Brundage’s Missions ride bullpen arms to 2002 championship

Second in a series of stories on the six championships won by the San Antonio Missions during the Wolff Stadium era.

2002

Big picture: The Missions opened the season with a thud, losing 45 games and finishing last in the first half. They closed with a flourish, winning the second-half division race and advancing to the postseason, where they claimed the franchise’s first Texas League title since 1997. It was also a big moment for the Seattle Mariners’ minor-league department. The Mariners and manager Dave Brundage were in just their second season in San Antonio after the Missions’ split with the Dodgers.

Regular-season record: 68-72.

First half: 25-45. Second half: 43-27.

Playoff record: 7-5. The second-half TL West champion Missions won three out of five to claim a first-round series against the Round Rock Express. They followed by winning four of seven against the Tulsa Drillers for the championship.

Parent club: Seattle Mariners

Manager: Dave Brundage, second season in San Antonio

Top players: P Rett Johnson (10-4, 3.62 ERA), P Aaron Looper (6-1, 2.28, ERA, bullpen), P Aaron Taylor (24 saves, bullpen), P Allan Simpson (10-5, 3.06 ERA, bullpen), 3B Greg Dobbs (.365), CF Jamal Strong (.278, 46 stolen bases).

Players who reached MLB: Pitchers – Aaron Looper, Julio Mateo, Chris Mears, Gil Meche, J.J. Putz, Allan Simpson, Rafael Soriano, Aaron Taylor, Matt Thornton. Position players – Andy Barkett, Greg Dobbs, Antonio Perez, Chris Snelling, Jamal Strong.

Key team stats: Sixth in batting average (.253), eighth in HR (51) and eighth in runs scored (533). Second in ERA (3.43), second in WHIP (1.318), first in strikeouts (1,022), eighth in walks issued (516). Seventh in both fielding percentage (.970) and fewest errors (161).

Notable: After finishing 20 games under .500 in the first half, the Missions turned it on in the second, winning the West on the strength of pitching out of the bullpen. In August, they clinched a spot in the playoffs with a road victory in Round Rock. Before the series, Brundage told his players that when they clinched, he didn’t want to see them celebrate. He wanted them to show some quiet confidence against a team they would face in the first round of the postseason.

Quotable: “We were going to act like, ‘This is not a big deal.
We were making a statement, and the statement was, ‘You know, we’re not just here to get into the playoffs. We’re here to win it.” – Dave Brundage

Sources: samissions.com, expressnews.com, baseball-reference.com

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