Power was the name of the game, or games, in today's twin-bill split between the Round Rock Express and New Orleans Baby Cakes.
Round Rock's Yordan Alvarez took full advantage of the warm weather and breeze going out to left field, smashing three home runs in the first game and provided three RBI, leading the Express to a 7-5 victory. Derek Fisher, not to be outdone, slugged a pair of his own over the wall for four RBI. After last night's collective one-hitter by the Baby Cakes' pitching staff, the Express found themselves with three of their only five hits on the season being of the longball variety after 13 innings. On the NOLA side, Harold Ramirez launched a 430 foot moonshot to straight-away center field, providing a power spark for the 'Cakes behind a solid start from Hector Noesi.
Noesi, making his first start after three years in the Korean Baseball Organization, welcomed himself back stateside in a big way, holding the Express to two runs (a solo shot apiece by Alvarez and Fisher) in 5.0 innings. He allowed only three other hits, all singles. Aside from the KBO, his eight strikeouts were the most he's recorded since July 29, 2015. The Baby Cakes had scored an average of a run per inning at the time of his departure, and the team had a comfortable 5-2 lead with six outs left in the shortened game.
The Baby Cakes' bullpen, however, did not continue the momentum both Noesi and last night's relievers brought into the day's doubleheader. Although Tommy Eveld lost the no-hitter and shutout in last night's Opening Day contest on a solo blast by Jack Mayfield, both he and Jarlin Garcia struck out the side in their inning of work apiece. In game one today, the results skewed closer to Eveld's failure than his successes. Mike Kickham (BS, 1) retired only one of the six hitters he faced, surrendering back-to-back homers to Round Rock's tandem of the day, Fisher and Alvarez. Suddenly, the comfortable lead had vanished, and the score was even.
Kickham was replaced by 2018's Pacific Coast League saves leader R.J. Alvarez (0-1) to limit the damage. The righty did so successfully in the sixth, stranding a pair of inherited runners after entering with only one out. After a smooth enough first two outs in the seventh thanks to a ground ball double play, he hit A.J. Reed with a pitch before giving up, yes, another home run to Fisher. The two run cushion was enough for the Express's Ryan Hartman to close out his four innings of relief and record the win.
Game two was also defined by the home run, but in quality not quantity. Marlins No. 4 prospect Nick Neidert, making his Triple-A debut, battled with Fisher to lead off the game, but eventually watched him swat his third homer of the day over the right field wall on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. The Baby Cakes answered in the second, on first baseman Matt Snyder's two-run shot the other way. Those would be the only scoring plays of the game, with New Orleans walking away with a 2-1 win, their second in as many days.
Neidert (1-0), aside from the home run, made a successful debut. Following Fisher's blast, the 22-year-old retired nine in a row. He allowed only three other hits and struck out four. He struggled with command in the sixth, issuing two of his three passes in the game, and was relieved after 5.2 innings. Jose Quijada replaced him, slamming the door and securing the four-out save without a base runner. Round Rock's Corbin Martin (0-1), despite allowing only two hits in his 4.1 innings of work, took the loss.
The Baby Cakes improve to 2-1 on the season, and continue the five-game series with the Express tomorrow at the Shrine on Airline at 1 p.m.. Right-hander Joe Gunkel is expected to take the mound for the 'Cakes, opposing southpaw Cionel Perez.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.