Brian Howard returned to form and Richie Martin had the game's biggest swing and defensive play as the RockHounds defeated the San Antonio Missions, 4-3, in the opener of a four-game series Tuesday night at Security Bank Ballpark.
All seven runs scored in the contest came in the first inning.
The Missions opened the game with four consecutive singles, the last of the them a two-run hit from Kyle Overstreet. After Austin Allen lined out sharply to left field, Webster Rivas and Taylor Kohlwey collected the fifth and sixth hits of the inning, with Kohlwey's single pushing the San Antonio's lead to 3-0. In retrospect, the Missions missed a chance to add a fourth run when Josh Naylor was tagged out after getting caught in a rundown between second and third on Overstreet's RBI hit.
The RockHounds answered with three consecutive hits to open the home half of the first (see "I'm Not Tim Kurkjian," below) with Eli White's leadoff triple starting the rally. White scored on Tyler Ramirez' 77th RBI of the season and J.P. Sportman followed with a single. With two on and two out, Martin sent a three-run home run over the high wall in left, his sixth home run of the season and third in his last five games.
Both pitching staffs were outstanding after the first inning, in which the clubs combined for seven runs on 11 hits. The game was scoreless, with just seven hits, the rest of the way.
Howard, who had seen a major up-and-down over his last six starts (see below), pitched through the sixth and allowed no runs on two hits over his last five innings to earn the win (3-4, 3.82). Corey Walter (hold) pitched two scoreless frames in a set-up role and Kyle Finnegan earned his 11th save in as many chances with a 1-2-3 ninth. The right-hander struck out Michael Gettys before Martin denied Peter Van Gansen of an apparent hit to right field. Richie ranged well to his left, sliding to make the catch and regained his balance just enough to get off the throw to first base on a "web gem" caliber play. Finnegan then struck out Buddy Reed to end the game.
The RockHounds are playing their best baseball of the season and have now gone 11-4 in their last 15 games.
In three starts between July 21 and August 2, Brian Howard was 2-0, with a 0.87 earned run average. In his three starts prior to Tuesday night, he was 0-2, with an 8.10 ERA. After allowing three runs in the first against the Missions, the 6-9 right-hander returned to form and is now 3-4, 3.82 in 11 starts with the RockHounds. For the season, the former TCU star is 10-7, 3.04, including 12 appearances with the (Advanced-A) Stockton Ports.
Richie Martin has hit in 8-of-9 games (11-31, .355) with seven runs, one double, three HR and seven RBI. Richie has reached base in 32-of-35 games (.291) and Tuesday night added his team-high 23rd stolen base.
Tyler Ramirez has hit in 22-of-26 games (.327) with 18 RBI and has reached base in 28-of-32 (.315) with 25 RBI. His ribbie Tuesday night tied him with former Mission Ty France (now at AAA) for third in league with 77.
J.P. Sportman has hit in 9-of-10 games (.295) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI.
Nate Mondou has hit in three straight games, going 4-for-9 and adding two walks (on-base in 6-of-11).
I'm Not Tim Kurkjian Or Anything, Just Sayin' ...
After the first inning of Tuesday's opener (RockHounds 4, Missions 3) the teams were on pace to score 252 runs in the four-game series.
The RockHounds answered the Missions first inning rally, beginning with consecutive hits from Eli White (triple), Tyler Ramirez (RBI single) and J.P. Sportman (single). All three came with two strikes in the count (1-2, 1-2 and 0-2, respectively).
Completely Useless (But Kinda Cool) Stat
RockHounds pitchers had five assists and three putouts in the game, all eight of the chances going 1-3 or 3-1 (pitcher-to-first baseman or vice versa), including a six chances in a 10-batter stretch in the second, third and fourth innings.
Wednesday, August 29 vs. San Antonio Missions
Security Bank Ballpark 6:30 p.m. (Gates open at 6:30)
- Second of a four-game series and of a seven-game homestand
- Radio: NewsTalk 550 with Bob Hards ... airtime 6:15 p.m.
SA: Travis Radke (LH, 0-0, 3.00)
RH: Ben Bracewell (RH, 4-7, 3.09)
Home stand includes:
Final Thirsty Thursday of the season (August 30)
Team Card Sets (Friday, August 31)
Final Postgame Fireworks Show of the season (Saturday, September 1)
Day Games Sunday & Monday, September 2 & 3 (2:00 first pitch)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.