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 Sugar Land Space Cowboys

Off First Half Pacific Coast League Title, Space Cowboys Take on Tacoma at Home

June 25, 2024 - Pacific Coast League (PCL)
Sugar Land Space Cowboys News Release


SUGAR LAND, TX - After clinching the first half Pacific Coast League title and securing a home-field advantage for the Pacific Coast League Championship Series in September, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys begin the second half of the 2024 season with a six-game home series versus the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, at Constellation Field from June 25 through 30.

Record:

Sugar Land: 49-26, best record in the Pacific Coast League

Tacoma: 43-32, finished 6.0 games back of Sugar Land in the first half

Season Series:

This is the first matchup of the season between Sugar Land and Tacoma.

Last Week:

Sugar Land: 4-2 @ El Paso

Tacoma: 4-2 vs. Las Vegas

Projected Pitching Matchups:

Tuesday - RHP Michael Mariot (4-3, 5.62) vs. RHP Ryan Gusto (1-1, 6.39)

Wednesday - TBA vs. TBA

Thursday - LHP Johnathan Diaz (8-1, 3.26) vs. RHP AJ Blubaugh (5-2, 3.58)

Friday - RHP Casey Lawrence (4-6, 5.75) vs. LHP Eric Lauer (1-2, 7.13)

Saturday - RHP Emerson Hancock (2-1, 1.91) vs. LHP Colton Gordon (4-0, 4.67)

Sunday - RHP Michael Mariot vs. RHP Ryan Gusto

Prospecting (Organizational ranking per MLB Pipeline):

Sugar Land - RHP AJ Blubaugh (#7), LHP Colton Gordon (#9), INF Will Wagner (#14), INF Jacob Amaya (#22), OF Pedro León (#26) and INF Shay Whitcomb (#30)

Tacoma - OF Jonatan Clase (#10)

New For the Second Half of the Season:

Beginning tonight, all games in the Pacific Coast League will only use the challenge system for the remainder of the season. Each team begins the game with the ability to challenge the call of a ball or a strike. When a team wins one of their challenges, they keep it and may use it again. A challenge that is upheld results in a lost challenge for the team. The fully automated balls and strikes (ABS) zone will not be used for the remainder of the season.

Playoff Bound:

For the first time in their affiliated history, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys will play for the Pacific Coast League Championship. The best-of-three Championship Series will be hosted at Constellation Field from September 24 through 26, with the Space Cowboys facing off against the winner of the second half of the Pacific Coast League season. In the event the Space Cowboys also clinch the best record in the Pacific Coast League in the second half, they will play the second half runner up in the Championship Series. The winner of the Pacific Coast League Championship series will head to Las Vegas for a one-game Triple-A Championship versus the winner of the International League on September 28.

How the First Half Was Won:

The Space Cowboys went 49-26 in the first half, clinching the best overall record with four games remaining in the half after a 7-1 victory on Wednesday night against the El Paso Chihuahuas. Out of their first 13 series of the season, Sugar Land won nine of them outright, split two six-game series and lost just two series, dropping their only six-game set of the first half in Las Vegas at the end of May.

The Space Cowboys rode their incredible offense to the first half title. At the halfway point of the season, Sugar Land leads Minor League Baseball in runs scored, plating 507 runs in 75 games, averaging around 6.7 runs per contest. They've outpaced the next closest team in Minor League Baseball, the Reno Aces, by 44 total runs, and are over 100 runs clear of the Baltimore Orioles, who lead Major League Baseball with 405 runs scored in 78 total games.

Part of the Space Cowboys offensive success can be attributed to the longball. Sugar Land has mashed 116 home runs, also the most in Minor League Baseball, homering in 57 of their first 75 games while sporting four players that have hit double-digit home runs (Shay Whitcomb - 17, Jesús Bastidas - 16, Pedro León - 13, Joey Loperfido - 13). The Space Cowboys have also waited teams out, working 381 walks, the fourth most in Minor League Baseball. As a result, Sugar Land currently owns an .850 OPS as a team, the highest mark in full-season Minor League Baseball this year.

One of the other components to Sugar Land's first half success was the back end of the bullpen. Sugar Land relievers combined for 24 saves in 33 save chances, tied for the second-most saves in Minor League Baseball in the first half and the most in Triple-A. The setup relievers also held the lead for the Space Cowboys during the first half of the season, recording a Minor League-leading 52 holds in the first half, five clear of the International League First Half Champion Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A, Royals). Sugar Land went 34-2 in games in which they had the lead after six innings, 37-3 in games in which they held the lead after seven frames and an incredible 41-3 in games in which they had the lead after eight innings. In short, if Sugar Land had a lead after six innings, they were going to hold on to it.

Additionally, almost no other team in baseball has generated double plays like the Space Cowboys, with Sugar Land hurlers inducing a Minor League-leading 69 ground ball double plays. In total, the Space Cowboys have turned 76 double plays, the second most in Minor League Baseball, while turning two of the six triple plays in Minor League Baseball this year.

Finally, the Space Cowboys clinched the first half by excelling on the road. Sugar Land played 45 of their first 75 games away from Constellation Field, tied with the Reno Aces for the most road games played by a Minor League team in the first half. The Space Cowboys went an impressive 30-15, unsurprisingly the most road wins in Minor League Baseball this season.

