The minor league season is winding down. The A-ball levels have reached the end of the regular season. The Missions entered Tuesday night with six regular season games left while El Paso has 15 left, including 12 at home. El Paso found the win column as they make a late-season playoff push. The Missions lost against Amarillo while the Storm are just three wins away from a Cal League title.
Chihuahuas 9, Round Rock Express 4
Key Statistics: RF Brandon Dixon, 2-for-4, R, HR (7), RBI, BB; C Brett Sullivan, 2-for-4, R, BB; 1B Kyle Martin, 2-for-3, 2 R, HR (16), 3 RBI, BB; RHP Pedro Avila, 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; RHP Michel Baez, IP, 2 H, ER; RHP Angel Felipe (W, 2-1) 2 IP, 2 K
Prospect Watch: The Chihuahuas opened the week with a win over Round Rock to take a half-game lead over the second-place OKC Dodgers. The Dodgers had their game postponed in Albuquerque. Round Rock was just a game behind coming into the contest. … Brandon Dixon continues to power El Paso towards a division title. The 30-year-old slugger had a pair of hits, including his seventh homer in only 14 games since joining the Triple-A club. The two hits extended his hitting streak to 17 games overall. All seven homers have come in just 46 at-bats this month as he’s posted an otherworldly .435/.518/1.022 line so far in September. … Not to be outdone, first baseman Kyle Martin had two hits, including his sweet sixteenth homer of the season. The 29-year-old has come on in September, thanks in part to making more consistent contact. He has punched out just seven times in 41 plate appearances this month (17% K-rate). Coming into September, Martin struck out in a third of his plate appearances with El Paso. The former Phillies draft pick is hitting .368/.415/.632 in September. … Righty Pedro Avila kept the Chihuahuas in the game, although his overall stat line wasn’t terribly impressive. Avila worked five innings, and allowed three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out three. The former big leaguer has pitched five innings in five straight starts. In those 25 innings, Avila has pitched to a 2.52 ERA while averaging a strikeout per inning. Tuesday was also a milestone of sorts for Avila as he reached the 100-inning mark for the first time since 2018, when he was a member of the Storm when they were a High-A team. He had thrown 99 innings coming into Tuesday’s start – 95 with El Paso and four with a four-inning stint earlier this year with the big league club.
Roster Moves: With the TinCaps season ending, infielder Jarryd Dale was sent up to El Paso to help out down the stretch. Infielder Chase Valentine – who was playing at a junior college before signing as an undrafted free agent earlier this summer – was sent back to the ACL from El Paso.
Amarillo Sod Poodles 4, Missions 3
Prospect Watch: The Missions began their final regular season series by losing at home to the Amarillo Sod Poodles. … Shortstop Connor Hollis had a pair of singles and drove in a run Tuesday. The multi-hit effort raised Hollis’ batting average to .333, giving him a nine-point lead for the Texas League batting crown. Since returning from a stint at Triple-A El Paso, Hollis is hitting .405/.489/.541with a homer in September. As we have mentioned previously, if Hollis holds on to win the Texas League batting crown, it will be the second batting title of his career. He won the Appalachian League batting title back in 2018 in his first season of pro ball. … Left fielder Tirso Ornelas had two hits in the loss. The ever-streaky outfielder has had a very up-and-down season. He hit well in April, struggled in May, was hot in June and July, and has cooled off over the last six weeks. He came into Tuesday’s tilt mired in a 6-for-36 slump in September. Overall, Ornelas’ production has been just below league average this season. … Right-hander Nolan Watson pitched well for the Missions but did not factor in the decision. Watson allowed a run on seven hits in five innings, walking none and striking out a pair. The Indianapolis native has pitched well at times for the Missions but overall inconsistency has hurt his overall numbers. Watson did his best work in June when he pitched to a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings. He struggled in August but has been better in his first two starts in September. Overall, he has a 5.84 in 91 innings this season.
Roster Moves: The Missions received a pair of bullpen arms for the stretch run. Right-hander Nick Thwaits and left-hander Ramon Perez were promoted from Fort Wayne. The move puts the Missions at the 28-player limit for the Double-A level.
Storm 9, Inland Empire 66ers 2 (Lake Elsinore lead the best-of-three series, 1-0)
Key Statistics: SS Jackson Merrill, 2-for-4, R, BB, RBI; 2B Nerwilian Cedeño, 2-for-4, BB; 1B Griffin Doersching, 3-for-5, 3 R, HR (1, 2), 3 RBI; RHP Victor Lizarraga (W, 1-0) 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K; RHP Will Geerdes (S, 1) 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 2 K
Prospect Watch: The Storm scored six runs in the ninth inning to turn a close, tense playoff game into a rout. The series will shift to Lake Elsinore on Thursday. If the Storm win, they advance to the Cal League Finals. If they lose, they will play game three at home on Friday night. … First baseman Griffin Doersching supplied the power for the Storm, homering twice in the victory. In his first at-bat of the evening, the former Oklahoma State star socked a breaking ball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer. He connected again in the top of the ninth to give the Storm a little insurance. The 24-year-old has a lot of swing-and-miss to his game but when he is on time, he has prodigious power. If you count his effort Tuesday night, Doersching has homered 11 times in 124 plate appearances as a pro. The Wisconsin native is old for Low-A and he’s strictly a first baseman/designated hitter in the field but his power is a lot of fun to watch. … Right-hander Victor Lizarraga – the ace of the Storm pitching staff – got the start and pitched well. He dominated the 66ers lineup with the only blemish being a two-run homer in the fourth that briefly tied the game at two. The 18-year-old pitcher struck out nine batters – his career-high in the regular season was eight. If the Storm advance to the finals, the talented righty could get one more outing. His outing Tuesday put him right at 100 innings for the season. … After Lizarraga left, righty Will Geerdes took over and took care of the 66ers offense. Geerdes pitched 3.1 innings and didn’t allow a hit. He did walk two, striking out a pair as well. The right-hander out of Virginia pitched to a 4.40 ERA in 14.1 innings for the Storm this season after signing with the organization as an undrafted free agent. … Outfielder Samuel Zavala left the game with what appeared to be an injury to his wrist after his first at-bat. The talented 18-year-old immediately winced after he fouled a ball off, then was removed from the field. The Venezuela native has asserted himself as one of the top prospects in the season in his first stateside campaign.
Roster Moves: Infielder Graham Pauley – who hit well for the Storm down the stretch – was sent back to the ACL as the Cal League playoffs got underway. Left-hander Jesus Gonzalez was activated from the injured list.