NEW ORLEANS, La. - After stranding 10 on base throughout the afternoon, including the bases loaded in the ninth inning, the Round Rock Express fell to the New Orleans Zephyrs Monday, 3-2.
Express starter Ross Wolf made his second start of the season after taking the hill to begin a game for the first time since 2005 against Iowa on April 10. Ross was solid, allowing two runs on five hits over 6.0 innings, but suffered the loss after the E-Train offense fizzled.
The Zephyrs struck first with a run in the opening frame after third baseman Ed Lucas doubled with one out and was knocked in on a single to left by right fielder Bryan Peterson. The Zephyrs added to their lead two innings later when Lucas doubled for the second time off Wolf and was brought home on another RBI single off the bat of Peterson.
New Orleans starter Brad Hand stifled the Round Rock offense, allowing just three hits over 6.1 scoreless innings on the hill before the Z's turned the game over to the bullpen. With Hand out of the game, a runner on first and one out, designated hitter Mike Olt drilled a line drive to left to put two on for first baseman Chris McGuiness. The Round Rock leader in RBI could not put the Express on the board as he grounded into a double play to end the scoring opportunity.
In the bottom half of the seventh, the E-Train went to the bullpen, bringing right-hander Johan Yan into the game to begin the frame. After striking out designated hitter Matt Diaz, Yan made a 3-0 mistake to Matt Downs as the shortstop took the offering over the left field wall for a solo shot, giving New Orleans a 3-0 advantage.
The Express offense finally got going in the top of the eighth as shortstop Greg Miclat doubled to lead off the inning for his second hit of the afternoon and moved to third on a wild pitch by reliever Jordan Smith. After a one-out walk by center fielder Jim Adduci, right fielder Joey Butler followed with a fielder's choice that plated Miclat to pull Round Rock within two at 3-1.
The Express mounted another rally in the ninth when second baseman Yangervis Solarte and third baseman Robinson Chirinos led off with back-to-back singles. Olt came through with a RBI double, scoring Solarte and putting runners on second and third with no outs. New Orleans closer Chris Hatcher eased the pressure after forcing McGuiness to foul out to third base for the first out. The Zephyrs intentionally walked Miclat to load the bases for left fielder Aaron Cunningham. After working the count full and fouling multiple pitches off, Cunningham took strike three for the second out. Adduci stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game or give Round Rock the lead, but was retired on the first pitch after a ground out to second base to end the game and leave the bases loaded.
Hand earned the victory, his second of the season as he has yet to allow an earned run on the season over three starts (16.1 IP). Hatcher recorded his fifth save of the season and third against the Express.
Round Rock will travel to Oklahoma City to open a four-game series against the RedHawks April 16-19 before returning home on April 20 for an eight-game home stand. Tomorrow night, LHP Brad Mills (2-0, 0.69 ERA) will take the bump for the Express. He will be opposed by LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-1, 9.82 ERA). The next set of home games for the Express will include the New Orleans Zephyrs (April 20-23) and the Albuquerque Isotopes (April 25-28). For tickets and more information, visit www.RoundRockExpress.com or call (512) 255-2255. Keep up with the Express on Facebook and Twitter!