Whirlwind week seats Round Rock Express atop division

Christian Corona

One would think that consecutive doubleheaders would leave a baseball team fried, but Round Rock had enough in the tank to win both of its games this weekend.

Last week, the Express were scheduled to have a four-game series in New Orleans, but Mother Nature wouldn’t let them finish their first two games. Despite the rainy conditions Tuesday and Wednesday, the teams were to fit in four contests before the Express flew out Saturday morning. On Thursday and Friday, they finished the games they started earlier in the week and then played shortened seven-inning games.

Round Rock split both double-headers, beating New Orleans 7-3 on Thursday before losing 4-1 in the next game.

On Friday, the Express followed up a 6-3 loss with a 2-1 win. They flew out of New Orleans at 8:15 a.m. the next morning, landed in Austin at 11 a.m. and started their four-game set against the Oklahoma City RedHawks at 7:00 p.m. The Express mustered the energy to defeat the RedHawks 4-3 after pushing a run across in the eighth and ninth innings, the last one coming on a walk-off single by designated hitter Brad Nelson.

The 14-2 victory Round Rock had the following day brought its winning streak to three and marked the seventh consecutive day that saw the Express win because of the wacky week they had. Round Rock’s crazy yet successful run, coupled with Albuquerque’s current five-game losing streak has paved the way for the Express to reclaim the PCL American South Division lead. Round Rock led the division for 53 consecutive days before Albuquerque took three out of four games from the Express earlier this month. Now, the Express hold a two-game lead over the Isotopes as their stay in second place was short-lived.

The fact that Triple-A Round Rock has made this run without its hot-hitting catcher makes it even more impressive. When Texas Rangers starting catcher Mike Napoli suffered a strained oblique and after he was placed on the 15-day disabled list, former Longhorn Taylor Teagarden was called up. Teagarden owns the Express’ fifth-highest batting average (.326) and second-highest OPS (1.170), but big league pitching has cooled off the Dallas native as he’s 4-for-17 (.235) since being brought back to the big leagues June 12.

Another one of the Rangers’ starters, shortstop Elvis Andrus, was momentarily knocked out of the starting lineup as well after he sprained his wrist Friday in an 8-1 win over the New York Mets. Express shortstop Omar Quintanilla, a former Longhorn, wasn’t called up to fill in Andrus’ place, but he is still plugging away. He has gone 10-for-32 and hit a pair of doubles, triples, and home runs in his last eight games. In his latest performance, Quintanilla went 3-for-5 and was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.

Round Rock’s next six games are all against last-place teams — two more dates with Oklahoma City and then four more with Nashville, who sits 6.5 games behind the Omaha Storm Chasers in the PCL American North. A critical four-game series beginning July 4 with Albuquerque awaits the Express after that.