Matt Portland was on his game and turned in the Idaho Falls Chukars' seventh solid start in seven games on the homestand. In the finale at Melaleuca Field, the bats and bullpen joined him in one of the team's best games in the month of August, a 7-3 win over the visiting Billings Mustangs.
After losing the first five of the season, including the first two at home, to Billings, the Chukars finished with a split of four against the North division's top team.
The Chukars went on the board first against Mustangs starter Max Wotell. Four straight singles in the second inning brought in two runs, and with two out Ricky Aracena drove in two more on a bouncer up the middle.
Two unearned runs scored against Portland in the third. After two strikeouts and a hit, a grounder to shortstop went under Aracena's glove. The next batter doubled down the left field line to score a pair.
Portland gave up an earned run in the fifth after a leadoff double and RBI single, but he finished five innings with six strikeouts.
The Idaho Falls lead was up to 6-2 before his last run, as Luke Willis opened the fourth with a single and came in on a Meibrys Viloria single. Aracena had walked, and he scored as Yeison Melo grounded into a fielder's choice.
The final Idaho Falls run scored in the bottom of the fifth, as Angelo Castellano led off with his third of three hits and later came across on a wild pitch.
From that point, the game sailed by. Idaho Falls relievers Drew Milligan and Richard Lovelady combined for four perfect innings with five strikeouts. The Chukars also had their final nine retired in a row.
With the win and Grand Junction's cancelled game in Helena, the Chukars pick up a half game on the South division-leading Rockies going into a four-game set in Colorado. That series starts Saturday night, with the first game at 7:05.
Idaho Falls will also play two on the road at Orem before returning to Melaleuca Field Friday night, August 26th, to host the Owlz for two. Free backpacks will be given to the first 500 school-aged kids, courtesy of the Bank of Idaho and presented by KUPI, Arrow, Post Register and Fox-5.