Exactly one month into the season, the Round Rock Express don’t look anything like last year’s team. Which is good and bad.
Yangervis Solarte’s line-drive single to right field in the 12th inning late Friday gave Round Rock a 5-4 win over Nashville in a 4-hour, 32-minute game.
The Express is 16-12; a year ago they were 13-15 and eventually skidded to a last-place finish in the American Southern Division.
While last year’s team hit well but struggled pitching, it’s the reverse in 2013.
“The pitching has been outstanding,” manager Bobby Jones said. “They throw strikes. They don’t walk people. The starters go seven innings, then the bullpen closes the door. Just like you’d draw it up.”
Round Rock leads the Pacific Coast League in ERA at 3.55 and saves with 11 and is third in strikeouts. In 2012 the ERA was 4.75 and the saves and strikeouts were middle of the pack or worse.
The bats haven’t come around. The Express is 13th in scoring at 4.2 per game and 13th in average at .257. A year ago they were hitting .275 and averaging 4.9 runs.
“We’ve had several chances to win games late and didn’t cash in,” Jones said. “Then there’ve been other times we could have blown a game open and didn’t get the big hit.”
Two numbers stick out like a sore thumb: a .185 average with the bases loaded and .218 mark with runners in scoring position.
The Texas Rangers’ top two prospects are not tearing it up. Jurickson Profar, while productive, is scuffling a bit at .230 - which looks Rogers Hornsby-esque compared to Mike Olt’s .139 average. Olt currently is out with vision problems, which could explain a lot.
Versatile Robinson Chirinos, recently acquired from Tampa Bay, is a nice addition, batting .309 with 11 RBIs in 64 at bats. He caught Friday and belted two triples.
“That’s good scouting by the Rangers,” Jones said of Chirinos. “He’s a real good athlete. He’s helped us at several spots.”
Round Rock’s pitching has been nearly all good.
Converted reliever Josh Lindblom is 3-0 as a starter with a 1.90 ERA. Brad Mills is 3-0 with a 2.81. Recently promoted Ross Wolf has a 1.62 mark for three games.
“Lindblom has been a big surprise,” Jones said. “It’s like he’s been a starter his whole career.”
Cory Burns has been perfect out of the bullpen - a 0.00 ERA and six saves, Nate Robertson has a 0.90 ERA and Neal Cotts is at 1.32 with a staggering 31 strikeouts in 15 innings.