SPRINGDALE, Ark - Locked in a 5-5 game in the seventh, Alfredo Escalera clubbed a two-out, three-run home run to put the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (17-28/56-59) in front for good as they beat the Midland RockHounds (20-25/55-60) in the series opener by a final of 11-5. The win snaps a four game losing streak and gives the team a three game winning streak at home.
Northwest Arkansas used some clutch, two-out hitting to take the lead for good on Tuesday night at Arvest Ballpark. Paulo Orlando began the two-out rally with a single and advanced to second on a walk by Samir Duenez . That set the stage for Escalera, whom capped his big night, with his seventh big fly of the season to power the Naturals to a commanding 8-5 lead.
The home team would go on to tack on three more runs in the eighth to secure an 11-5 win over the Double-A Oakland Athletics as Jack Lopez had a RBI single while Cody Jones chipped in a two-run single. The 11 runs by Northwest Arkansas marked the first time that they've scored double-digit runs in a ballgame since a 10-9 win over the Travelers on June 11.
After the RockHounds took an early 3-0 lead with two runs in the first and another tally in the second, the Naturals stormed back with three runs of their own in the home half of the second to tie the game at 3-3. Escalera got the frame going with a single and advanced to third base on a double by Donnie Dewees, Jr. With runners at second and third, Humberto Arteaga came through with a two-run single back up the middle to cut the deficit to 3-2. Then after Arteaga stole second, Nick Dini delivered a big two-out RBI single to right field to plate Arteaga to knot the score at 3-3 after two complete innings.
Northwest Arkansas would claim their first lead at 4-3 in the bottom of the third. Nicky Lopez worked a leadoff walk and advanced to third base on a single by Orlando before Escalera brought Lopez home with a sacrifice fly to left field.
The Naturals extended their lead to 5-3 on a RBI fielder's choice by Dewees Jr. in the fifth only to see the RockHounds come back and tie it at 5-5 in the top of the sixth as Jordan Tarsovich and B.J. Boyd each collected RBI singles in the two-run frame.
Coming off a league-wide day off, the offense looked refreshed for Northwest Arkansas as they cranked out 13 hits in the game. Escalera led the way with three while nine different hitters recorded a knock with Orlando and Miller having two hits apiece.
In a battle of bullpens after the fourth inning, it was LHP Richard Lovelady (W, 3-1) that earned the win in relief with 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball for the Naturals before RHP Andrew Edwards fired a perfect ninth to close out the game. RHP James Naile (L, 1-2) of the RockHounds took the loss after allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits in 3.1 innings out of the Midland pen.
RHP Josh Staumont made his sixth start of the year for Northwest Arkansas in the series opener on Tuesday night; however, control was a bit of an issue for the hard-throwing righty. Staumont threw 77 pitches, 40 of which for strikes, through 3.0 complete innings of work as he allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits and five walks while registering three strikeouts.
While the Northwest Arkansas pitching staff gave up nine hits and six walks in the game, the did a great job of limiting the damage against the RockHounds as they held their opponent to only 2-for-15 hitting with runners in scoring position.
Northwest Arkansas will continue their 6-game homestand with Game 2 of this 3-game set against the Midland RockHounds (Double-A Oakland Athletics) tomorrow night - Wednesday, August 9 - with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on a What's It? Wednesday at Arvest Ballpark. The RockHounds will send LHP A.J. Puk (1-3, 5.66 ERA) to the mound while the Naturals will counter with LHP Jake Kalish (0-7, 3.41 ERA). Catch all of the live play-by-play action with the Voice of the Naturals Benjamin Kelly on KQSM - 92.1 The Ticket, your home for Naturals baseball, at 6:45 p.m. for the Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show.
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.