both the first and second halves, grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series. The two teams will meet again today at Whataburger Field at 7:05 PM Central time.

  • SS Ronald Torreyes - 1/4, BB
  • 2B Kike Hernandez - 0/3, 2 BB, 2 K
  • LF Preston Tucker - 1/5, 2B
  • RF Domingo Santana - 2/4, 2 R, BB, K
  • 1B Erik Castro - 1/3, 2 BB
  • 3B Jonathan Meyer - 0/3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • DH Matt Duffy - 1/4, 2 RBI, K
  • CF Drew Muren - 0/4, K
  • C Luis Alvarez - 0/4, K
  • RHP Michael Foltynewicz - 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, E, 2 WP, HBP
  • LHP Alex Sogard - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, WP, IBB
  • RHP Jonas Dufek - 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, IBB

Lancaster Jethawks - First Round Bye

Seriously, dude.

Quad Cities River Bandits 2, Cedar Rapids Kernels 1

Quad Cities leads series 1-0

The head of the 2012 Houston Astros draft class almost single-handedly carried the River Bandits to a 2-1 victory over the Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN), as Carlos Correa and Rio Ruiz combined to account for five of the team's six hits.

Eighteen-year-old shortstop Correa, the first-overall pick by Houston in 2012, had three hits by himself. Ruiz, Houston's fourth-round pick in the same draft, was a perfect 2-for-2 with an RBI and a walk. The team's only other hit came from promising young center fielder Teoscar Hernandez, who came in to score the eventual game-winning run after hitting it in the eighth inning.

Starter Chris Devenski was rarely overpowering, striking out just a single batter in five innings of work, but allowed just one run on three hits and three walks. The bullpen, on the other hand, was dominant. Lefty Mitchell Lambson, who replaced Devenski in the sixth inning, faced nine batters and retired eight of them - five by strikeout. Andrew Walter followed Lambson on the mound, retiring all four batters he faced - three of them by strikeout. All told, the Kernels strung together just four hits the entire game.

The River Bandits claimed the win in their only home game of the quick, best-of-three series against the Kernels. The series moves to Cedar Rapids today, with a 6:35 PM Central start time.

Joe Bircher is scheduled to make the start against reigning Midwest League Pitcher of the Week Tim Shibuya, who has gone 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA, 0.717 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts to just 4 walks over the 37.2 innings he's pitched since being promoted from Elizabethton of the Appalachian League.

  • 2B Tony Kemp - 0/3, BB
  • CF Teoscar Hernandez - 1/4, R, 2 K
  • SS Carlos Correa - 3/4, R
  • LF Danry Vasquez - 0/3, BB, K
  • 1B Bobby Borchering - 0/4, 4 K
  • 3B Rio Ruiz - 2/2, RBI, BB, E
  • C Roberto Pena - 0/3, K
  • RF Jordan Scott - 0/3, 2 K
  • DH Brian Blasik - 0/2, BB
  • RHP Chris Devenski - 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Mitchell Lambson - 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
  • RHP Andrew Walter - 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Brooklyn Cyclones 4, Tri-City ValleyCats 2

The ValleyCats didn't show any signs of a hangover a game after clinching a playoff berth, as they scored runs in each of the first two innings against the Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM). But a disastrous three-run fifth inning would seal the deal for Brooklyn, who ended Tri-City's regular season with a loss.

Both teams used major league pitchers on rehab assignments to start the game: Edgar Gonzalez for the ValleyCats and Jeurys Familia for the Mets. Each would only pitch a single inning.

Familia's night got off to a rough start as Tri-City shortstop Jack Mayfield beat out an infield single to lead off the game. Adam Nelubowich grounded out, but it was enough to move Mayfield to third. Another groundout, this time by Tyler White, scored Mayfield to give the ValleyCats the early 1-0 edge.

Even with Miller Diaz replacing Familia to start the second inning, it was more of the same, as Yonathan Mejia kicked the inning off with a double on a line drive to center field. A wild pitch advanced Mejia to third, but he was later thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch.

With two outs and the bases empty, Ernesto Genoves drew a walk, advancing to third on a Jon Kemmer line drive single. Ydarqui Marte singled Genoves home from third to give the ValleyCats a 2-0 lead after two innings.

Brooklyn drew closer in the top of the third, with Juan Carlos Gamboa smashing a leadoff home run off of Troy Scribner to close the gap to 2-1. It proved to be the last mistake Scribner would make, however, as he allowed just one of the remaining seven batters he faced to reach base, retiring three of them on strikeouts.

In the fifth inning, however, manager Ed Romero lifted Scribner in favor of lefty Randall Fant, who walked the first three batters he faced before letting in the tying run on a hit by pitch. That was it for his day, as Krishawn Holley came in to clean things up. Holley, though, allowed a single to the first batter he faced - Ismael Tijerina - to allow the go-ahead run. He followed it up with a wild pitch, allowing another Cyclones runner to score. That was the end of the damage, but it would prove to be all Brooklyn needed to seal the 4-2 victory.

