Martin Perez

The Round Rock Express’ season ended Monday as they closed their season with a loss to the Oklahoma City Redhawks, losing the series 0-1. They finished the season with a 69-75 record.

The season was filled with both highs and lows as the Express experienced numerous streaks, both winning and losing. Unfortunately for Round Rock, losing streaks did them in, as there were six occasions where the Express lost four or more games in a row, including seven in June. Their best winning streak came in August, where they won six straight games and had their best month of the season.

Headlining the Express were pitchers Martin Perez and Justin Grimm. Perez had mixed results as he capped his season at 7-6, starting in 21 of 22 games. He allowed a .258 batting average, giving up only 10 home runs. Perez got the call up to the Texas Rangers, where he went 1-1 for Texas.

Grimm fared better than Perez, going 11-6 with the Express, starting in 22 of 25 games. He also got called up to the Rangers, posting a 1-1 record.

Batting was center fielder Leonys Martin’s forte this season. He appeared in 55 games posting a .359 batting average with 83 hits and 12 homers. His slugging percentage was .610. This impressive average led to him being called up to the Rangers throughout the season. Martin struggled with the Rangers and this could mean more time with the Express next season.

First baseman Brad Nelson (85 R, 24 HR, 81 RBI) and center fielder Julio Borbon (.304 BA, 78 R, 10 HR) provided to be reliable for the Express, as both appeared in the majority of Round Rock’s games.

The season ended in disappointment for a team coming off an 87-57 season in 2011, their best record since they were conference champions in 2006. In fact, the 2011 season was the Express’ only winning season since 2006. The lone winning season since 2006 contrasts the Express’ early years, where they suffered only one losing season from 2000-2006.

Is this a sign that the Express are headed for the bottom of the league, or can they buck their trend? Heading into next season, it will be important for Round Rock to maintain its key players. Martin’s presence in more than 55 games next season will be needed, but he may be found in MLB next season after potential offseason improvement.

The same can be said of the two pitchers, but their youth could allow them some more time to develop. If Perez and Grimm return for a good amount of games, they will provide reliability on the mound. Only time will tell if the Express can recover from a disappointing season.

The Round Rock Express lost 3-2 to the Iowa Cubs Monday night, capping a four-game series that saw the teams take two wins apiece.

The Express drew first blood in the bottom of the second with a sacrifice fly from third basemen Tommy Mendonca, giving the Express a brief lead before heading into the third. Express starter and top Rangers pitching prospect Martin Perez threw a strong 5 2/3 innings, but the defense behind him did him no favors. Perez only allowed two hits in his outing, but the four errors behind him, two by Mendonca on consecutive plays, allowed two unearned runs to be scored in the top of the third, and the Cubs would not forfeit the lead. Facing a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, Express outfielder Joey Butler singled to start the inning. Second baseman Greg Miclat walked with two outs, moving the tying run into scoring position for former Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon. However, Cubs relief pitcher Blake Parker slammed the door on the Express rally by striking out Borbon, concluding the seventh straight one-run game for the Express.

The series kicked off Friday with Omaha taking the opener in what would become a series of nail-biters. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo belted his fourth and fifth home runs of the season, and Iowa took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, the Express tried desperately to mount a late comeback, thanks in large part to total loss of the strike zone from the Cub’s pitching staff. Three walks and two hit-by-pitches scored the first run of the inning, and the Express would tack on two more runs before falling short on a Leonys Martin fly out with the tying run 90 feet away.

Saturday was the night of the Express outfielders as Borbon, Martin and Butler combined to go 7-for-12 with a home run and three RBIs in the Express’ first home victory of the young season. Express starter Zach Jackson went five innings, allowing 10 hits and four earned runs in the seesaw battle that saw the Express score three runs in the bottom of the seventh, giving them a lead they would not relinquish and snapping their six game losing streak.

Sunday afternoon presented the Round Rock faithful with free baseball as the Express went to extra innings for the second time of the season. Opening day starter Mark Hamburger had a rough outing as he gave up 12 hits and seven earned runs in only 2/3 innings. The Express clawed back in the bottom of the second, scoring four runs of their own.

Martin continued his hot start at the plate, doubling to right field and plating two runs. Brad Nelson tacked on a two out single and the Express had dug themselves out of the early hole. After trading runs down the stretch, the ninth inning ended with the teams tied at 10 runs apiece, and on to extras they went. The Express won the game in the bottom of the 13th with a sacrifice fly from Matt Kata that scored Luis Hernandez who had singled to lead off
the inning.

After the loss on Monday, the Express saw their record fall to 4-8, good for a tie in last place with the Albuquerque Isotopes and five games back of the American Southern Division leading New Orleans Zephyrs.

Round Rock begins a new series Tuesday, matching up with the Omaha Storm Chasers who swept a four game series with the Express just a week ago. Neil Ramirez, who has a 5.00 ERA in nine innings this season, gets the start on the mound for the Express.

Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: Express fall to Iowa tied fro last after 7th straight 1-run game

While the bright lights of Dell Diamond will sit dormant for the first week of the season, the Round Rock Express will open 2012 in Iowa looking to start off on the right foot.

The Express are coming off a stellar 2011 that saw them win the American South division in the Pacific Coast League with 87 wins. The downside for the Express was losing the opening series of the playoffs to Omaha in four games.

While minor league team rosters are always fluid with players moving up or down between the majors, the Express return with most of the core that led them to the playoffs a season ago. Returning are top pitching prospects Neil Ramirez and Martin Perez. Express pitcher of the year Mark Hamburger will be the opening night starter in Iowa after posting a 3.88 ERA in 62 PCL innings last summer. Out of the bullpen, the Express will feature former first-round supplemental draft pick Tanner Scheppers, who with a bit of good health and success, could find his way to the bigs before the season’s end.

In the outfield, the Express have major league talent sprinkled throughout. Former Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon got optioned to AAA after a lackluster spring training. Borbon will be trying to get back into the good graces of the major league club with a productive stay in Round Rock. Also in the outfield is highly-rated prospect Leonys Martín. Martin and Borbon will be duking it out to see who gets the first call from the majors if an injury arrives in the Rangers outfield.

In the infield, former AA third basemen Tommy Mendonca will get the nod at the hot corner — third base — for the Express. Mendonca hit .278 with the Rough Riders in 2011 and belted 25 home runs. The other corner infield spot will be held down by fellow former Rough Rider Mike Bianucci. Bianucci hit 30 home runs with Frisco while hitting a career low .243 in 535 at-bats. Both Mendonca and Bianucci arrive in Round Rock looking to raise their stock amongst scouts and general managers across baseball.

Other names to write down and remember for future reference are Jurickson Profar, Engel Beltre and Mike Olt. All three of these top prospects are starting 2012 in AA Frisco, but could quickly get the call up to Round Rock during the season if they perform up to expectations.

The first year under Rangers management provided a fresh breath of air to the Express franchise, which experienced its first winning season since 2006. If the Rangers can stay healthy and perform on the main stage, and prevent plucking at the talented core of the Express, there is reason to think another winning season is on its way at the Dell Diamond.