Who's Hot for Sugar Land:

INF Will Wagner:

A stint on the injured list from June 4 through June 18 did nothing to slow down Wagner's hot hitting. On May 12, Wagner spotted a .234 batting average. In the 21 games since, he has raised his average by 77 points, to where he is now hitting .311, good for the third-highest batting average among qualified hitters in the Pacific Coast League.

During his last 21 games, Wagner is slashing .415/.500/.598/1.098 (34-for-82) with five doubles, two triples, two home runs, 11 RBI, 19 runs scored and 15 walks to just nine strikeouts. He's hit safely in 19 of his last 21 games, including 11 multi-hit efforts, and is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak, the longest active hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League, and a 13-game on-base streak. Wagner registered an RBI single on Sunday at El Paso, giving him eight consecutive games with an RBI, the longest streak in Space Cowboys history.

Shay Whitcomb:

After winning the Joe Bauman Award in 2023 by leading the Minor League's with 35 home runs, Whitcomb spoke of wanting to improve his plate discipline and contact rate in 2024 while maintaining his power. The 25-year-old has hit that mark so far through the first half of this season, slashing .309/.390/.571/.961 in 68 games with 13 doubles, two triples, 17 home runs, 66 RBI, 53 runs scored and 13 stolen bases in 17 total attempts.

If he can maintain that same production rate through the second half of the season, Whitcomb is on pace to have 26 doubles, four triples, 34 home runs and 142 RBI overall in 2024. Regardless, at the moment Whitcomb leads the Pacific Coast League in RBI while sitting third in home runs, fourth in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases (148), seventh in runs scored, eighth in OBP, tied for eighth in hits and ninth in extra-base hits (32).

In the Space Cowboys six-game series in El Paso, Whitcomb hit safely in five of six games, going 9-for-26 (.346) with a double, two home runs, seven RBI, five runs scored, four walks and just two punchouts in 30 plate appearances.

Jacob Amaya

Amaya didn't appear in a game from May 24 to June 3, but since returning to the lineup on June 4 for Sugar Land, he has slashed .341/.442/.500/.942 (15-for-44) with a double, two home runs, eight RBI and 10 runs scored in 12 total games. Amaya has hit safely in nine of 12 games and recorded five multi-hit games.

RHP Kaleb Ort

Potentially lost in the mix of Sugar Land's relief corps, Ort has been nails out of the Space Cowboys bullpen since joining the team on June 1. The righty has made eight appearances, throwing 8.0 innings and allowing just one run on four hits with four walks and 11 strikeouts, translating to a 1.13 ERA and a .143 batting average against. Only LHP Bryan King has a lower ERA in the month of June among Space Cowboys hurlers that have made at least two appearances, and Ort's 8.0 innings of work are tied with RHP Logan VanWey for the third-most inning thrown in the month of June among Space Cowboys relievers.

RHP Conner Greene

Count Greene as another key cog of the Space Cowboys bullpen, both during the entire first half and down the final stretch. In the month of June, Greene is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in five appearances, giving up just one earned run in 7.2 innings of work with three walks and 10 strikeouts. Greene made a spot-start for the Space Cowboys on June 15 at Constellation Field against Oklahoma City and spun 2.2 scoreless innings, helping Sugar Land to a 14-5 win that clinched the series victory over OKC. The righty then took the mound with Sugar Land leading 4-1 in the sixth on Wednesday night at El Paso and fired 2.0 perfect innings of relief, collecting a hold in the Space Cowboys first-half clinching win over the Chihuahuas.

RHP Ryan Gusto

Gusto is slated to start twice for the Space Cowboys this week, and the righty has been very good during the month of June. In his three last starts, Gusto is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA, allowing four earned runs in 16.0 innings of work, walking just two while registering 14 strikeouts. Gusto turned in a quality outing on June 6 at Salt Lake City, giving up one run in 6.0 frames in a no-decision. The righty last pitched on Wednesday night in El Paso, scattering seven hits and allowing just one run over 5.0 innings with three strikeouts to help Sugar Land clinch the first half Pacific Coast League title, securing his first Triple-A victory in the process.

Who's Hot For Tacoma:

OF Spencer Packard

A ninth-round pick by the Mariners in 2021 out of Campbell, Packard was promoted to Tacoma on June 11. Since then, he has hit reached base safely in all eight games he's appeared in, hitting .355 (11-for-31) with a .429 on-base percentage and four doubles.

OF Nick Solak

Solak has reached safely in his last 10 games, hitting safely in five straight and nine of the last 10 dating back to May 24. During that stretch, Solak is batting .412 (14-for-34) with three doubles, seven RBI, six runs scored and just four strikeouts. Solak went 3-for-5 on Sunday against Las Vegas with a double and three RBI.

Tacoma's Running Game

The Rainiers enter Tuesday with 153 stolen bases in 193 attempts this season, the most stolen bases in the Pacific Coast League by a wide margin (Albuquerque is second with 100 and the Space Cowboys are third with 94). In their first 75 games, the Rainiers were held without a stolen base in just 10 games, so look for Tacoma to run if they have baserunners reach.

Jason Vosler

Since May 16, Vosler has knocked four doubles, a triple and 11 home runs, driving in 37 in his last 32 games. His 11 home runs and 37 RBI in that span lead the Pacific Coast League, just in front of Shay Whitcomb (10 home runs, 34 RBI).

Familiar Faces

Former Space Cowboys Michael Papierski (2021-22) and RHP Ty Buttrey (2023) are on the Rainiers active roster.


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