As we sit about a week from the New York Penn and Appy League openers, the best news is still in Lexington, where the Legends now have a 3-game lead over the Hagerstown Suns in the South Atlantic North.
Jimmy Barthmaier (6 - 1, 1.77) threw 6 innings of one-hit ball, and Hunter Pence extended his hit streak to 13 games and the "pride of the system" (as Brownie said yesterday) took their second straight over Hagerstown Sunday. Ole Sheldon--who you may remember as having the biggest hit of Greeneville's season last year--hit a two-out, tenth inning RBI single to propel Lexington.
With six games left to play, the Legends lead the Suns and the Lake County Captains by three games. Lexington and Hagerstown square off twice more in their oddball Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday four-game series.
The centerfielder Pence leads the South Atlantic League in homers, RBI, and slugging percentage, and is fifth in average. The line is currently at .346-23-52. The SLG is at .723 and the OPS for good measure is 1.144.
Almost as dominant has been lefthander Troy Patton, who after Friday's game is riding a 31-game scoreless inning streak. Patton, with 64.1 innings pitched leads the SAL with a 0.98 ERA. He has given up 42 hits and 17 walks for a WHIP just slightly under his ERA.
The SAL midseason All-Star team has been announced, and it features six Legends players. Joining Patton and Pence are Barthmaier, second baseman Jonny Ash, shortstop Ben Zobrist, and rightfielder Frankie Caraballo. Also on the All-Star pitching staff is the right-hander Barthmaier.
The Corpus Christi Hooks have won five straight games and have climbed into sole possession of third place in the Texas League West. Mark McLemore, second in the Texas League in ERA, pitched seven innings worth of one-hit ball, but was no-decisioned Saturday, and Chris Sampson, just 2 - 8, but with a respectable 3.40 ERA, pitched a complete game seven-hitter Sunday.
Only Josh Anderson on the Hooks is anywhere near the offensive leader boards, but their staff is 1-2-3 in the Texas League in strikeouts and 2-5-7 in ERA. The strikeout leaders are in order Fernando Nieve, with 89, Jason Hirsh, with 65, and McLemore with 56. Hirsh falls off the list in ERA, but righthander Tim McClaskey has posted a 2.97 ERA so far to make the list at number 7.
Nieve--undoubtedly the best Astros pitching prospect who has not yet reached the majors--has a 2.77 ERA and has only walked 28.
With Houston and Corpus Christi out of the cellar, the Carolina League Salem Avalanche remain the only team in the organization to reside in their divisional doghouse. Mario Garza, who has led his team in homers in both his previous professional years, leads Carolina to date, as well, has hit at a .315 clip and has slugged .712. Catcher Kevin Davidson continues his good year, bad year pattern, and has hit .317 while reaching base more than 40% of the time.
The Avalanche have not had great pitching, but perhaps their best starter is Mitch Talbot, who is currently 3 - 4 with a 3.43. Talbot has struck out 41 while only walking 19. Only one member of the Avs was selected to the Carolina League All-Star team: closer Aaron Williams has a 2.59 ERA and 13 saves. You can click here to read about this crazy two-city, one-day doubleheader the Avalanche played against Lynchburg yesterday.
The game is ongoing as I write, but it looks like the Express are going to even their record at 32. They scored eight runs in the top of the sixth at Albuquerque, three of them coming on Mike Coolbaugh's second home run of the night. Brandon Duckworth had started (and hit a run-scoring double), but was long gone by the time all the good stuff went down.
The Express have been somewhat destabilized by all the moves the Astros have made, shuffling Chris Burke, Ezequiel Astacio and Mike Burns among others between Austin and Houston, and those among the league leaders who haven't seen Houston are few. Jared Gothreaux is twelfth in the PCL in ERA with a 3.58, but has a WHIP over 2.00.
Aside from Todd Self (.391) and double-duty Brooks Kieschnick (.318), the Express' batting leader is Carlos Rivera at .312. Danny Klassen, Luke Scott, and Mike Coolbaugh have all slugged in the .550 range.
Unlike the other leagues, the PCL doesn't close their first half anytime soon, and it's certainly conceivable that Round Rock could get hot and still take the PCL American South . . .