DES MOINES, Iowa - The Round Rock Express (5-5) twice faced a two-run deficit, but came back both times, ultimately topping the Iowa Cubs (5-5) by a final score of 7-6 in Saturday's series opener. The Express have now won 12 straight games at Iowa's Principal Park, dating back to July 2015.
Round Rock knuckleballer RHP Eddie Gamboa (1-0, 5.11) struggled early but recovered to allow just four runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings of work. The starter struck out two and walked six en route to earning his first win of the year. Cubs starter RHP Williams Perez (0-1, 10.80) suffered the loss after giving up six runs on 10 hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked two.
Iowa jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning. Back-to-back singles courtesy of 2B Chesny Young and DH Ian Happ set up 3B Jeimer Candelario, who doubled to clear the bases and give his team the early advantage.
Round Rock chipped away, scoring solo runs in the third and fourth innings to even the contest. In the third, SS Doug Bernier recorded a one-out double then raced home on an ensuing Will Middlebrooks single. The game-tying run came in the next frame as RF Travis Snider singled, moved to third on a Ronald Guzman single, then sprinted home on a Brett Hayes sacrifice fly to deep right field.
The Cubs regained their two-run advantage in the bottom of the fourth. Gamboa yielded consecutive walks to C Taylor Davis and RF Bijan Rademacher. After an Ozzie Martinez sacrifice bunt moved both runners 90 feet closer to home, CF John Andreoli doubled to clear the bases.
The resilient E-Train jumped ahead thanks to a four-run fifth inning. 3B Drew Robinson collected a leadoff single, Middlebrooks walked, then CF Jared Hoying singled to load the bases for LF Cesar Puello. The outfielder delivered, sending a sacrifice fly deep to right field to cut the deficit to one.
An ensuing Snider single tied the game at four. Guzman then stepped to the plate and recorded the play of the game, a line drive triple off the top of the wall in center field that gave the Express their first lead of the day at 6-4. Hoying homered in the seventh inning to extend the gap to 7-4.
Round Rock RHP Preston Claiborne picked up his second save in as many nights after cleaning up a major mess in the ninth inning. RHP R.J. Alvarez started the frame, issuing two walks and a single to load the bases without recording an out. Express manager Jason Wood then called on Claiborne, who struck out the first two batters he faced before surrendering a two-run single to 1B Victor Caratini. Pinch-hitter Stephen Bruno then grounded out to end the Iowa rally.
Game two against the Iowa Cubs is set for 1:08 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Express RHP Tyler Wagner (0-1, 7.71) is scheduled to start against Cubs RHP Eddie Butler (0-0, 0.71). The E-Train returns home on Tuesday, April 18 to host the Omaha Storm Chasers.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.