SAN ANTONIO - Alfredo Escalera stepped to bat in the eighth inning against his former teammate, Aroni Nina , with the Naturals trailing 3-2 and jolted a 2-0 pitch over the left-field wall around the foul pole for a two-out, three-run home run vaulting Northwest Arkansas to a 5-3 win in the series opener over the San Antonio Missions on Saturday night at Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium.
Humberto Arteaga led the inning off with a single to right-field and moved to second on a Nina (0-1, 1.62) wild pitch, represented the tying run. Two batters later, Zach Walters shot a single to left, putting men at the corners. Nina achieved a weak pop out for the second out and quickly fell behind Escalera, 2-0. The next pitch, Nina fired a fastball over the inner of the plate and Escalera smoked it over the 310-foot marker, just inside the foul pole for his fourth home run of the season to give the Naturals a 5-3 lead.
Northwest Arkansas (48-38/9-6) trailed 2-0 early after San Antonio (50-36/9-6) grabbed a pair of runs in the second inning. Starter, Ashton Goudeau , left after pitching to four hitters in the second inning with an apparent injury. Right-hander, Pedro Fernandez , popped off the bench to pitch in relief and dazzled.
The 23-year old hurler delivered four shutout innings and racked up a season-high five strikeouts to bridge the pitching gap during the middle innings.
The Naturals tied the score at 2-2 with Cody Jones coming through on a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to left in the fourth inning. Jones has five RBIs through his first three games with the Naturals this season.
San Antonio regained the lead in the sixth inning with the go-ahead run scoring on a wild pitch against right-hander, Andrew Edwards . That proved to be the lone tally surrendered by Edwards (2-0, 9.77) on his pitching line. The hurler tossed 2.0 innings, allowed one hits, struck out two and walked a batter to notch his second win of the season.
Jake Newberry allowed a lead-off single in the ninth inning, but got Nick Torres to pop out to Arteaga for the first out and induced an game-ending 6-4-3 double-play, the seven the double-play turned by the Naturals in the last four games against San Antonio, to earn his league-leading 13th save of the season.
Escalera finished 1-for-3 on the night and has 38 runs batted in on his 2017 season. Anderson Miller extended his hitting streak to five games with a 2-for-4 showing in the series opener while Logan Moon and Allan de San Miguel both doubled in the contest to chip in on the nine-hit effort by the Naturals on Saturday night.
Northwest Arkansas and San Antonio continue the series on Sunday evening with a 6:05 p.m. first pitch from Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium. Left-hander, Emilio Ogando (6-5, 3.42) takes the hill for his second straight start against the Missions against left-hander, Joey Lucchesi (1-0, 5.06) to counter on the opposing side.
Join the Voice of the Naturals, Benjamin Kelly, for a 5:45 p.m. pregame show leading up to first pitch on the flagship station of the Naturals, 92.1-FM, the Ticket.
Follow the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Facebook and Twitter @NWANaturals all throughout the year by using the hashtag #NaturalPastime and #CrowntoCrown for all of our up-to-date information on Season 10 of Naturals baseball.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark. For more information, including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.