ROUND ROCK, Tx - The Round Rock Express got back to their winning ways Tuesday night in the series opener against the Oklahoma City RedHawks with an 8-6 victory.
Express starter and Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week Brad Mills cruised through the first inning before getting into some trouble in the second. RedHawk third baseman Jimmy Paredes led things off with a single and immediately stole second with left fielder Trevor Crowe at the plate. Crowe hit a single to advance Paredes, who came around to score off a single from center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin. A sacrifice bunt followed by a throwing error from Mills scored Crowe, giving the RedHawks a 2-0 lead. The lefty had only committed six total errors in his six seasons of professional baseball. With runners on the corners, Mills got shortstop Jonathan Villar to ground out, but not before Lin scored. Another single from Oklahoma City, their fourth of the inning, plated the fourth and final run of the second.
The Express offense answered back right away in the top half of the next frame. First baseman Chris McGuiness doubled to right field, extending his on-base streak to 12 games. Catcher Eli Whiteside drew a walk to set the stage for shortstop Jurickson Profar. The 20-year-old crushed his first home run of the season, a three-run shot, on the first pitch of the at-bat. Outfielder Jim Adduci extended his own on-base streak to 17 games with a bunt single. Outfielder Joey Butler joined the home run club with a two-run shot, also his first of the season, to give the Express a 5-4 lead they would never relinquish.
Oklahoma City starter Brett Oberholtzer kept the Express offense pretty quiet for the next two innings, allowing just one hit in the fifth, a triple to Profar. He was replaced in the sixth by C.J. Fick after going 5.0 innings, giving up five earned runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out three en route to his second loss of the season. Fick held the Express to just two hits, stranding both runners.
In the seventh, Fick was replaced by LHP Kevin Chapman. The Express didn't put out the welcome mat for Chapman, tagging him with three runs on one hit in the seventh. Profar hit a single after Whiteside and Engel Beltre got on base, loading the bases for Adduci. Chapman got him to ground out, scoring a run and advancing the runners. Josh Zeid replaced Chapman with runners on first and third. Designated hitter Robinson Chirinos hit a double to score to more runs, giving the Express a dominating 8-4 lead.
Mills shut down the RedHawks offense after the second inning, allowing just one baserunner on a walk. He was replaced in the seventh by LHP Nate Robertson. Mills went 6.0 innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on four hits. He picked up his third win of the season while walking two and striking out five.
The RedHawks tried to mount a comeback in the eighth with Lisalverto Bonilla on the mound. After giving up back-to-back leadoff singles, Bonilla got the next two batters out via strikeout and fly out. The next batter, designated hitter Marc Krauss, blasted a double off the outfield wall to score two runs. A passed ball by Whiteside allowed Krauss to advance and a walk by Lin put the go-ahead run at the plate. Pinch hitter Robbie Grossman struck out to end the inning and the threat.
Profar led off the top of the ninth, his final guaranteed at-bat of the game, just a double shy of the cycle. He grounded out on a 2-2 pitch, ending the night 3-for-5 with three RBI.
RHP Cory Burns entered the game for the Express in the bottom of the ninth, striking out the first batter he faced. He hit Jake Elmore with a pitch to put the tying run at the plate with one out. He struck out the next two batters to end the game and earn his third save in as many attempts this season.