ROUND ROCK EXPRESS

Express fighting for playoff position at mid-season break

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The Houston Astros’ recent tradition of winning has trickled down to Round Rock.

At the midpoint of the PCL season, the Express are lurking, just two games behind the San Antonio Missions at the top of the American Southern Division and a spot in the PCL postseason. 

“This is a great group of guys,” infielder Jack Mayfield said. “The charisma we have in here is amazing. All these guys are pulling for each other and it’s a great locker room. We’ve got great guys leading us. We’re going to win more than we lose because we have great talent on this team.”

Round Rock hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015 when they were the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.  

This year, the Express are 52-38 in the first half, two games behind the Missions (54-36). Through 12 head-to-head games this season, the two squads have each won six in the series, and San Antonio most recently took three of four in a series in late June. 

The teams meet four more times this season in a late-August series at Dell Diamond. 

“They were just hitting well at the time,” Mayfield said. “I didn’t say I was impressed, they just had a good series. We know we’re a really good team too. We’re not looking at other teams, we’ve just got to play our game.”

The talent on the Round Rock opening-day roster was there, with two top hitting prospects in Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez and two top pitching prospects in Forrest Whitley and Corbin Martin. 

Whitley has been hurt for most of the season after a shaky start to the season, while Martin is currently on the injured list and has split time between Triple-A and the Houston Astros, where he has made five appearances. 

But the hitting for the Express was has been sensational, with Alvarez and Tucker leading the way. 

Before getting called up in early June, Alvarez was on a torrid pace in the minor leagues, batting .343 with 23 home runs and 71 RBIs in 56 appearances. He has seven home runs and 25 RBIs since getting called up to the big leagues. 

Tucker got off to a slow start but picked it up as the summer got hotter, he leads the team and is third in the entire PCL with 24 home runs and leads the active Express players with 64 RBIs. he has there multi-homer games this season. 

The biggest thing he’s looking for in the second half is a more consistent roster. 

“We’ve had a lot of guys moving around,” Tucker said. “We’ve had a bunch of guys up in the big leagues and some guys up from Double-A, so we haven’t had one team here all year. It’s a little chaotic having people move around a lot and you have a different team every week.”

Tucker and starting pitcher Cy Sneed — who was called up to the Astros organization a couple of weeks ago — were named to the PCL All-Star Team. 

Round Rock has won 12 of 22 series this season and has swept two series so far. The Express have yet to be swept, but narrowly avoided just that when they won their final game before the All-Star break with an 11-2 win over the Oklahoma City Dodgers on Sunday. 

For Tucker, building longer winning streaks avoiding long skids is key if Round Rock want to continue pushing towards the playoffs. 

“If we can just stay consistent and keep those losses to a minimum and have short streaks,” Tucker said. “I feel like we’ve done a really good job and then we look up and San Antonio is in front of us.”

Round Rock kicks off the second half of the season with an eight-game homestand beginning Thursday night at  7 p.m. against the Iowa Cubs and continuing Monday night at 7 p.m. against the Memphis Redbirds. 

“You never want to lose a game,” Mayfield said. “Winning helps brings development. When you lose, you’ve got to learn from it. That’s what is good about the Astros organization. Every level I’ve played at in this organization we’ve won games and it’s expected here and we’re trying to keep that rolling in Round Rock.”

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