The ValleyCats end their season with a 44-32 record, repeating as Stedler Division champions. They'll have the day off today before beginning their first playoff series tomorrow - a best-of-three set against the Aberdeen Ironbirds (BAL). Game one is on Friday at 6:05 PM Central time in Aberdeen.

  • SS Jack Mayfield - 1/4, R, 2 K, HBP, CS
  • 3B Adam Nelubowich - 1/2, 3 BB
  • 1B Tyler White - 0/3, RBI, 2 BB, K
  • CF/RF Ronnie Mitchell - 0/5, 2 K
  • DH Yonathan Mejia - 2/5, 2B
  • 2B Ryan Dineen - 0/4, K
  • C Ernesto Genoves - 0/2, R, 2 BB
  • LF Jon Kemmer - 3/3, HBP, CS
  • RF Ydarqui Marte - 1/3, RBI, 2 K
  • PH Brett Booth - 0/1
  • RHP Edgar Gonzalez - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Troy Scribner - 3.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
  • LHP Randall Fant - 0.0 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, HBP
  • RHP Krishawn Holley - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, WP
  • RHP Zachary Dando - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Chris Munnelly - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

Pulaski Mariners 5, Greeneville Astros 3

Pulaski leads the series 1-0

Forget home-field advantage.

The Pulaski Mariners (SEA) are undefeated in the Appalachian League playoffs, and just a single game away from winning it all, despite not playing a single home game. After defeating the Bluefield Blue Jays in two games on the Jays' home turf, the Mariners traveled to Greeneville to begin the league finals, taking game one 5-3.

The Astros were able to scratch together just four hits against Pulaski: One each from Brian Holberton and Angel Ibanez, and two from Chase McDonald.

McDonald, the Houston Astros' 12th-round pick in the 2013 draft, was arguably the best hitter in Conference USA this season, and one of Greeneville's heroes in game three of the first round. Holberton, meanwhile, was one of the offensive leaders on a North Carolina team that went deep into the College World Series this year. The pair combined for the Astros' only extra base hits - a double for Holberton, and a two-run home run by McDonald.

McDonald's home run came in the first inning to give starter Francis Ramirez a 2-0 lead, but the Mariners immediately began to chip away at it. A walk, a wild pitch, and a single scored their first run in the top of the second, bringing them to within striking distance.

And strike they would.

Jeffrey Zimmerman singled off of Ramirez to open the top of the fourth inning. Ramirez followed that up by allowing a walk, a bunt single, and another walk, the latter of which scored the tying run. Things could have gotten a lot worse, but a triple play off the bat of Toby DeMello ended things before they could. DeMello scored Wilton Martinez on the ball, which turned into your typical 9-3-5-6-4 triple play sacrifice fly.

The Astros still had some fight left in them, though. With Dylan De Meyer replacing Jose Flores on the mound for the Mariners, Holberton led off the bottom of the sixth with a double to left field. McDonald singled him home to tie the game at 3.

The very next inning, though, Pulaski made their move. Erick Gonzalez allowed a leadoff double to Jesus Ugueto, followed by consecutive singles from Kristian Brito and DeMello, the latter scoring Ugueto to move the Mariners up by a run. Dan Kemp then attempted to bunt Brito and DeMello into scoring position, but a heads up play by Gonzalez nabbed the runner at third. Gabriel Franca popped up to second base, and it looked like Greeneville might avoid more damage. Unfortunately, however, Pulaski had other plans, as Aaron Barbosa lined a ball into left field to score DeMello from second.

Greeneville came back strong in the bottom of the seventh inning, with Brett Phillips and Tanner Mathis drawing consecutive one-out walks off of De Meyer, who was then replaced by Carlos Misell. A throwing error on a pickoff attempt moved Phillips and Mathis into scoring position with two outs left. Juan Santana walked to load the bases for Holberton and McDonald, but Misell was able to dance out of trouble, as Holberton flew out to left field before McDonald struck out swinging to end the inning.

Misell retired all six batters he faced through the final two frames, four of them by strikeout, to clinch the 5-3 victory for Pulaski.

The Mariners now need just one win in the final two games - both on their own home field - to win the Appalachian League title. Game 2 begins at 6:00 PM Central time today.

  • LF Tanner Mathis - 0/3, R, 2 BB
  • 2B Juan Santana - 0/2, BB
  • DH Brian Holberton - 1/4, 2B, R, K
  • 1B Chase McDonald - 2/4, HR, R, 3 RBI, K
  • 3B Angel Ibanez - 1/4, E
  • C Alfredo Gonzalez - 0/4, K
  • RF Ariel Ovando - 0/3, BB, 2 K
  • SS Thomas Lindauer - 0/4, 2 K
  • CF Brett Phillips - 0/2, 2 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Francis Ramirez - 5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 K, WP
  • LHP Kevin Ferguson - 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Erick Gonzalez - 2.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, HBP
  • RHP Ryan Connolly - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K


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